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Smart city has become a buzzword, thanks to PM Narendra Modi’s vision of creating 100 smart cities. The urban agenda of the Modi government is inextricably linked to the economic vision of creating centres of investment for private capital. In the Election Manifesto of the BJP, the section urban policy was titled “Urban Areas – High Growth Centres” with an explanatory note which states, “our cities should no longer remain a reflection of poverty and bottlenecks. Rather they should become symbols of efficiency, speed and scale.”

Backdrop

As India’s population continues to grow, more citizen will move to cities. Experts predict that about 25-30 people will migrate every minute to major Indian cities from rural areas in search of better livelihood and better lifestyles.
It is estimated that by the year 2050, the number of people living in Indian cities will touch 843 million. To accommodate this massive urbanization, India needs to -find smarter ways to manage complexities, reduce expenses, increase efficiency and improve the quality of life.
The concept of smart cities is aimed at solving the rapid urbanization challenges. Using Information and Communication Technology (ICT) as the core focus, smart cities are expected to combine a sustainable future with continued economic growth and job creation.

What is a smart city?

Smart Cities are those that are able to attract investments. Good infrastructure, simple and transparent online processes that make it easy to establish an enterprise and run it efficiently are important features of an investor friendly city. Without this a city loses attraction as an investment destination. An investor is considered as someone who helps a city rather than someone who only profits from it.

Where are we?

The government has identified four corridors—Delhi-Mumbai, Bangalore-Chennai, Amritsar-Kolkata and Vizag-Chennai—for building smart cities. Details from the urban development ministry’s draft concept note on the 100 smart cities is awaited. Union urban development minister Venkaiah Naidu has indicated that the state governments will play a dominant role in the formation of smart cities. A recent news report estimates an annual funds requirement of `35,000 crore for the smart cities. We will require India-specific measurement criteria and a smart city index that reflects the basic infrastructure and how “smart” a city is. Also, it is important that rural areas closer to the smart cities directly benefit from the new infrastructure.

Conclusion

Building new cities is necessary, however it could take decades to complete. Hence, the government must focus on improving basic infrastructure in the existing cities and towns. The government’s responsibility in creating the right policy framework and implementation plan for building smart cities is clear. However, what is most important and often overlooked is the need to change our mindset/attitude towards the city/town we live in. Smart cities can provide tremendous economic growth. However, improving basic infrastructure in the existing towns and cities is paramount. Most importantly, we need to demonstrate improved civic sense for building a smarter India!

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