How To Live in the Dream "Smart City"? - Indian Smart Cities Special

A new word has been added to the discussion of urban development since 2014, which is 'smart city'. The word was used by everyone in the city, but the answer to what exactly is a 'smart city' in the context of India is still unclear.

The phrase 'urbanization is accelerating in India' is now obsolete. The last few years have been a discussion on how to deal with this urbanization in a 'planned' manner and how to link it with sustainable development. Since 2014, a new word has been added to this discussion, which is 'smart city'. The word 'Khul Jaa Sim Sim' was used by everyone in the city, but the answer to what exactly 'smart city' means in the context of India is still unclear.

Both the expectations were that a smart city would mean the creation of a new city, a radical change in existing cities. The Smart City Mission seems to have taken some shape from the combined priorities of policy-making governments, international advisory groups shaping policies, and implementing administrations. But, nothing concrete is happening in this regard.

Some other concepts are also being brought forward in this journey. An example of such a co-concept is the Ease of Liveability Index of Cities, which was recently released for 111 cities. At first glance, this may seem like a smart city mission, but in this context, the current government is trying to inculcate the ideas of urban development, the policies that are being implemented need to be interpreted, treated. Such therapy is also necessary to understand the 'faces' behind the 'masks' of the smart city.

Understanding the realism index:

What makes an individual or a different group of people want to move to a city, to set foot there, to take root? What are the economic-social-institutional factors associated with cities that make cities livable? The study of this question has given rise to the 'viability index'. Such studies began with the migration and reconstruction of cities after World War II. A systematic study of realism was conducted in Vancouver, Canada in the 1970's. Vancouver's growth was moderated on the premise that medium-sized buildings in the city center, including residential and commercial use spaces, public spaces, mixed land use, green belts on the perimeter of the city - open spaces and the strongest public transport system. The experiment was a resounding success.

It reached the United States and from there to Europe under the name of Vancouverism. From this experiment the viability of the city began to be studied extensively. Of course, even today there is no consensus on what realism is. Against the backdrop of growing economic inequality, the answer to 'who should' and 'how' cities should be livable is not universal. Over the last 20 years, the realism criteria developed by organizations like The Economist Intelligence Unit are more for those looking to invest in the city's 'economy' - in real estate, roads, metro services, etc. infrastructure projects.

The neo-liberal economy, based on the principle that 'cities are the powerful engines that pull the economy', has adopted these criteria. The Indian Ease of Doing Business Index is no exception.


Indian Cities and Ecology Index

The Housing and Urban Development Department of the Central Government has released an index that shows how convenient, citizen-friendly it is to live in a total of 111 smart cities, state capitals and other important cities in India. This is the first time such an index has been released. Pune is the easiest city to live in the country, while Navi Mumbai, Mumbai and Thane are ranked second, third and sixth respectively. In compiling this index, economic, social, institutional status and infrastructure are the four main pillars and a total of 15 categories and 78 criteria were used.

The point made by the central government is that these criteria have been chosen to be in line with global development goals and standards. Against this background, looking at the criteria more closely, one should also understand the background of world events.

Global factors and 'your' criteria

The Paris Agreement (2015), which defines the responsibility of each nation to combat climate change in the face of global warming, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (2015) and the global conference on global urbanization for the next two decades. (2016) These conferences have an impact on the development policies of each nation. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals announced by the United Nations also focus on 'Urbanization and Planning for Inclusive and Sustainable Cities' (Sustainable Development Goals 11).

In a way, global financing for development work is also linked to sustainable development goals. Naturally, almost every nation strives to make its policies consistent with the many goals of the Sustainable Development Goals, the objectives set out therein. The 78 criteria in the Indian Cities Ease of Livelihood Index are consistent with the 'Selective' Sustainable Development Goals. But the development goals that have been neglected are very eloquent.

These 78 criteria are Health for All (Goal 3), Quality Education (Goal 4), Clean Water and Toilets (Goal 6), Clean and Cheap Energy (Goal 7), Employment and Economic Development (Goal 8), Urbanization and Planning (Goal 8). 11), Peace-Justice and Competent Institution (Goal 16), Partnership for Achieving Sustainable Goals (Goal 17) are consistent with eight development goals. Out of the total 78 criteria, 30 criteria are based on the goal of urbanization and planning (Goal 11), but almost all the criteria are only about providing basic amenities. Policies that provide equal opportunities for all, empower the weak, and eliminate socio-economic inequality lead to sustainable development goals. Development goal 10 is specifically to reduce inequality. However, none of the criteria in our index mentions this goal.

The feature of urbanization in the region known as 'Global South' is that select cities are growing out of regulation while 'corridor urbanization' between two major cities is growing rapidly. Such urbanization puts tremendous strain on lakes-rivers-forests-seas-farms and depletes natural resources, as well as traditional livelihoods. This not only raises the issue of migration but also the initial planning. All these features are found in many places like Mumbai Metropolitan Region, Mumbai-Pune Corridor, National Capital Territory of Delhi, Bangalore-Mysore Corridor.

