Thursday saw the announcement of 20 cities to be developed as smart cities under the flagship scheme of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Bhubaneshwar, Pune and Jaipur were chosen as the top three having met the required threshold to win the challenge.
The announcement drew plenty of flak from several states particularly Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, both failing to secure any representation. (See the map)
So what’s there in smart city and why are some states peeved over not being shortlisted?
Well, surprising as it may sound, but even the central government whose brainchild this scheme has been, doesn’t know what smart city actually means.
This is what the official website smartcities.government.in states, “The first question is what is meant by a ‘smart city’. The answer is, there is no universally accepted definition of a Smart City. It means different things to different people. The conceptualisation of Smart City, therefore, varies from city to city and country to country, depending on the level of development, willingness to change and reform, resources and aspirations of the city
Did it answer your question or you are left more confused than ever. Well try this.
The website further explains, “A Smart City would have a different connotation in India than, say, Europe. Even in
India, there is no one way of defining a Smart City. 2.2 Some definitional boundaries are required to guide cities in the Mission. In the imagination of any city dweller in India, the picture of a Smart City contains a wish list of infrastructure and services that describes his or her level of aspiration.
“To provide for the aspirations and needs of the citizens, urban planners ideally aim at developing the entire urban eco-system, which is represented by the four pillars of comprehensive development — institutional, physical, social and economic infrastructure. This can be a long term goal and cities can work towards developing such comprehensive infrastructure incrementally, adding on layers of ‘smartness.'”
Hope this has satisfied your query, but if it didn’t, we don’t blame you because many people are finding the definition quite convoluted and doubt the success of the project in the absence of any succinctly clear definition of the smart city.
When we challenged an official in the Urban Development Ministry headed by Venkaiah Naidu, he asked to refer to ‘ point 2.3 of the website on smart cities’ for further clarity.
We did that to see where we had committed this oversight.
This is what the ‘point 2.3’ says, “In the approach to the Smart Cities Mission, the objective is to promote cities that provide core infrastructure and give a decent quality of life to its citizens, a clean and sustainable environment and application of ‘Smart’ Solutions. The focus is on sustainable and inclusive development and the idea is to look at compact areas, create a replicable model which will act like a light house to other aspiring cities. The Smart Cities Mission of the Government is a bold, new initiative.
“It is meant to set examples that can be replicated both within and outside the Smart City, catalysing the creation of similar Smart Cities in various regions and parts of the country.”
Apart from the vague definition, the document on smart cities also outlines key amenities that the qualified cities will boast of.
These are as follows.
i. adequate water supply,
ii. assured electricity supply,
iii. sanitation, including solid waste management,
iv. efficient urban mobility and public transport,
v. affordable housing, especially for the poor,
vi. robust IT connectivity and digitalization,
vii. good governance, especially e-Governance and citizen participation,
viii. sustainable environment,
ix. safety and security of citizens, particularly women, children and the elderly, and
x. health and education.
Again no tangible definition. For example, it says adequate water supply but doesn’t explain how it would look like. It promises to provide ‘robust IT connectivity’ but fails to outline the definition of ‘robust’ here.
And the same holds true for other highlights promised under the Smart Cities pledge.
Let’s hope that few years down the line, when the cities have truly been developed after splashing thousands of crores of rupees, we will finally have an answer to our question.