The fear that the smart cities may turn into gated cities, governed by powerful corporate entities that would override local laws and governments to “keep out” the poor. Thus ensuring a ‘smart’ life for the rich and a life of alienation, misery and exclusion for the poor. In the light of the statement critically examine Government’s Smart City Project.
The indispensible characteristics of Smart City are Smart Energy, Smart governance, Smart mobility, Smart healthcare, Smart citizen and Smart infrastructure. Smart is city is primarily technologically driven.
The fear stems from the fact that India have approx 300 million people living without electricity, don’t have healthcare, proper sanitation etc. and therefore, a technological driven city would have every possibilities to alienate these masses.
“Smart” in Smart city refers to technologies or application of technologies for the fulfillment of mundane work. Those who don’t have access to the modern day technologies would get automatically alienated.
Smart city does not focus on low cost houses.
Government plans to build 100 smart cities seems inadequate to fulfill the needs of 22% poor people or approx 138 million middle class households.
The emphasis of Smart City is on high-end infrastructure and superlative quality of life which is indicative of the fact that it won’t be able to cater the needs of poor or unprivileged.
Smart City is focusing on Smart security arrangements that would be based on modern day technologies. For example, the idea of ‘Smart Identity Card’ and ‘Smart Surveillance’, will certainly transform the city into highly exclusive gated enclaves.
It is being said about Smart city that it would be a heavily policed space, where only eligible people i.e. economically productive consumer (shoppers/consumers) and producers (employees), would be allowed freedom of walking and travel. This also indicates that Smart city would be an exclusive space only for “eligible peoples”.
However, the purpose of the Smart Cities Mission is to drive economic growth and improve the quality of life of people by enabling local area development and harnessing technology, especially technology that leads to Smart outcomes.
Though the initial plan is to build 100 smart cities, but the idea is to promote area based development, which will transform existing areas, including slums, into better planned ones, thereby improving live ability of the whole City.
New areas (green field) will be developed around cities in order to accommodate the expanding population in urban areas. Application of Smart Solutions will enable cities to use technology, information and data to improve infrastructure and services.
Comprehensive development in this way will improve quality of life, create employment and enhance incomes for all, especially the poor and the disadvantaged, leading to inclusive Cities.
To conclude, it can be said that the focus is on sustainable and optimal use of resources, and inclusive development of a city. The idea is to look at compact areas, create a replicable model which will act like a light house to other aspiring cities. And thus, spread the benefits to all.