Is this really a smart city?!

The inhabitants of Srinagar are faced with multiple problems
Is this really a smart city?!
Pic: Mubashir Khan/GK

M.M Shuja

To live in a “Smart City” is a dream of every resident of Srinagar city as well as for the people residing in other parts of Kashmir Valley who frequently visit Srinagar city due to their personal or professional engagements. The question here arises that after completion of projects under “Smart City”, can the dream of living in a “Smart City” be fulfilled. Civil Society and Traders’ bodies are hopeful that L.G administration only can complete the other project in time bound manner, as right now there is no Political interference in the existing system of Governance. General public is of the opinion that the relation between Raj Bhawan and public should be strengthened as somewhere bureaucracy has created impediments between them as they are enjoying all protocols. Some officials prefer to settle the public issues as per their taste and timing.

To conduct G-20 Tourism-Summit in Srinagar City was a challenge for the L.G Administration and security agencies but due to cooperation of stakeholders, the event was concluded successfully. Tourism players are of firm opinion that during current tourist season, maximum footfall of national and international tourists are expected that not only can boost our economy but can generate employment opportunities for the youth of J&K.

Experts believe that even after completion of projects under “Smart City”, the dream of living in “Smart City” is far away. The inhabitants of Srinagar have faced multiple problems during last three decades. Some areas of city have not been developed even during political setup. Construction of residential as well as commercial zones, in and around Srinagar city, is all messy. The continuous shifting of people from other district headquarters to Srinagar City have added further encumbrance on different sectors. There are dozens of private residential colonies in Srinagar City that are still facing civic problems like drainage, drinking water supply, road connectivity, lack of transport facility, better health care and schools. In winter people in Srinagar and other parts of Valley face power crisis and in summer drinking water scarcity.

Government has initiated the process of “Smart Meters”, but in Srinagar there are a number of areas where public, especially women, came on roads and agitated against this move of Government. In Rainawari, Habba Kadal Power Development Department (PDD) Officials faced awkward situation. Other areas like Batamaloo, Maisuma and parts of Downtown are also a challenge for PDD to install Smart Meters. While talking to some residents of some areas who agitated against the installation of meters, they replied promptly that if Government is serious to generate revenue for purchase of power, and to improve the power infrastructure, then why the officials are not acting tough against big defaulters who have yet to pay crores of rupees as power dues, even Government departments. The old-aged women cried and said that they have no regular source of income and their demand is to give them some relief.

The Sep-2014 deluge not only destroyed thousands of houses across J&K but exposed the travesty of administration. The major cause of floods was poor drainage system in Srinagar City and its adjoining areas. The chocked and faulty drainage system was supposed to be modified after post-floods 2014 but that was not done, with the result during rainfall there are dozens of areas where public face lot of inconvenience in residential as well as in commercial areas. Srinagar City has another issue of public transport as there is no permanent bus-stand, when transport yard was shifted from Batamaloo to Parimpora, Sumo Service and other public transport for different areas are available at different locations of Srinagar City. In evenings, passengers move from one area to other to chase Sumos. Students face tough time. In “Smart City”, there should be a smart bus stand with all facilities like washrooms, food-courts and ample parking area.

The parking problem is not only in civil lines but in Downtown area too. The traders of Sher-e-Khaas, number of times have appealed to District Administration Srinagar for parking slot for S.R. Gunj,and its adjoining areas . The non-availability of parking not only hampers the traffic movement in the area but causes a sharp decline in business activities too.

Srinagar City has another issue of solid waste which in near future can create an awful situation for both public as well as for Administration. Achan dumping site has almost been filled and now Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) has to contemplate for another site. The Achan site is posing serious health issues not only to the people residing around the site but for doctors and patients of Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) Soura too. The administration of SKIMS during an RTI revealed that authorities were apprised and communicated about the grave issue but no steps have been taken by the concerned department or agency. The whole area has been put in an adversity as summer season is already here.

To live in a “Smart City”, inhabitants should have simultaneously smart income, so that they can pay happily for the services which they avail. The dream of living in “Smart City” is incomplete without a dependable livelihood for our youth who after completion of degrees are moving from pillar to post for employment. Administration should not take only cosmetic measures to redress the issues but under “Smart City” project, there should be a comprehensive approach for day-to-day problems like healthcare, education, roads, safe drinking water, power and above all employment opportunities for our youth.

The author is a Senior Journalist, and an RTI Activist.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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