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Smart city needs smart people

Amidst the buzz about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech on new year’s eve after demonetization and Pari-War in Samajwadi Party, on 1st January Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and cabinet minister Nitin Gadkari inaugurated India’s  first ever safe and Smart City project in Nagpur. Nagpur’s municipal council, NMC, finds its roots as early as in 1864. And since the inception of the state of Maharashtra, NMC (Nagpur Municipal Corporation) is responsible for urban development and city planning of new areas. NDMC (New Delhi Municipal Council) has recently turned 100 years old. Despite being the capital city and having 28 departments ranging from architecture to security, it needs to be made smart. The story of 58 other cities selected under Smart City Yojnais not different. With experts flying in from across the world, these cities will be made smart. However, a question arises that have the existing institutions failed to do what they were supposed to do, that we felt the necessity to spend 90,000 crore to modernize our cities; or going ahead will we need a new Yojna in future to make 100 cities re-smart ?

Paris is undoubtedly the most beautiful and a smart city in the world. It’s not just because of the institutions, efficient resource management or “e”sation of heath and other public services. It’s mainly because the residents are educated enough to efficiently utilize the facilities, question the status quo and help upgrade their city with the advancement of technology.However, currently the city is facing a serious problem of cigarette-butt pollution. City officials say, nearly 350 tonnes of cigarettes are discarded on the streets of Paris each year.Though Parisians are educated and responsible, they are not mature enough to care for a cigarette-butt. This has forced the authorities to impose a fine of €68 (approximately ₹5000) for throwing a cigarette-end on to a sidewalk

Though we are emotionally attached to the river Ganga, only we, the people of India, are responsible to pollute the crystal pure water of Ganga.Now we need thousands of crores and thousands of Yojnas to clean our Ganga.

We have to learn from these instances and should not repeat the same mistakes again.In order to avoid publishing a list of 100 smart cities to be made re-smart, it’s important for government to make quality education easily accessible to all, thereby making people self-reliable and responsible.Even if all the clumsy manual processes and entire paper work is transformed online, we the people should be capable enough to make smart use of these facilities. Today, a person who is able to read and write his/her name is certified as literate. This literacy won’t help even the implementation of smart waste management. Education is the only stepping stone for a common man of India to rise out of poverty and contribute to city’s smartness. A free or affordable education and sense of responsibility in people is the back bone for maintaining any city smart.

There are four sections of people in any big Indian city.

Educated, self-reliable and responsible.

Educated, self-reliable and irresponsible.

Uneducated, self-reliable and responsible.

Uneducated, jobless and irresponsible

Sections 1 and 3 are assets to the Government. In fact for section 1, the only task government needs to do is to keep them motivated by providing them with opportunities to lead a better life just like the concept of less-cash economy. Section 2 and 4, however, are the liabilities. Especially the ‘self reliable irresponsibles’, because of their power, money or political clout are hard to make accountable for absolutely anything. And it’s difficult to turn them responsible by a government scheme.Instead, if high quality, low cost (ideally free) and easily accessible education is provided to the last person of the society irrespective of the caste, religion or other divisive parameters, it will help the people understand smart processes in a smarter way. Then this educated responsible mass will not only maintain the city smart but also add to its smartness.These people will in turn force the ‘educated irresponsibles’ to show sense of responsibility and contribute financially, culturally and morally to the smart city.And then there will just be one section of population that will be ‘educated, self-reliable and responsible’ which is a key to development. While embarking on a journey to development, government should keep in mind what Gustavo Petro has said – A developed country is not a place where the poor have cars. It’s where the rich use public transportation.

Saket Aloni

(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)

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