Ninety-eight down and an entire national landscape to go! The country is taking small steps through the Smart City Mission towards achieving the ultimate aim of achieving ‘acche din’ for its people. Souvik Goswami of Elets News Network (ENN) tries to encapsulate the journey of this ambitious Mission
How many roads must a man walk down before you call him a man? – Bob Dylan
As we analyse last one year on how the Government of India’s ambitious Smart City mission project has shaped up, the question that raises its head is: “How many steps need to be taken and implemented before we can call Smart City Mission a grand success?”
Well, a lot has already been said on Smart Cities in the past one year. But what exactly is a smart city? What all criteria do the 20 cities selected in the round-one need to meet before they can become smart cities? How would they change the urban landscape of the country? It was these very questions that led Elets Technomedia to organise the first-ever Smart City Summit in Delhi in 2010 — even before the government had envisioned it in the present shape.
Elets Technomedia, its publication eGov magazine and its smart city portal (smartcity.eletsonline.com) have also been instrumental in creating platforms where valuable discussions have taken place, opinions expressed and knowledge sharing happened among the key stakeholders engaged with smart cities. Not just that, Elets also organised Smart City Conclave in Bhopal and post that in Mumbai, which again saw huge participation of key stakeholders from across the country.
The Government of India has envisioned building 100 Smart Cities, with 98 smart cities already selected. The Smart City building proposals have also been submitted to the Ministry of Urban Development, Government of India, by various states. This journey clearly indicates that the Smart City Mission is being implemented step by step in the last one year. Various urban local bodies now have full-fledged websites; they are coming up with regular newsletters and addressing those to the citizens, and increasing number of eGovernance initiatives are being undertaken by ULBs to offer better services, and citizen consultations taking place on how to make their cities smart and more.
Despite these efforts, a lot more needs to be done. There are several challenges in building smart cities, with the first and foremost thing being making or building smart cities keeping the Indian realities in mind. A city like Patna cannot be made a smart city as the way Amsterdam in Europe has been converted into one; the realities of Patna have to be kept in mind. Also, for financing of smart cities, non-availability of master plans of many cities, financial and technical capabilities of ULBs, capacity building exercises, providing clearances in timely manner still remain to be the major challenges for building smart cities in India and the Government has to look into these aspects to make this ambitious programme a success.
Experts are of the opinion that the biggest advantage of the Smart City Mission in India is the enthusiasm within the incumbent government at the Centre and in various states. This has helped in creating a positive buzz on smart cities
However, the beginning has been made in the right earnest. And, Elets and eGov has played a pivotal role in creating platforms for knowledge sharing to have meaningful discussions and deliberations for building smart cities. Challenges will be there and it will be the task of the policy makers and the implementing authorities to overcome those challenges and contribute to the success of this ambitious Mission.
Experts are of the opinion that the biggest advantage of the Smart City Mission in India is the enthusiasm within the incumbent government at the Centre and in various states. This has helped in creating a positive buzz on smart cities.
So, if all stakeholders are serious and enthused enough to change the urban landscape of the country through the Smart City Mission, nothing can stop us from becoming a smarter nation and in the near future itself.