Monday, September 28, 2015

Smart City Is Stress Free City!

“A man must be big enough to admit his mistakes, smart enough to profit from them, and strong enough to correct them”…John C. Maxwell

John Calvin Maxwell is an American author, speaker, and pastor who has written many books, primarily focusing on leadership. And what better quote I could have choose than this to share some more views or say experiences about the already much spoken Smart City topic! It seems that the smart city virus has affected not just our beloved Pune city but every small town in the surrounding too; I can’t comment about the country but whatever exposure I have, from that surely can say about neighboring towns. Recently I do got a pleasant surprise when few members from Karad (its a neighboring town of Pune) Engg & Architects Association came to invite me as a Chief Speaker on the Engineer’s Day.  15th Sept is celebrated as engineer’s day in honor of Shree Vihsvesarayya’s birth date, who was a great engineer by himself. And to add in my surprise they said the topic will be Smart City! I asked them is Karad city also part of the competition which is on Nationwide for getting in to top some ninety eight odd cities which will be tagged as smart cities? They said no, but they want to make the citizen aware about the concept & will like to know about it. I think this is first success of the Smart City campaign as till now this country was speaking only about issues of farmers & agriculture & no hard feelings as till very recent we were & still are the largest agro base country. And now here is a small town with population approximately two lacs wants to know about Smart City! But slowly more & more population is becoming urban is a fact & thanks to social media & internet, information flows faster than time here. So though I frankly told them I am not an authority on the subject yet I will like to come & share my views about the subject as best way to learn is to share whatever knowledge you have. Fortunately before going to Karad I was able to attend a presentation on Smart City by Tel Aviv’s Chief Knowledge Officer courtesy Sakal news paper & could speak with few people working already on the subject, to gear up myself.

By the time I reached Karad I myself was pretty excited & I have done some research by myself & formed my own views, as whenever somebody calls you as a speaker its what your own views are is what they are interested in & not just cut paste type information presentation is what my experience is. Also the crowd was going to be mix society segment & not just engineers so I have decided not to go with any figures or statistics but the logic & challenges in making a city smart. I reached some two hours before in Karad & the welcome team took me for a small round of Karad which has a historical importance since Shivaji Maharajah times & later Hon. Defense Minister Yahvantrao Chavan is from this town as well our Ex CM Mr. Prthviraj Chavan too! The city has old charm & geographically two major river meet here i.e. sangam, is here i.e. Krishna & Koyana, so the city is rich in terms of most important aspect of any urban settlement i.e. water. The sangam of two rivers has been beautifully landscaped & old temples are adding beauty to it but as usual garbage & litters by the visitors is spoiling the entire scene. The city is blend of old & new development & surprisingly numbers of four wheelers I observed was much more. Reason is good affordability amongst the citizens as Karad is rich due to farming with availability of water all around the year & cash crops. But the roads are narrow & building bylaws don’t have provision for parking is also I came to know. Best part was the city has conserved heritages in much better way especially residence of Yashvantrao Chavan, making a photographic memory exhibition there.

While I was preparing for the presentation I recalled few incidences about the city life which has happened in very near past & close to me, will narrate them here as they helped me to make my views more clear about smartness of the city.

Not long back my aunt who was staying alone & in Pune only expired due to age & my dad who stays with me only, being her brother said he will get death certificate (mryutu dakhala) from PMC. I said I will arrange it but he insisted that as anyway he has nothing to do much at home he will get it. So after few days the subject went out from my memory but some three months later at dinner time my dad came to me & said can I arrange the death certificate from PMC for my aunt? Surprisingly I said but you were to get it na? My dad replied he tried all ward offices, then PMC some another office in city & instead getting the certificate he got all sorts of answers but that certificate! Final answer was due to some technical problems in computer he won’t get that death certificate, so frustrated he came to me. I made few calls next day to my friends at proper places & in next three days my office people got that certificate!

Then my one of my clients of our completed project came to me saying the MSEB bill for his flat’s electric meter is showing different meter number though flat number is correct but he don’t know whose meter readings bill he is getting! He agreed it’s not our fault yet he said he has made application to MSEB office twice & he is an IT professional& getting leave is difficult yet he has tried going to different offices of MSEB yet the fault is not getting cleared & he is worried that someday MSEB will cut his meter for nonpayment of the same. He has come to me so that can I help him for getting the correction in the bill done. I said yes I will & even to my team it took three more months follow-ups with MSEB offices but finally it was done.

Then one classic case was with my family friend Mr. Sharad Paranjape, who holds a small piece of land & was on his wife’s name. Apparently govt has acquired that land for some purpose & later as the purpose got canceled they did returned that land but while doing so they made a printing mistake in the name of his wife & because of this there was ownership title problem for him to sale the land. He has tried his every effort to make the correction to the name with concerned revenue offices but for no effect & he was worried that he will have to lose the land in this process, so can I help? I did & with some proper follow-ups we got the correction done in the name on the ownership document of his land.
Here many will think who am I, certainly not some Don Corleone; but as my business includes dealing with many govt offices & I have man power to follow the system I could get all above thing done. 

