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Why Smart City Mission is impossible without Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, NHCD and HRIDAY

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By Sujaya Rathi

New Delhi: With the simultaneous launch of the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT), Housing for All and the coveted Smart Cities Mission (SCM) on June 25, 2015, it was a landmark day in the evolution of India’s urban agenda. The message of convergence emerging from the common launch of all three programmes will hopefully be sustained in the future while implementing them.

The Smart City guidelines seek the convergence of different schemes like AMRUT, Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM), National Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana (HRIDAY), Digital India, Skill Development, Housing for All, construction of Museums funded by the culture department and other programmes connected with social infrastructure such as health, education and culture. SCM, with an outlay of Rs.48,000 crore ($7.5 billion), is expected to enhance the quality of life in 100 cities, which will be identified over the next few months.

Since the initial declaration of building Smart Cities in the BJP’s election manifesto in early 2014, the Modi government’s plans on this front have been taking shape slowly, and will need time to evolve. The SCM guidelines highlight the need for a holistic approach to urban development. This will require an integration of physical, institutional, social and economic infrastructure. Thus emerges the need for a strategically articulated framework to address a city’s urban challenges, which will greatly aid this process of integration. This framework should focus on a more process-oriented path than a simple project-oriented path.

The guidelines provided by the government do not mention a specific definition of Smart City. There are, however, four key imperatives that emerge from the guidelines along with various other perspectives on smart cities obtained from both academic literature and deliberations in India over the last 15 months. The first imperative is that a city needs to be sustainable in order to be smart. This will mean that the interventions under the Smart Cities Mission need to align their goals, objectives and processes to the overarching principle of sustainability.

The draft Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), released by the United Nations, can be a useful and handy reference.

The key principles emerging from SDGs include ensuring well-being, equity, efficiency, and embedding foresight in all plans and actions.

Adhering to these principles at all stages of all programmes will ensure consistency in the outcomes achieved and thus enable the much-intended convergence of programmes sought by the Smart Cities Mission Guidelines.

The second imperative that emerges is the importance of imbibing the characteristics of good governance for achieving sustainability. For example, transparency, accountability, participation and consensus-building are some of the key characteristics of good governance, which form the foundation for ensuring equity.

The third imperative is to understand the role and use of technology in urban development. There needs to be a departure in the way technology is being portrayed as the panacea of all urban ills. It is in fact an important enabler, which can yield the desired results only when applied in a context-specific manner. Collective vision, supportive policy instruments and domestic stability are equally important in achieving smartness in a city through technology.

The fourth and a frequently discussed imperative is that urban institutions, especially the Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) need the capacity to work towards the three imperatives mentioned so far. This gains additional significance as the prime minister himself has said that ULBs will be key instruments in implementing the Smart Cities Mission.

The four imperatives mentioned above suggest that India needs to formulate concrete Terms of Reference (ToR) to realize the Mission’s objectives, drawing from the initial ideas proposed in the guidelines. A reference framework based on a set of guiding principles is needed to enable state and city governments to implement different schemes, understand the complementarity of schemes and maintain consistency. This Smart City Reference Framework (SCRF) for India can be envisaged to be the point of departure from other urban development initiatives. The Smart Cities Mission needs to initiate this to gain both short-term (such as meaningful utilization of investments under various schemes) and long-term benefits (such as initiating important structural reforms in urban planning and management processes, empowered by technology).

The Reference Framework should be the overarching and all-encompassing umbrella that will guide all urban development and related schemes to achieve sustainable urban development in India.

Center for Study of Science, Technology and Policy (CSTEP), a Bengaluru-based think tank, has been working on re-conceptualizing various notions associated with smart cities in India. The culmination of this study is a set of ToR, which is also being referred to as the Smart City Reference Framework(SCRF). The final report of this study will be released in mid-July, under the aegis of NITI Aayog.

