Sunday, December 20, 2015

Smart City Mission; Entertainment Cent Percent!

“Sometimes people need their faith to be rewarded”… Dark Knight, Batman Movie!

Probably the worlds maximum money grosser series of movies yet not just a super hero movie but full of life’s philosophy too & the quote says so! I think what keeps happening repeatedly in our Pune city is somewhat similar to action sequels of the movies as we do need something to debate, to gossip or to let our frustration out & our rulers keeps us busy like the production houses of Batman movies, every year releasing a new flick! If you are not satisfied with my analogy then have a look at this, some time we discuss about garbage depot then we are busy with infamous Metro & its route & then we are fighting about cctv camera all around the city, then suddenly its BDP i.e. hill tops & hill slopes & latest shows running in the cinemas is Smart City!  Here cinemas are media, then every corner group talks, PMC general house & every party is playing some role in all these movies which sometimes takes form of a TV soap opera, as some are repeatedly aired on the horizon of city every day with new episode! Some of these serials can beat even popular serials of TV like CID, as take garbage depot serial, now it’s running for last fifteen years yet its TRP is high. Then we have got other serials too like BRT which is now running for nearly ten years & then there is Metro serial too which is there for seven years!

What I meant is we don’t find any solution to any of above subjects but we just enjoy discussing about them & our rulers conveniently change the shows or timings of episode airing as per their priorities & here is where the batman movie quote come in picture as what rulers wants that only is being shown to us all the time but what we i.e. watchers of the show i.e. common citizen wants, that is never considered & the latest Smart City show isn’t also exception to this thumb rule! Its latest entrant hardly got aired for last six months but it got highest TRP, surpassing all other shows.

So like a TV "sans bahu" serial the smart city story crawled ahead & there was “kahanime twist” at the end; with general body i.e. apex body of all elected corporaters withholding the proposal of smart city which was to sent to the central govt & dead line was 15th Dec (which eventually is my birth date too, though this is just a coincidence). The administration has prepared all the ammunition to fire but the rulers have something different in mind they just removed the firing pin of the gun itself! Again there was huge cry in media, social network, followed by agitations all across the segments of society. Municipal Commissioner appalled to Chief Minister who is top boss for urban development department which controls Municipal Corporation. CM gave order to rethink on the proposal in general body & make it through. Then on 14th Dec a special General body meeting has been called & it went for whole day nearly thirteen hours & with lots of corrections the so called smart city proposal has cleared by our city rulers & submitted to the central govt. All the time it was like India Pakistan match which went live wire till last ball of the over! This all has been in news paper & everybody taking credit for clearing the smart city proposal but irony is we have to witness such a childish or foolish display of how immature we are as a society towards as serious topic as smart city. I am no authority on smart city concept or its worth for the city yet one simple thing as an engineer or citizen I understand, nothing wrong if something is making this city a shade better than it is in present status. Only the approach should have been more professional & mature is what a common citizen feels.

Look at the hype created & sure it indeed was a sincere effort by the Municipal Commissioner to get Pune at top in smart city ranking, yet right from beginning a wise person would have guessed the attitude of elected members about the concept itself. First of all for those who won’t have understood the entire movie or serial, let’s understand the concept or procedure of smart city in nutshell. Smart City Mission is central govt’s scheme under which ninety eight cities from entire country have been chosen to uplift them on front of facilities they will be providing to their citizens. From Maharashtra State ten cities have been chosen & Pune is one of them. Now out of these ninety-eighth first some thirteen odd cities will get funding in first phase & for that various parameters will be considered by the committee at central level. But for that the proposal should reach to the committee before 15th Dec, was one of the conditions & that has to be approved by the local body of the particular city which in our case in Municipal Corporation means general body which consists of all the elected members of PMC! Here many don’t understand the power of general body. The administration of PMC may have executing powers but all those come only after approval by the general body popularly known as GB! Not even our development plan of the city can get sanctioned or published if GB doesn’t approves this & here is where lies the twist in the kahani of smart city as the GB didn’t approved the proposal of smart city which is to be sent to the central govt.
As many objections were raised by the GB for smart city proposal made by the administration, which may be true but then right from the beginning who has stopped the elected members to take part in understanding the concept of the smartness? The major concern was shown about the SPV i.e. special purpose vehicle company to be formed which is supposed to govern all the works to be carried out under smart city mission. GB felt this company will take over control of entire working of PMC & this nobody has dared yet! Right from allocating acquired amenity spaces to approval of fund utilization to appointing consultants, many of the decisions were to be taken by this SPV which will be headed by Municipal Commissioner, though there was enough representation given to the elected members on SPV, yet seems GB wanted full authority over it. 

