What exactly are Smart Cities? This is not another one of those pipe dreams that politicians talk about and that never amount to anything concrete. Smart here does not mean imposing IT and a pseudo empowerment of already empowered.
As proposed, “Smart Cities” is a literal term. Exactly what should have happened decades ago: good urban planning. An intelligent way to shape the urban landscape for the future of India… in other words, Smart Cities.
Decentralization: This is not central planning. Each smart city will develop in its own way. To tackle the problems as they feel fit, and to develop the opportunities most suitable to them.
States identify the candidate cities, and a certain number are selected from each. Then the cities are allocated a generous yearly budget for the next five years, with implementation monitored.
Accommodation: A slum city with shiny towers is what we call a metropolitan in India. A successful city needs to be affordable. The plan calls for cheap high rise housing for the poor. Given the scarcity of land, a BOT model is proposed, lowering the cost of buildings to the residents.
Hygiene: Access to cleanliness is a luxury in India. Large water treatment plants, underground sewage, upgraded solid waste collection and disposal are to be prioritized.
Transport: Traveling to work is a big waste of time and money. It is also the biggest source of pollution in cities. A “smart” planning of business and residential areas can reduce the commute for many. Rapid mass transport helps reduce the congestion even further. (See BRTS systems, cheaper than metros to build and to run)
Information technology: Technology aids in lowering the cost of communication. It makes the administration work better and hopefully use less people.
Gandhi has long misled us with the emphasis on the rural. The only way to improve the lot of the rural population is to make more of them urban. Move from agriculture to services and manufacturing. Services sector has potential to absorb a lot of low skilled workers and give them dignity, while making the lives of the educated easier and more productive.
There are hurdles to be crossed, of course. The road is long and tortuous, with many pitfalls. But at least it is the right road.