Editorial | The idea of a smart city

In today’s world there are smart versions of everything. From policies to weapons, from gadgets to classes, and from offices to cities – smart is considered not just beautiful but efficient. Some time back when the government at the central level decided to make many cities all around Indian into smart cities, the two capital cities of J&K also ranked in the list. Ever since the talk of smart city of Srinagar, and smart city of Jammu echoes in the atmosphere. The idea was welcomed, its contents discussed  in  public spaces, and there was also some acerbic critique of the very idea. The reason for criticism was not rooted in the negation of the idea of upgrading the cities, but was rooted in the condition of the two cities and the pattern of development that has been followed for decades now.

What also contributed to skepticism was the functioning of the government departments, and of the executing agencies, given the level of corruption and inefficacy. In case of Srinagar the commentators would often emphasise the present dismal condition of roads, pavements, markets, water bodies, housing pattern, and public services. Then the question would pungently pop up; can such a city be ever a smart city. This question still holds. Although the talk of smart city is occasionally being heard but people stick to skepticism. This response of people is not a reflection of any cynicism, but a realistic feedback. When we cast a look at a city like Srinagar, it has deteriorated to an extent that people believe that given the pace of deterioration it might not be  a liveable place soon, not to talk of smart city. The task at hand for the administration is that they should first restore some sort of grace to this city by improving its systems, services, and infrastructure. The condition right now is very bad to put it very mildly. The government needs to take care of the basics of a city in terms of infrastructure and services. Once it becomes a decent city, may be we can think of upgrading it to a smart city. Otherwise the plans on papers are always nice and impressive.What finally matters is what finally exists on ground.