Skip to main content

Modi's smart cities: Top urban planner wonders if one can have islands of prosperity amidst ocean of poverty

GIFT: A "replica" of smart city
By Our Representative
Veteran town-planning expert MN Buch has questioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dream of building 100 smart cities across India, saying in spite of decades of knowledge in urban planning, he has failed to find any clarity on the subject. “I spoke to high officials in the Ministry of Urban Development and they told me that they too are not very clear about what is meant by smart city, even as they are trying to work out the parameters of such a city”, Buch, former vice-chairman of the National Commission on Urbanization, said.
In his commentary in Lilia Interactions, Buch, a 1957 batch IAS officer from Gujarat who received Padma Bhushan for his contribution in urban town planning, said, “I suppose one could call a city that is totally technology driven as a smart city, but technology has drawbacks, because human interaction eventually introduces so many elements of unpredictability. Therefore, at best the city re-mains smart only in part.” Currently, Buch is a senior administrator and urban planner at Bhopal.
Referring to Gujarat International Finance Tec-city (GIFT), Buch said, the very talk of a global financial city amuses him. “It follows the model of similar cities in Shanghai. In fact, it is not a new city but a sub-city that is self-contained, and with the entire infrastructure of a city providing financial ser-vices of a high order. Would La Défense in Paris be considered a smart city, or would it count as an ultra modern sub-city located in Paris? Are new towns such as Evry in the Loire Valley smart cities, or are they new towns like Milton Keynes in England?”, he wondered.
“Obviously, 100 new smart cities will be green-field ventures, separated from our existing settlements by a technology chasm. When Jawaharlal Nehru built steel plants in the middle of nowhere, whole new cities such as Bhilai, Durgapur and Rourkela came up almost overnight. An earlier example was that of the Tata-built city of Jamshedpur. I suppose in their own day and age they were smart cities. So, I presume, are new capitals such as Chandigarh, Islamabad and Brasilia”, he said.
Wondering if these cities have been left untouched by the rest of the country in which they are located, Buch asked, “Chandigarh, designed as the perfect planned city, has become like Lutyens’ New Delhi, with a green and almost imperial core – both are under heavy pressure from the rest of Delhi and the National Capital Region, and Mohali and Panch Kula, respectively. Ultimately, these new towns become oases of planned prosperity in the midst of a desert of poverty, so it is but natural that the poor drift towards the new cities in search of employment.”
Pointing out that nobody has thought about this, Buch said, “We thus have a planned city surrounded by a mass of unplanned settlements, resulting in a situation where a planned city and an unplanned city are in close juxtaposition. Can this be avoided in the 100 new smart cities? Till India achieves a level of equity and equality in income, job opportunities and lifestyles, the smart city will be the magnet, the people will be the iron filings attracted to the magnet and soon the magnet will wear an untidy beard of iron filings.”
Suggesting that smart cities are sought to be built citing movement of people from rural to urban areas, Buch said, this is just not happening in India at the required pace. He said, “Successive censuses have shown that the highest growth is taking place in the middle level towns. If we take the fifty-three metropolitan cities, they contain 19.24 per-cent of the total urban population of India, but as a proportion of the total population, they account for a little more than six per cent. This does not suggest the kind of mass movement from rural areas to urban settlements as has been experienced, for example, in China.”

Comments

TRENDING

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

'Anti-poor stand': Even British wouldn't reduce Railways' sleeper and general coaches

By Anandi Pandey, Sandeep Pandey*  Probably even the British, who introduced railways in India, would not have done what the Bhartiya Janata Party government is doing. The number of Sleeper and General class coaches in various trains are surreptitiously and ominously disappearing accompanied by a simultaneous increase in Air Conditioned coaches. In the characteristic style of BJP government there was no discussion or debate on this move by the Indian Railways either in the Parliament or outside of it. 

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Why convert growing badminton popularity into an 'inclusive sports opportunity'

By Sudhansu R Das  Over the years badminton has become the second most popular game in the world after soccer.  Today, nearly 220 million people across the world play badminton.  The game has become very popular in urban India after India won medals in various international badminton tournaments.  One will come across a badminton court in every one kilometer radius of Hyderabad.  

Faith leaders agree: All religious places should display ‘anti-child marriage’ messages

By Jitendra Parmar*  As many as 17 faith leaders, together for an interfaith dialogue on child marriage in New Delhi, unanimously have agreed that no faith allows or endorses child marriage. The faith leaders advocated that all religious places should display information on child marriage.

How embracing diversity enriched my life, brought profound sense of joy

By Mike Ghouse*  If you can shed the bias towards others, you'll love the connections with every human that God or his systems have created. This gives a sense of freedom and brings meaning and joy to life. Embracing and respecting how people dress, eat, and practice their beliefs becomes an enriching experience.

'28% rise in sedition cases': Top global NGO alliance rates India's civil space 'repressed'

By Rajiv Shah Rating India's civic space as repressed , Civicus, a global civil society alliance, in its new report submitted to the UN Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) on the state of civic space in the country has said that the use of sedition law against the Modi government’s critics continues. "Under the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, sedition cases have increased by 28 per cent with over 500 cases against more than 7,000 people", it says.

Ayurveda, Sidda, and knowledge: Three-day workshop begins in Pala town

By Rosamma Thomas*  Pala town in Kottayam district of Kerala is about 25 km from the district headquarters. St Thomas College in Pala is currently hosting a three-day workshop on knowledge systems, and gathered together are philosophers, sociologists, medical practitioners in homeopathy and Ayurveda, one of them from Nepal, and a few guests from Europe. The discussions on the first day focused on knowledge systems, power structures, and epistemic diversity. French researcher Jacquiline Descarpentries, who represents a unique cooperative of researchers, some of whom have no formal institutional affiliation, laid the ground, addressing the audience over the Internet.

Post-poll mob lynching spree, bulldozer justice: NAPM seeks united resistance

Counterview Desk  Condemning what it calls "the horrific spree of mob lynchings across the country after the Lok Sabha election results", India's premier civil society network, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), has called for "united resistance" against "hateful communal politics, mob lynching of religious minorities and caste-based oppression".