All of us must whole-heartedly welcome the smart city idea, if not for anything else for the sake of smartness at least. The word ‘smart’ carries a special aura. Imagine how the smart boys in the college got to flirt with the girls when you sighed and sobbed from a distance whining how academically dull they were. Or how your parents or school teacher left you squirming in the pants by pointing out how smart the neighbour’s kid, your classmate in school, was, or how elated you felt being called a smart kid by your neighbour’s partially insane uncle from village.
Since not all fit naturally into the description of the word, it helps when cities are branded so. For example, I have started feeling smart already after Union Urban Development Minister Venkaiah Naidu designated my city as one. Introducing oneself as someone from the smart city, one imagines, would be a thrilling experience. It might take 20 to 30 years though. But never mind that.
A note to myself here: don’t allow cynicism to creep in. In 30 years, around 70 percent of India will be urban and a big chunk of the population, if everything goes right with the government’s plan, will be residents of smart cities. Ninety-eight cities have been planned for now, the requirement three decades later will be around 500. It is possible governments will go on creating new such cities at regular intervals. There won’t be any fun being the citizen of a smart city then. But why spoil the happy present with thoughts of a gloomy future?
Smart city is a wonderful concept, forget those calling it an urban utopia, a real estate grab initiative similar to SEZs, an exercise meaning nothing more than fine-tuning services of municipalities through high technology and what not. Shoo off those saying it has failed as an idea in many places and the poor ordinary tax-payer had to bear the cost or it’s just another way to placate people, mostly in the technology sector, with a lot of restless money or conceptually it is not very different from the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation which focuses on integration and convergence of several urban facilities. Cynics will remain cynics.
I have no objection to the promise it holds for me. It promises to make the quality of life better in cities in terms of infrastructure, information technology being the primary one, real estate and balanced economic growth. All this and, the real challenge area - active participation of people - would indeed make living a smart experience.
Yeah, so welcome the distant new, like I do, and feel smart. If you don't, well, remember those forgetable experiences of earlier days.