The positioning of SCM can be seized as an opportunity to address the challenges discussed in this article and achieve the larger goals of urbanization featured in the national development agenda. The complementarity of the schemes presents the biggest opportunity in this trajectory of urban development. It could also be the biggest challenge! Streamlining the efforts of various organizations by ensuring that various aspects of sustainable urban development are addressed will be a critical factor in taking this Mission forward “smartly”.

(IANS)

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World’s Anti-Corruption Day

The U.S. Statement Department said in its Friday statement that it pledges "to continue working with our partners to prevent and combat corruption worldwide."

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Anti-Corruption
Bulgarian anti-corruption protesters march during a demonstration in downtown Sofia, VOA

Corruption costs the world economy $2.6 trillion each year, according to the United Nations, which is marking International Anti-Corruption Day on Sunday.

“Corruption is a serious crime that can undermine social and economic development in all societies. No country, region or community is immune,” the United Nations said.

The cost of $2.6 trillion represents more than 5 percent of global GDP.

The world body said that $1 trillion of the money stolen annually through corruption is in the form of bribes.

Patricia Moreira, the managing director of Transparency International, told VOA that about a quarter of the world’s population has paid a bribe when trying to access a public service over the past year, according to data from the Global Corruption Barometer.

Moreira said it is important to have such a day as International Anti-Corruption Day because it provides “a really tremendous opportunity to focus attention precisely on the challenge that is posed by corruption around the world.”

Journalist, Anti-Corruption
An activist places candles and flowers on the Great Siege monument, after rebuilding a makeshift memorial to assassinated anti-corruption journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, in Valletta, Malta. VOA

Anti-corruption commitments

To mark the day, the United States called on all countries to implement their international anti-corruption commitments including through the U.N. Convention against Corruption.

In a statement Friday, the U.S. State Department said that corruption facilitates crime and terrorism, as well as undermines economic growth, the rule of law and democracy.

“Ultimately, it endangers our national security. That is why, as we look ahead to International Anticorruption Day on Dec. 9, we pledge to continue working with our partners to prevent and combat corruption worldwide,” the statement said.

Moreira said that data about worldwide corruption can make the phenomena understandable but still not necessarily “close to our lives.” For that, we need to hear everyday stories about people impacted by corruption and understand that it “is about our daily lives,” she added.

She said those most impacted by corruption are “the most vulnerable people — so it’s usually women, it’s usually poor people, the most marginalized people in the world.”

Anti-Corruption
Anna Hazare raised his voice against corruption and went ahead with his hunger strike at the Jantar Mantar in New Delhi. Wikimedia Commons

The United Nations Development Program notes that in developing countries, funds lost to corruption are estimated at 10 times the amount of official development assistance.

What can be done to fight corruption?

The United Nations designated Dec. 9 as International Anti-Corruption Day in 2003, coinciding with the adoption of the United Nations Convention against Corruption by the U.N. General Assembly.

The purpose of the day is to raise awareness about corruption and put pressure on governments to take action against it.

Tackling the issue

Moreira said to fight corruption effectively it must be tackled from different angles. For example, she said that while it is important to have the right legislation in place to curb corruption, governments must also have mechanisms to enforce that legislation. She said those who engage in corruption must be held accountable.

“Fighting corruption is about providing people with a more sustainable world, with a world where social justice is something more of our reality than what it has been until today,” she said.

Anti-Corruption
It is important to have the right legislation in place to curb corruption

Moreira said change must come from a joint effort from governments, public institutions, the private sector and civil society.

The U.S. Statement Department said in its Friday statement that it pledges “to continue working with our partners to prevent and combat corruption worldwide.”

It noted that the United States, through the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development, helps partner nations “build transparent, accountable institutions and strengthen criminal justice systems that hold the corrupt accountable.”

Also Read: British Parliament Access Internal Facebook Data Scandal Papers: Report

Moreira said that it is important for the world to see that there are results to the fight against corruption.

“Then we are showing the world with specific examples that we can fight against corruption, [that] yes there are results. And if we work together, then it is something not just that we would wish for, but actually something that can be translated into specific results and changes to the world,” she said. (VOA)