Jammu and Kashmir has the peculiar dilemma of having to decide whether to nominate Jammu or Srinagar for the Centre’s ambitious Smart Cities project. While the government there mulls its options, one is tempted to tell the people of the state that, as some Delhiites would vouch for, they are not missing much if either Jammu or Srinagar does not come to resemble a New Delhi or any other metropolis. For, if the state of the nation’s capital is any indicator, then Jammu and Srinagar would do well to stop harbouring dreams of transforming into a smart(er) city. Why, you might wonder? Because one reasonably good spell of monsoon is enough to bring Delhi to its knees. (The same is true for Gurgaon, a satellite town adjoining Delhi which boasts of an imposing skyline, or Mumbai.) After spending crores of Rupees on a nearly six kilometre- long Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) corridor, the Delhi government decided in July to scrap it. A photograph (see picture) posted by Muktesh Chander, an Indian Police Service (IPS) officer of the 1988 batch, on his Twitter account tells a similar tale of apathy, neglect and indifference. “Unfriendly Zebra Crossing ending no where.They end in bushes, traffic islands, or grills.Have designers walked there? (sic),” he tweeted.
Another example of lack of town planning is that there is no way a pedestrian can negotiate his/her way from INA Market to AIIMS without walking a tightrope on the median. One cannot help but notice that the pedestrian has been completely forced out of the equation; it seems Delhi is for mechanised transport alone. About civic infrastructure befitting the status of a metropolis, the less said the better. Yet, amid fanfare, the Centre has recently rolled out the Smart Cities project in 98 towns (with two more to go) which would focus on a robust IT connectivity, digitisation, water, electricity, sanitation, public transport, solid waste management and affordable housing.
But with dumb cities such as these, who wants to live in a Smart City?