The development goals of marine habitat (Goal 14), land habitat-forests, rivers, mountains, lakes (Goal 15) mainly talk about how to face such challenges. Yet not a single word of our ecological criteria mentions a single word about being consistent with these goals or a very important goal like climate change (Goal 13). Many of the cities on the list of affordable cities are by the river, by the sea. Cities in Northeast India or Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh are on the list. If we list the cities that could be hit by global warming, these cities will come first.

Today's unpredictable weather has disrupted the agricultural cycle and led to an increase in domestic migration, creating various patterns such as 'migration from villages to talukas or adjoining medium towns'. What is the reflection of this reality in realism? The impact of our cities on the surrounding region, the impact of urban development on the region, we will not take into account? You cannot find the answers to these questions. They can tell at what price the 'easy' living in the northern cities comes. One can comment on whether the growth and development of cities maintains an 'ecological balance'.

Basically the paradigm of urban development is leading the city towards 'sustainable, sustainable' development while providing immediate comfort to a group of city dwellers while the peripheral population does not seem to have any way of understanding the future consequences of development. The Vancouver example is just as important here. As Vancouver grew, so did the livelihoods of the city's peripheries, and how the livelihoods based on them could be saved. Even though your situation is more complicated, you have ignored the facts the most.

Peek into the criteria

The statistics, the details that have been collected using realistic criteria are only superficial. There is nothing special for policy makers to do in terms of reducing the social exclusion that exists in our cities with high socioeconomic disparities. Take public spaces or public toilets, for example. The question is how many spaces are 'available' per person on the basis of the availability of public spaces and hence the experience of living in the city. The real experience is that spaces are not available everywhere in the city. Even if it is available, 'everyone' in that city can reach that place or if they reach that place, it cannot be used. Many are deprived of access to spaces or recreational facilities provided by the municipality due to hidden differences in gender-religion-economic status-physical ability.

The unavailability of clean and usable toilets in public places is a big issue especially facing women who are out for work-business-livelihood. In a city like Mumbai where the 'Right to Pee' campaign is being run on the issue of public toilets for women, one can only guess about the situation in other cities. There is still silence on the issue of access to public places and toilets for transgender people. None of these representative experiences are reflected in the realism criteria.

There is a dearth of information about economic transactions in cities or the economy of cities. Basically, it is very challenging but also very important to look at the unorganized economy and employment in the unorganized sector of the city. The criteria set out on this front mainly follow specific economies in the organized sector. The ecosystem criteria also fall short of providing the information needed to meet the basic objectives of shelter and employment for all. The paradox is that 45% importance is given to infrastructure standards and only 5% importance to financial transactions.

Solid waste management is also given a prominent place in infrastructure. Systematic disposal of solid waste generated in cities today is a major challenge facing every city. However, no information is available on how solid waste is disposed of and whether efforts are being made to prevent it from affecting the environment and the surrounding population.

Last but not least, the index is silent on the quality of manpower available to municipal corporations and their relationship with the delivery of civic services. As the manpower available to the local bodies is lacking in many skills, it is necessary to increase the capacity of this manpower. No reflection of this experience or the public orientation of the administration, the public, the participation of the people's representatives in the planning do not provide any criteria. Based on such (slurred) information, the eco-realization index of cities in India has actually come up.


Who are your cities for in the overall background of this review? Ease of living for whom? This question certainly comes up. In fact, the issue of resilience is being considered around the world in addition to livability to meet the minimum living standards for all in the city.

In the name of climate change, the changing cycle of nature, and development, 'development models' that cater to the immediate needs of certain groups by harming natural resources increase the likelihood of the city falling victim to natural disasters. This puts a strain on the city management but in the heterogeneous structure the last layer is squeezed more.

Reducing the amount of distractions caused by the stress on nature, which is disturbing the 'everyday life' of the common man, also means increasing the 'reality'. In order to reduce this stress, special strategies have to be formulated to face the natural calamities and stress of the city, to increase the capacity to resist is to make the city 'resilient'. Nowhere in India is such a conceptual interrelationship considered when bringing the global context to India on the occasion of the Ease of Ease Index.

Overall, the perceptions of cities and townspeople that emerge on the occasion of the ecosystem of our cities tend to make a heterogeneous structure more heterogeneous! Those who have settled in the cities, those who are in touch with the state through tax payment and registration are recorded. Those who are not recognized as 'citizens' by the state, those who are beyond the sight of the state have no place in these cities. Many groups that look to cities in the hope of human dignity while enduring homeless-migrant-social exclusion probably have no place in the city. The fact that such groups living in the suburbs of the city are not even noticed when talking about ecosystems is a result of the priorities in our policies.

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