SMART ‘SMART CITY’ LIST?

The ‘smart city’ list is out.

And by names (of the cities) it involves, it seems the whole process to select the first 20 has been done meticulously and smartly.

Or that seems so?

Well, to go with the verity of the process that went into making of this report, we can say that two big, electorally important states, going to polls this year and the next, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh, have not got any of their cities shortlisted.

Or it can be like, BJP has nothing much to lose or gain in West Bengal, where it is politically non-existent, so it can safely be placed in ‘politically motivated’ category and by the time the UP assembly polls come, in the first half of the next year, the state, where BJP and its allies won 73 out of 80 Lok Sabha seats in 2014, and where it failed to perform in every subsequent poll and bypoll, the party may announce to shortlist all UP cities (from the names sent) in one go next January (in 2016) to score the pre-election mileage.

But that goes with one imperative – how Varanasi is developed further – how the city looks by that time – because, so far, during the first 20 months of the Narendra Modi government and during the first 20 months of Varanasi being the parliamentary constituency of India’s prime minister, the city has failed to move on development parameters.

In fact, those who come from Varanasi can tell you nothing has changed so far – when we compare Varanasi of pre and post Narendra Modi era. The city doesn’t need WiFi at its ghats. It needs cleaner ghats and the Ganga. It needs a cleaner city. It needs uninterrupted 24/7 power supply. It needs a sewage system that is efficient and covers the whole city. It needs a governance system that can coexist with its ancient tradition and cultural flow. It needs modern civic infrastructure based on the real estate development in the city. The city desperately needs a traffic system that could take care of its perennial problem. The city needs dirt free, dust free and garbage free roads. The city needs dedicated superfast trains like Shatabdi or Duronto. The city needs a larger, better airport.

Well, nothing is happening on that front. It is good that Varanasi would be developed as the twin city of Kyoto – the Japanese temple city that is a model the world over.

But given the state of affairs the things are in, the first and the immediate imperative is – Varanasi needs its basic civic amenities first.

Narendra Modi’s candidature did some positives to Varanasi – liking causing a multi-fold jump in its real estate prices – like putting the city again on global heritage map.

But, on the ground, in terms of developments that the city desperately needs, nothing has been done – and people have started raising questions.

Anyway, this write-up is not about Varanasi. I wrote about Varanasi to present logic for one of the arguments here – that BJP didn’t name any UP city now to time it according to the UP assembly polls.

The Ministry of Urban Development says it followed a scientific process to shortlist cities out of 97 entries it got – with answers and responses on a set of questions/parameters.

The states that have got representation are – Odisha, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Delhi, Assam and Punjab – 12 states.

Three of them, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Assam are going to polls this year and except Assam, BJP has no great chances.

Waiting for another year to make announcement about UP cities is an unforeseen risk, especially in the context of the facts/logic mentioned above, that the party would not like to take.

BJP may have performed miserably in Bihar polls (Bihar has no city in the list) this year but then it also did so in Delhi. Similar logic can be given for other states like Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, and so on.

So, the argument that the list is politically motivated doesn’t hold much ground.

But we must be watchful to see what really happens to these ‘smart cities’ – to see whether the concept is smart enough – let’s see what this US$ 7.5 Billion can do?

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

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