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State-of-the-Art Same as Smart?

Published: 31st January 2016 06:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 30th January 2016 11:59 PM   |  A+A-

“Hey, aren’t you excited? Ours is among the 20 locations chosen to be India’s first smart cities.”

“I heard. But I’m more confused than excited. Weren’t we already pretty smart, compared to most of India? We’ve previously been named best city to live in; we’re an industrial and commercial hub, even our people are clever. They excel in business, and make heaps of money.”

“That’s different, my friend. This is not about the people. It’s the city that is now going to be smart.”

“What does that mean? How can a city be smart?”

“Oof, don’t you follow the news? Cities become smart by ‘offering residents smart interventions in terms of infrastructure, sustainable real estate, transport, connectivity and market viability’.”

“Heh? Say that again in English.”

“A smart city uses technology to provide essential services to its residents. Our city fathers, for instance, plan to provide efficient, affordable and customised governance. The key features are a pan-city plan and an area-based development plan. They will be retrofitting the buildings in the walled city to provide compact and inclusive development. They will also have an integrated transit management platform and a mobile application that will help citizens to plan all journeys, whether by auto-rickshaw, metro or normal train, and pay for everything through a common card.”

“How is that essential? Isn’t providing water and electricity to all, improving safety and sanitation, and putting up more schools and hospitals more important? And, more crucially, teaching people how to use the new facilities. Hygiene, for sure, is not India’s strong point.”

“All that will also happen, in time. The smart cities will have holistic urban design and architecture, and citizen-friendly and cost-effective governance. There are many technological platforms involved, including but not limited to automated sensor networks and data centres.”

“You’re talking gibberish again. But, tell me, shouldn’t all cities in any case provide such facilities to their residents? Or at least strive to provide? I read somewhere that back in 2001, there were already 27 million-plus cities in India. By now there must be zillions more. Why should only 20 of them be improved? That sounds anything but smart to me.”

“I don’t have all the details but I do know that last year the state governments were asked to list the smart city candidates in their region. Ninety-eight cities made the shortlist. Many were state capitals or industrial centres, 18 were culture and tourism towns, five were ports and a handful were healthcare and education hubs.”

“So was easy access to money the tipping point? How did we win the lottery, for instance? Are we better at planning than, say, Sikkim? I hear Guwahati was the only north-eastern city to make the cut. Odder still, I believe the already-fancy Lutyens’ Delhi is becoming a smart city. If they had to improve something in NCR, why didn’t they choose Shahdara or Chandni Chowk?”

“Oh stop carping. Can’t you just be happy that we’re on the way to getting a ‘quality of life comparable withanydeveloped European city’.”

“But won’t that be humari  sanskriti ke virudh? Just joking.” shampa@newindianexpress.com



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