Smart city sans smart people?

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 30 Sep 2018 09:22:05





Vijay Phanshikar


THIS -- Smart city sans smart people? -- is one question that is being asked all over the country as the Government keeps pitching for the much-hyped Smart City project for which a lot of foreign funding, too, is being made available. And, seeking an appropriate answer to this question is certainly tricky, to say the least. For, there cannot be a question as complex as this one in the present-day Indian urban scenario. 

But then, there is a sheepish answer, too, for the question: Our people are very smart, perhaps smarter than we can even imagine, which is why they keep cheating upon the civic administration, on other
people, on the authorities that are expected to make our cities better, cleaner, healthier, and smarter.
But this is not the smartness we should be looking for.

Factually, we should be looking for people who would not indulge in cheating the authorities, or those who would go a mile extra to keep the their respective areas in the city clean and pollution-free, or those who would not pick up fights every now and then with fellow-residents, or those who would not spit on the roads or public places, or those who would park their vehicles sensibly, or those who would not violate traffic norms, or those who would teach their children how to conduct themselves properly in public, or those who would groom their next generation with habits that would be in tune with public decency and decorum, or those who would not dump garbage anywhere they please, or those who would not waste water that is so scarce ...!
For, such people can be called truly smart and truly deserving to live in smart cities.

But then, in the past some decades, our society has devised new definitions of ‘smart’ people. By this definition, those people are smart who think others to be fools.
When a good number among us is behaving according to this definition, then how can we have smart cities?

True, in the official definition of smart cities, a behaviour with decency, decorum and discipline may not have much importance since the stress appears to be on new and smart technology that would reduce human labour or replace human labour. Yet, this description still is only in the area of conjecture since the Government has never offered a comprehensive definition of what a smart city should be like. Or even if it has, it has not reached the people in general. The common people only know one thing: A lot of money is being made available to cities to become smart.

One really does not know if there is any provision for making people smart in the correct manner so that they would convert their respective cities ‘smart’.

Take any city in Central India, for example, and you would realise that it would be a next-to-impossible-task to convert the place into a ‘Smart City’. Even a person as well informed as I am does not know why there is no insistence upon a livable city rather than on a ‘smart’ city. By the global standards, most of our cities are not good enough to be listed in ‘livable’ category. Most cities are terribly polluted. Most cities are terribly mismanaged. Most cities do not have fully protected water supply. Most cities do not have strict norms of urban construction. Most cities ...!

That is a bloody long list of what we do not have even as part of fulfillment of basic requirements, and none of our cities can tick off even fifty percent of those items.

Then, what is the definition we follow when we talk of smart cities? As a citizen, I have every right to ask this question. Or, in other words, I will fail in my duty if I don’t raise this issue most vociferously.