And we all are familiar with such many cases, right from correction on ration cards to property tax bills each of us have our own experiences with the system & outcome was discomfort leading to stress.Ask people going to their work place or school, who have to wait for indefinite time for buses that too at bus stops which offers no shelter from weather, again causing enziety that whether they will reach to their destination in time such is infrastructure of public transport which leads to stress only! Water cuts are declared & the scheduled supply is never in place making people run around for getting a bottle of water! A common citizen especially in city has to interface many govt agencies & in most of the cases experience of this interface is something which cause discomfort or irritation is a fact. And outcome of all this experience is stress, so I concluded to myself that a Smart City is Stress Free City! 

Many will wonder how it’s related to stress, well in all above three examples as well many other cases what was outcome, rather why the three characters needed to come to me in first place? They have spent their time, money & yet they have not been able to get what they want & for no fault of theirs. At the same time they were not asking for moon but only that which was their right & yet the so called govt agencies or civic bodies which we call the system of the city made them frustrated by asking them come back again & again & yet failing to deliver what as a citizen they expected! So the only outcome is stress, this is why people says city life is stressful as where for smallest of the things your patience is tested there stresses are bound to be occur. Here is where I found the exact purpose of making a city smart as already in today’s life everyone has enough reasons to get stressed so at least we can take care of basic needs of the citizens from the system. Smart City is not just infrastructure of flyovers & public transport AC buses or Metro or ample water but smart city means there exists a system which doesn’t make citizens to chess for simple day to day things like assured water supply to sending correct property tax bills or expecting PMT buses coming on time & a bus stop which will offer proper shelter! And then really it’s a sad thing that on this scale we need to have a smart city competition to assure such services to the citizens which is their right in actual!

At the same time citizens also have their responsibility towards the system as no city can become smart if the citizens are not law or rule abiding. Right from paying your property tax bill on time to not jumping signals, many a times we don’t follow rules from our side yet we expect others side should follow them! As smartness isn’t something which comes to you naturally, one has to acquire it & for that there has to be a system, set of rules in place. Some rules are written & some are unwritten; for e.g. proper civic sense is one unwritten rule which nobody of us follows. Like at Karad sangam of Koyana & Krishna, there was beautiful garden yet why we need to write boards at such places, that “Fine of     Rs 500 for throwing Garbage here”! Joke is that yet garbage was being thrown there by the very citizens of Karad, neglecting the rules! A city becomes smart when the society becomes smart & citizens as well the system which runs the city both are parts of that society, is what both sides should keep in mind.

Finally when I reached to the hall, it was full packed with a cross section of society & I tried my best to explain them about smart city, adhering to the concept that Smartness is a quality & keeps on changing with time. Like today we find a person smart in a role of a peon means giving outputs in best way, but if the same person gets promoted for his smartness to manager level then he may fail in delivering what is expected from him in his duty & won’t retain the smartness tag anymore. Same way a city we can make smart once but it’s a constant journey & as the city grows so grows its challenges as well expectations of the citizens too grows & the smart city is the one which delivers by adopting these changes & continues to stand to the expectations of the citizens! For e.g. today Karad’s population is some two lacs & they have enough water & today that’s a strong point of making the city smart, yet tomorrow like Pune the population increased in multifold, is the same water going to be sufficient for that population? All such aspects should be taken in account & a constant analysis & solutions for the possible problems in future has to be worked out. And for becoming smart why we need any competition is the question I asked to them? Today's seminar in itself was their first step to the smartness as they are keen to know what smartness is. Lets ask our-self why we want become smart in first place as there lays the path to become smart. 

Frankly what I feel is all it takes is deciding by every individual that, "yes I want to become smart & make my surrounding less stress free", & it will get reflected everywhere. As a city don’t get automatically smart, its smart homes & smart work places along with smart individuals is what make a city smart. And the moment smartness enters the stress goes out, that’s what is the profit of being smart!
And for this no outsider is necessary as this journey is inside out which starts from our own-self, so go ahead take the first step by accepting this fact is all I will say! Thanks.

Sanjay Deshpande 

Sanjeevani Dev.

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  1. Namaste Sir

    our Karad lecture is Eye Opening for the People in the City. But unfortunately we cant manage to attend our political Heads for this lecture. Yatha Raja tatha Praja. we have a lots of work for Community to take them sense to what do they have in Plus. we have working upon your points from a lecture and surely want to say here we will get lots of positive from your presentation for our Karad

  2. Namaste Sir

    our Karad lecture is Eye Opening for the People in the City. But unfortunately we cant manage to attend our political Heads for this lecture. Yatha Raja tatha Praja. we have a lots of work for Community to take them sense to what do they have in Plus. we have working upon your points from a lecture and surely want to say here we will get lots of positive from your presentation for our Karad


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