Since the beginning of mankind, a person strives for the basic needs of their life- food, clothing & shelter. More than 600 decades ago, human civilisation has been living in cities. The earlier cities showed systems of low-rise structures & huge palaces with sanitation systems & the hierarchy of the houses based on their social status. Beginning from there to what’s there today has shown a huge jump in the graph in the quality of living. As the quality moved on to more technology, everybody has been stuck in the loop of facing almost the same problems from then to now. There have been problems with public facilities, emergency services, surveillance sanitation, and overcrowding faced by humans in every century.
Looking at a normal Human day in today’s time starts with technology and ends with others. As the world is advancing with smarter inventions, the day of living is getting easier due to technological inventions. Life gets smarter day by day with AI coming to the forefront. Now with the homes being smart, the cities are becoming smart cities. One such initiative by the Indian government is leading the country toward a better nation. So, what exactly is a smart city, and how will it help citizens have a better quality of life?
Smart City & Smart City Mission India
A smart city is defined as a city that uses ICT – Information & Communication Technology to improve operational efficiency, share information with the public & provide a better quality of government service & citizen welfare. It focuses on having technologically driven infrastructure with environmental consciousness. It emphasises having progressive masterplans for the city with efficient public transportation so people could work, live and enjoy in the same city.
As more and more population are moving towards cities for better opportunities and a standard of life, the Indian government took the initiative in 2015 by launching the Smart City Mission to upgrade the urban status of the country. Local initiatives integrated with technology to uplift Indian cities to Smart city has been the primary objective of this movement. Moving ahead to become sustainable worldwide, careful integration of computers, AI, and smart gadgets is involved. Using the technology government could provide smart solutions of better transits, better job opportunities, better security, and accommodating the ever-increasing need of the masses.
Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs launched this program in June 2015, intending to develop over 200 cities & 100 communities. As of now, the government has announced the completion of this mission by June 2024. With a budget of around 16000 crores, 100 cities post-2024 will be known as the Smart Cities of India.
Objectives & Structure of The Smart Cities
The Tier I cities like Mumbai, Delhi NCR, Bangalore, etc., have been expanding. Thus most of the development is based on the development of expressways, bus & railway corridors- Metro lines, Monorails, and Smart buses.
Tier II cities like Bhopal, Lucknow, Surat, Kochi, etc., have been focused on overall development as these are the fastest-growing cities. These cities are facing severe issues of unplanned settlements & pollution & population growth. Public transports are almost non-existential, and people rely on private autos & taxi services. Apart from these, water shortages and power outages have been common factors. Thus, the main objective is “to provide core infrastructure and give its citizens a decent quality of life, a clean and sustainable environment and application of ‘Smart’ Solution”.
The cities have been visioned to have such infrastructure:
- Proper water supply
- Proper power supply
- Proper sanitation with waste management
- Efficient public transportation & mobility
- Housing for all, affordable housing schemes.
- Environmental efficiency, safer cities for all citizens, especially women, children & seniors.
- Better health & educational provisions.
- Creating model cities to help future cities to be environmentally & socially reproducible city models easy to be replicated.
The mission is been administered at the national level by the Apex Committee (AC) for funds, at state levels by the high powered steering committee (HPSC) for guidance & exchange of ideas & at local levels by special purpose vehicle (SPV) & Smart City Advisory Forum (SCAF) & to advise & facilitate all-round development.
Various Sub Government schemes were developed to extend the SMC, like AMRUT, HRIDAY, Make In India, Swachch Bharat, etc.
Upgrading the cities
Due to varied Cultures & Heritage, the development of the cities has been varied. During the Pandemic, cities saw the emergence of hospitals, emergency rooms even digital platforms to enable information for containment areas, areas for vaccination, and availability of facilities for the patient all over the country.
Cities like Agra, and Tirupati, have created platforms to promote the local arts & crafts, thus creating digital platforms, and skill & business centres with houses for the local craftsmen.
The City of Thiruvananthapuram has developed aganwadis with renovated structures & activity areas with proper close-circuited surveillance. Cities like Coimbatore, Kavaratti, and Prayagraj have been environmentally conscious of developing lakes, cleaning the city using bots, and recycling wastes such that manure & diesel can be generated, thus making them more sustainable.
Cycle tracks in the cities of Kolkata & Surat have been developed, syncing with Copenhagen’s sustainability. Various digital platforms & applications have also been developed to improve security and approachability to the police. Mumbai is upgrading for better transit; hence the metro railway corridor has been developed to connect the suburban areas to the main city.
As already known, the project’s deadline has been extended from 2023 to 2024; it can be easily concluded that this journey was indeed turbulent. In terms of management, cities saw insufficient functioning of the SPV, as seen in Panaji, where the board positions were vacant as per 2021 reports. Lack of knowledge & inadequate training programs also created a delay. Multiple projects lacking coordination and maintenance due to government negligence were also significant issues.
Somewhere the mobilisation, arrangements, and monetising of funds showcased major hindrances. Apart from these, technology also has its role to play. As easy things get, the more vulnerable the data becomes. The pillar of a smart city is large volumes of public data for their betterment, but these data are more pregnable by cybercriminals. Hence, the data, camera access, and various systems could only be controlled illegally with adequate measures to secure & protect it.
India – Smarter Country
The Government aims to provide an economic boost & better quality of living to all the Citizens. The cities have shown visible changes in terms of sanitation, cleanliness, security & development of infrastructure over six years of the program and continue to transform more. However, more careful execution with more public-oriented programs is what all of us should aim for in the next phase of this mission. All of the major sectors have been actively a part of this mission of change and hence are expected to contribute to the GDP by over 75%. Several urban local bodies and cities exist in India, and they promise betterment in various areas, including housing, hygiene, employment, IT, health and education, transportation, and the environment. Top countries worldwide have shown interest in the Smart City Mission, and the government prioritises investment in the financial and IT services sectors.
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