Sunday, January 31, 2016

Smart City Game Level 3 !

“Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”  Jane Jacobs

Jane Jacobs was an American-Canadian journalist, author, and activist best known for her influence on urban studies. Her above quote is from Death & Life of Great American Cities & this book is like Bible for any urban planner & I have used quotes from the book yet each time it provides me with new dimension especially when the subject is our beloved Pune city. Now the city has been ranked second in the competition of Smart City’s in all the country, surely a moment of pride for every citizen & special mention of the civic body chief i.e. PMC Commissioner, who if not single handedly but contributed most to make this happen. It’s not an easy task to work in this city, to make the age old administration shake up & wake up from their “kahi badalnar nahi” (nothing will change) attitude. Not that all are that bad but ask any citizen about his or her exposure with PMC & you will know the way it works. Yet the Commissioner made everyone works round the clock & gathered as much data he can. In doing so the PMC does have come up with many unique ways to reach out the citizens as well to get them involved in Smart City Mission. By virtue of e-mailer, print forms to mobile apps & contact numbers, millions of citizens expressed their views about smart city as well their needs & necessesitis. All this data is going to play a very important role in future for the city as the same time it was indeed a mammoth job to collect such huge information, compile it & process it in the form of presentation. Many NGO’s, professional companies, associations like CREDAI as well MCHI i.e. real estate as well industries associations to Media, everyone has contributed & make it possible for the PMC to submit their proposal for the Smart City to Central Govt.

Most importantly the real hurdle in making the proposal or presentation of Smart City was not from outside but from within! As it was required to get cleared by General Body of PMC i.e. body of all elected members which we call corporators & dearly mentioned as “Mananiya”! There was last minute drama of sabotaging the entire concept of smart city by suggesting irrelevant suggestions & prolonging the proposal so as it won’t reach in time to central govt & automatically the city would have been out of the competition. But again thanks to media & now awakened public as well again few good officers, the matter went to CM level who is urban development chief, who intruded & saw that it went through & finally we were on track to race among some hundred other cities in the country for becoming smart!

The last line is very much important as we are not smart yet; while all around sentiments are like we are now smart number 2 in whole country, as Bhubaneswar is the only city which has got more marks than us. To all those who are living in dream of smartness, lets understand Pune has come second in the race of presenting its concepts about being smart & ways it has planned for the same & not on implementing smartness index yet. This is like just second level of a video game where the tasks the player has to perform keeps getting tougher at each level. This ranking was given on the basis of whatever efforts civic body of the individual city has made to reach out its citizen to understand their issues & definition of comfort as well smartness. Then make a documentation of the systems the civic body will be establishing & means for the same so that whatever expectations has been shared from the citizens to make the city smart will be achieved & these means are supposed to be practical & not like “Mungerilal ke Hasin Sapne”! And surely PMC Commissioner & his team left no stone unturned to see that their presentation along with solid data collection will see through the top twenty though not surprisingly the majority of the people’s representives has kept away from this campaign! On all above factors top twenty cities from the country out of the hundred cities has been chosen by the central govt which will be funded in first stage i.e. from this year. Actually it’s not just funding as for PMC whose budget is some five thousand crores rupees, hundred crores per year is peanuts but it’s the concept & the direction in which the future journey will be of the city is what more important.

The concept is the city should create an environment such that it’s the people only who will fund various projects within the city which includes infrastructure i.e. revenue should get increased by virtue of attracting more companies to start their business here. Whatever money central govt will be giving will be utilized to make such schemes is what intention in the smart city mission is; and for that we should be ready to shell out money from our pockets too. This can be in form of increased water tax or property tax & many such avenues. And here is where many not so enthusiastic souls are trying to create obstacles for the Smart City, making hype that Smart City tag will add burden of citizens pocket. As next day of getting Pune’s name announced in Smart City list, Hon Urban Development Minister of Country was in city & there were agitations in-front of him by various political parties against any hike in taxes under the name of smart city mission. Reason is obvious as PMC elections are round the corner & no political party wants to face the election by giving any burden to the citizens in terms of the taxes but then it’s high time to think about entire city as whole than just elections. If all political parties together support the hike in taxes, then I don’t think anybody will object & even they object they need to vote someone is a fact. Agreed the hike in taxes should be justified & more than that must get reflected in the services which civic body provides to the citizen! 

Though the Central UD Minster has strongly backed up any necessary hike in taxes saying if any city doesn’t want to compete in Smart City Mission it can quit; so the message from central is clear. It’s we as city should look at the process making our own self smart & not as a party or a particular segment! Here I will like to mention an advertise of a washing powder saying “desh me faili gandagi saff karte wakt kapde to maile honge hi” i.e. while cleaning the dirt around your clothes are bound to get dirty but are we going to leave the cleaning process itself in worrying for our clothes, is the question we should ask ourselves. As no matter how much money is poured from central govt or from other country like Japan; it’s not the money or funding for the prjects which will make us smart but our attitude & the systems which we will set is what going to make us smart. And if we succeed in achieving smartness at city level then more & more people as well business houses will be coming here which in a way going to generate more jobs & revenues for the city only, making our own life better!

Just to make people know how difficult the next level is, here are few live examples, on the very day name of Pune was announced as second ranking in Top twenty Smart City list I saw few scenes around which I will share here to make the PMC Commissioner & his team aware about the challenges ahead. In scene one I was walking from karve road & right on footpath there was as usual a cutout cum hoarding blocking the footpath & joke is the hoarding was by local leader saying congratulations for Smart City ranking! Then in scene two on Rajaram bridge a posh car stopped in mid way & a lady in jeans who was talking on her cell phone while driving also got down, opened her car dickey, pull out a carry bag of some waste & threw it in river, right under the board saying “Please Keep Your River Clean” & drove away, all the way talking in cell!  Third scene was the road work of DP road from Mhatre Bridge & Rajaram Bridge has been left half done by PMC road department & its laying abandoned for at least more than five months now, causing all the traffic to be left with only half portion of the road! And fourth scene was news in a leading newspaper with photographs about dirty state of canal flowing right through the city & its this canal which supplies water not only to the city but entire villages as well towns downstream of Pune! We all have similar experiences around every day & each of us, may it be a govt servant or a common rikshawala, we all think this is normal & life moves on; this attitude of ours is the biggest hurdle for the smart city.

All above scenes are just a trailer of a mega movie named Pune City, which isn’t Smart a bit is a fact. What we have achieved as second rank indeed is a success but it’s just a mile stone on a long journey & not the destination. However money or funding we may get if we as a govt as well as a citizen won’t change our mind set towards our own city then we won’t be able to ever make it smart. Each time like the kid gets happy after completing first one or two levels of the video game & fails as the game gets fast at third level with the pop up sign on screen “Game Over”’; that’s what our situation will be! As right now we have been successful in laying down the plans to make the city smart now it’s time for action on those plans. So let’s understand the game & gear up for the hard task ahead in making the city smart is what need of the time & this is for everyone who lives in this city. For years the city has given each us fame, money, education, health, peace, joy & many such things in some or other form. And now it’s our time to give this city back something & if we don’t do it now then there will be no city left leave apart Smart City tag, mind it!


Sanjay Deshpande 

Sanjeevani Dev.

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