What I failed to understand is, whether it’s a fact that the proposal wasn’t shown to the GB right in the beginning, which leads the fight over it went till last hour! And if it's not shown then why no one tried to understand what is proposal of smart city & how it’s going to be functioned? Then another objection was about ratio of funds from the central versus the additional tax burden it will required on citizens for taking care of PMC’s share of funds to be raised. Here I will like to ask, till now has GB ever judiciously worked how much tax per head is to be collected per head & how much is being collected which will be in benefit of the city. And then comes the part of the execution of the works at hand through the funds which are being generated even in today’s tax system, year after year policy proposals like water or property tax are kept pending, the infra works doesn’t get completed ever in time is a fact. The classic example is of the amenity spaces which has come under possession of  PMC  & thousands of other such properties which are in PMC’s ownership. Have we ever published a list of all such properties with mentioning the use they are being put for? Why we need a smart city tag for such very basic things, which GB or let’s say, the civic administration, whoever it may be, has repeatedly failed! Never known GB raising voice over such issues & making administration work in interest of benefit of the city or citizens? So what moral right GB has now to make a cry over losing control on the infrastructure works under smart city mission or about so called tax rise?

Now here many innocent souls will ask, why so? Isn’t the smart city proposal supposed to be for benefit of the city? Well, yes it is but then GB either doesn’t think so or benefit of the city is very relative term i.e. it is equally possible that in the eyes of GB smart city may be better for the city but not for the GB itself! Again the same innocent souls may ask, isn’t the rulers of our city whom we have elected as our representives are supposed to have same views as ours when it comes to have benefits? So for those souls I will share a dialogue from a Prakash Jha’s movie “Apaharan”. Ajay Deogan is shown a youth, son of a very honest social worker named Shastriji & whose aspiration is to join gang of a local don, role played by Nana Patekar. When he approaches to Nana patekar with a crime record to impress him, Nana approves his request & appoints him as his lieutenant in his gang. One of Nana’s associates objects this saying ajay deogan is son of an honest social worker Shastriji! On this Nana just laughs & says, “ab kaha kisika beta raha wo!” Meaning, now when he has decided to join the criminal gang, he is nobody’s son anymore may it be even Shastriji!

Entire above scene is hardly of five minutes but to all those innocent souls who thinks that once you elected somebody then he will think in your interests only; well, once got elected then he is nobody’s representive but his own, is the unfortunate truth of the democracy. If not so then leave apart smart city so many things which we discussed above regarding the city, wouldn’t have kept lingered without any action. Please understand, I don’t want to disrespect GB or any elected members yet if they have so much strong feelings that smart city proposal is not in benefit of the city then why it’s not rejected right at the start? And if GB has realized it later then when it’s been rejected by deferring its submission date which any way would have been end of it, then again why it’s been cleared in the special GB on last minute of the submission date that too when asked by Hon Cm to conduct a special GB? Why GB didn’t stood firm of rejection of the smart city proposal? And then the proposal has been sent to central govt with so many basic suggestions which are directly in contrast with the principles of the smart city mission, so it’s not sure whether the central govt’s committee will be accepting them or rejecting the entire proposal or force the proposal on the city in its original form!

The open secret of all this “showbaji” by every political party was, elections of PMC are just round the corner & no party wanted to take the blame that they were in opposition of making this city smart as it would have been very difficult to win the seats in elections with this tag around the neck. Joke is in all process no political party or social or print media hasn’t understood the concept of the smart city. Open any news paper & what you read is problems & more problems around & most of them are outcome of the very same citizens & the civic body servants as well elected members behavior. So getting a tag of smart city isn’t going to change anything but every individuals attitude is what going to make this city smart, this simple fact we have failed to understand. 

Or else we may get first ranking for smart city on the basis of presentations we do & may even get funding but the Roads will keep choking with traffic, People will keep throwing garbage everywhere at their will, Car & Bike riders will keep on jumping red signals putting lives of everyone on road at threat, River will keep getting polluted, Metro proposal will keep on delaying every year along with its budget getting bigger, BRT will get new date every month for its starting, Garbage depot will keep on overflowing, Public toilets will remain dirty & every Infra projects will get delayed & still the life will go on. Only change will be in the records of some Govt files, the name of Pune city will have an entry before its name, "Smart Pune City"! Do we want this as outcome of Smart City Mission? I think this truth common citizen wants to know & it’s high time to reward his faith, is what our rulers should understand & respond, there only lays the success of Smart City Mission!


Sanjay Deshpande

Sanjeevani Dev.

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