Smart city development project was launched with much fanfare in India in 2015. Six years have passed since then and what has been accomplished? To my understanding development of smart cities include deployment of technology, good governance, development of eco- friendly infrastructure and empowering the people to leverage that technology for better utilization of the infrastructure.
I do not think we have reached anywhere near the objective thus far. Yes, it is a time-consuming project. But more than time what is required is planning and will to execute.
The challenges …..
Finance. Most projects die in the nascent stages due to lack of foresight and in-depth planning. What matters more than cutting the ribbons is having a resilient and sound financial plan to sustain the development model. Allotment of a few crores here and there will not take the development plan anywhere. Crowd funding is not a way out in such projects. The government has to pitch in with all the funds and given the present state it does not appear to be an easy task. What is needed is prioritising the needs and following their development ruthlessly. As of now nothing appears to be more important than health services. I wish people in power had given some importance to this sector specially in the last one year.
Educating and empowering citizens. The education level of our general populace has been the biggest hinderance in our national growth. A focused approach is needed to train and educate the average citizens from all strata of society. Our education system and implementation of policies continue to suffer from varied fault lines. An educated and empowered citizen can only fully leverage technology for betterment.
Getting the priorities right. The top-down approach what most of the governments are so used to following should have given way to a more people centric approach. But alas, politics seems to have hijacked the agenda. The felt need should have come from the public and prioritised as per fund availability; different cities will have different requirements. There is no one solution fits all template. The cities are big and unevenly developed. There is always an existing fear that the planned development may also get restricted to certain pockets. The state of ‘have-nots’ will remain what it is. A large part of population may get left out for want of education and awareness.
Infrastructure Development. All our cities are woefully short of basic infrastructure. Everything specially the health services, roads transportation, tele-com, housing all needs a push. The prevailing pandemic has over-exposed nation’s under-developed health and educational sectors. The logistic supply chain management and tele-com services are also under tremendous duress. Apparently, there is no comprehensive developmental plan; politics seems to be getting the better of need in most cases.
Continuity. History shows that what one government starts the next one forgets. Good governance and continuous follow-ups are needed for speed of development. Work should be done with the view of improving the quality of life and not just with an eye on the elections.
People have suffered for long due to lack of vision exhibited by successive governments in the field of infrastructure development and empowerment of citizens. It is the tunnelled vision and lack of planning in development which has caused maximum damage in the COVID pandemic.
Yes, the indiscipline of the people added to the wild spreading of virus. But then it is the ‘assured citizen’ who is more disciplined. The central and the state governing authorities have to give assurance to the citizens by way of concrete actions and not mere promises. I hope, with state elections over politics will be put on hold for some time and we will see some real action in the direction of sustainable development of the infrastructure.
When even the so-called smart cities are failing in coping with the second wave of Corona one can well imagine what must be the plight in second rung cities/towns.
Government has initiated measures which may bring the viral threat under control for short period. What is required is the implementation of long-term plans for creating a robust economy and establishing strong self -sustaining infrastructure especially in health and education sector. The nation cannot always keep seeking external help in times of crisis like these.
It is for the governments to ensure that development is equitable, every citizen is empowered, and the benefits of modernisation are equally shared.
“Get vaccinated…follow COVID protocol…. stay home… stay safe”…