Smartness in this era is all about mobility, how one is able to do tasks himself without consulting a human. The greatest friend of man is not a man, it’s a machine.
According to Ministry of Urban Development, 31% of India’s population lives in cities and contribute 63% of the GDP. Till 2030, 40% of the population is to occupy residence in cities. Thus, a challenge that surrounds the government is to improve the quality of life of citizens. It chose to urbanize the cities. The guidelines released by the ministry clearly shows that urbanization is aimed at improving infrastructure, digitalization, and stress-free mobility.
Will it change the quality of life?
Quality is a subjective word. For some, it may be buying a house but for others, it may be getting a good paying job.
Change is inevitable. And even if the concept of smart cities hadn’t originated, there is always a scope of change. Remember the times when people used to come to Delhi to join coaching institutes. Now every city/district has an IAS preparatory institute. IIT aspirant moving to Kota has always been a cliché. Now every major city has an Allen or a FITJEE, despite the fact that they aren’t developed cities.
Smart cities may change our lives just like smart phones did. But it does not change the lives of millions of poor who reside in slums and corners of the roads. All they need is their day’s meal and a shelter to provide them shade.
How smart cities affect our lives! The ‘our’ in this sentence is for us, the affluent class who has a laptop to type, a phone to use the Wi-Fi and a camera to take pictures of the newly built skyscrapers. All we worry about is paying our bills on odd days and defending nationalism on even days.
Development & Smartness
Smart cities are a part of development. World’s largest democracy and fastest growing economy has failed to develop the nation and thus the concept of smart cities originated. By making it smart, we are attempting to restore the development campaign which lost track amidst the political humdrum. The difference between a city and a smart city is that a smart city is a labelled city which provides unnecessary or necessary hope to the public. But again, the public here only means the affluent classes.
One of the DPSP mentioned in the Constitution says that the state may make efforts to raise the status or quality of life of the public. Status is a vague term. Smart cities can be considered as an attempt to raise the status of citizens. Here again, citizens imply the affluent class only as poor class care more about next day’s chapatti.
Swachha Bharat, Smart Bharat
If you google “top smart cities in the world”, you would get images of cities having excellent infrastructure and an ultra clean environment. The first change you’d notice between a typical city and a smart city is the cleanliness. So does cleanliness increases the quality of life? It does. Not only the quality of life but also the quantity of life. A clean environment never tastes bitter.
Mobility Is Smartness
Same is with mobility. Delhi metro connects the city with almost every area of NCR. It is quintessential of smartness. Travelling 200 km costs only 40 Rs. The metro raises its revenue mostly from advertising and lending it for movie shoots. Could it BE any more smart? And of course, quality of life will be affected, as each individual will depend on a machine to get his task done in minimum possible money.
India has 220 million smart phone users, which means 220 million people are connected to the world via the internet. Has it changed their lives? Affirmative it is. People are not aware but via a smart phone, they are (directly or indirectly) getting informally educated.
It is true that smart cities will affect the lives of affluent classes only because all poor class care about is the next day’s chapatti. But let us not forget that the government is not just for a particular class, it’s for everyone.
To answer the question “Will Smart Cities make a difference to the quality of life?”, it would be a Yes from my side. Smartness does matter. The infrastructure, the digitalization, and smooth mobility will definitely affect the quality of life and that to in a positive sense. However, whose quality of life will be improved is a different question altogether. The smart phone may overtake the button ones, but it does not make the condition of the button ones any better.
Let us take this reading to another level and step into politics. Have you ever wondered why there is so much hatred in politics? Read and think:
Views presented in the article are those of the author and not of ED.