- The Centre would like us to believe that the Smart Cities Mission will transform urban life in the agglomerations that enter the elite club. With the latest inclusions, there are 90 cities in the list, each of which proposes to turn ‘smart’, utilising core funding from the Centre and other resources. By all accounts, the provision of basic services in urban India has been worsening, and this is clearly reflected in the winning city proposals: 81 of the selected plans seek funds for affordable housing, new schools and hospitals, and redesign of roads.
- The Centre has apparently decided to skirt such a fundamental problem by adopting a ‘managed urbanisation’ approach in the chosen cities, with the powers of municipal councils delegated to a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), under the Companies Act, that will act in its own wisdom.
- It would be smart, for instance, to use sensors to estimate the flow of vehicles and pedestrians, and create smartphone applications for the public to report on a variety of parameters. Making such data open would enable citizens’ groups to themselves come up with analyses to help city administrators make decisions, boost transparency and make officials accountable.
- Access to special funding should make it mandatory for all public transport providers – city bus corporations, Metro Rail and suburban trains – to provide real-time passenger information in the form of open data, an inexpensive global standard that raises both access and efficiency through smartphone applications. Making street-level waste management data public would lead to a heat map of the worst sites, compelling managers to solve the problem.