The declaration of lesser number of urban population is what resulted in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana getting allotted only three and two cities respectively in the 100 smart cities initiative announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi.
In contrast, at least 8 big states were allotted more number of smart cities than the two Telugu-speaking states out of the total 100 smart cities. These are Uttar Pradesh (13), Tamil Nadu (12), Maharashtra (10), Madhya Pradesh (7), Karnataka (6), Gujarat (6), Rajasthan (4) and West Bengal (4).
Apart from AP, Bihar and Punjab were allotted three smart cities each, while Chhattisgarh, Haryana and Odisha joined Telangana in securing two. The remaining states and UTs were allotted one city each.
According to sources, the Centre had taken urban population as the criteria for deciding on the number of smart cities.
Urban population depends on the guidelines set by various state governments to declare the areas as urban areas, urban local bodies (ULB) or statutory towns.
"States can decide which areas it will declare as urban. While states like Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Gujarat have declared towns with only 5,000 population as urban, AP and Telangana have kept the minimum limit to 20,000 population, As a result, AP has only 110 urban local bodies and Telangana 60 while the number is more than 200 in the other big states," said an AP official involved in the exercise.
The sources said that the Union urban development ministry informed the two states that they can get more smart cities if they upwardly revise the number of urban local bodies.
"However, both the states declined to do so. This is because once you increase the number of urban local bodies, then those bodies which are at present getting large number of funds by virtue of being rural areas under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGA) and National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) funds will not be entitled for them. Since the funds under the rural schemes are more, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana did not want to increase the urban local bodies," said the official.
Besides, several towns and cities in the two states can benefit from the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT). Through this scheme, each town will get about Rs 100 crore as support from the Centre.
"While a smart city will get about Rs 250 crore central funding, cities and towns selected under AMRUT will get Rs 100 crore each. AP and Telangana together have been allotted 47 towns having above one lakh population under AMRUT.
"In a way, it is good that we don’t have too many smart cities," said the AP official.