Being positive about Smart Cities – look what I stumbled upon

There has been much ridicule about the Smart Cities concept in the urban community – the group of people who have been in involved with the many aspects of cities for years. While I would like to heed the suggestions and advice that we should give the government a fair chance but there clearly is an onus on the government side to also demonstrate by action and inspire confidence beyond the popular rhetoric with which it engages the masses and those who are too weak to bother about probing the truth and want to just feel good and ‘positive’.

I have been working on my own self also to not always be critical and work within existing systems etc. so I will be less critical of what I saw but try put it down matter of fact.

Whatever be the pardon for slow progress or no progress I really do not know what to make of what I witnessed today on the Ministry of Urban Development Website. Two days ago there was an announcement about the Cabinet approving the 100 Smart Cities Project of the PM – PM Narendra Modi’s pet 100 Smart Cities project gets Cabinet’s approval

I decided to go to the website of the MOUD to check if there was any circular to that effect. I found nothing in a quick glance on the ticker and so moved immediately to click on the Smart Cities tab and through some other clicks reached on the forums section where I had the misfortune to see what I have captured in the screen shot below (absolutely fresh post).
There couldn’t be anything more banal I felt and that too on one of the most important websites of a country which wants to be a super power. Visiting the equivalent websites in any of the countries that the PM is visiting is a joy and a learning experience and immediately provides solid support to those countries global power perception. The visits of their head of state then compliments rather than seem hollow.

Smart Cities - Feeding of citizens 30.04.2015

The mention of pork and ham and beef caught my eyes additionally. I thought beef would have been censored from such a post?

What a gem this other post is

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I looked at the answers section to see if there were any responses (even manufactured) but none. Absolute silence. A graveyard would have more life than this forum. Considering this has been one of the strongest buzzwords of the new government one would have thought there would be more action here.

Looking at the index on the left of the parent MOUD website another tab caught by attention CPHEEO. I decided to check what such a long abbreviation would hold. More surprises to come.

A click opened into another website and the look itself gave away that this section was frozen in time and there should be no reason to be disappointed. Basically there was no management of the website since 2005. The earliest post I could locate was from 2000. Central Public Health & Environmental Engineering Organisation to me should be an extremely important body, since by its very name it has an important contribution to make to public health.

I clicked on the Technical Reports section and this opened up

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Clicking on the Technology Advisory Group on Solid Waste Management brought me to this 266 page document (from 2005) with the fascinating cover. Swacch Bharat Abhiyan by another name (only a decade before). The report can be viewed here http://cpheeo.nic.in/tech-report/tag_swm.pdf

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I then clicked on the tab CPHEEO Manuals and opened into this page.

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Absolutely fascinating again. I am capturing two paragraphs from the preface below. Committees, meetings, round tables, reports are something we have mastered as a country.

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The CPHEEO website is a wealth of archival information from the past giving an insight into what India was thinking and doing in 2000-05 and should absolutely be maintained for posterity. In fact when I look at the Smart Cities website http://indiansmartcities.in/Site/index.aspx it does not inspire confidence n comparison.

To the urban community the subject itself is important not the compulsions of the political dispensation to show themselves as the whole and soul of the matter and chest thumping. The institution of MoUD is important and from that perspective there need to be improvements in simple measures like having better discussion forums. I cant get over the banal post on the Smart Cities website which I have captured above.

I am sending this blog post to the person indicated in the Contact section captured in screen below and will await his reply and update on this post accordingly.

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I can only conclude that there is absolutely no dedicated group within India’s nodal urban development body to maintain the website for such an important issue facing the country. Since the coming over of the new government nobody has bothered within the political setup also to go and check and improve on this. Nor have they faced any strong criticism over this from the community and the aam aadmi anyways never visits sites like these. Altogether about a 1000 people in the size of India must be visiting a site like this. And this is why I am never impressed with the PMs visits abroad. Foreign Policy and India’s perception in the global community is shaped more by the many serious trade people from the world who visit Indian government websites like these than the speeches its PM makes in trade fairs.

Separately speaking it is by now a regular comment in any forum on any issue facing the country that we are facing a dire human resource crisis in every field, from medical to education and urban issues. The irony of demographic dividend and such a crisis juxtaposed next to each other is a matter of deep concern with clear insight into the troubles we can face ahead.

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One thought on “Being positive about Smart Cities – look what I stumbled upon

  1. Any wonder that India is a laggard in most areas of development. And after 60 years we are still developing? The reasons for dead websites are many but some which I have been able to fathom are

    1. A dedicated and enthused IAS officer or group of bureaucrats, who come up with an “idea” to the then “neta”. Depending on the political air blowing at the time a comity is formed and some money sanctioned. Thus opening another avenue for, we all know what. That is all the politico wants. Thus when the Minister is shifted, the new minister cold stores the idea, lest its success on completion crown the original minister. Creating political space for another is stupid. Development be damned.

    2. A enthused minister out to show his boss or constituency that he works for them. And to grab some footage. The rest is same as above only difference is that here the bureaucrat plays the spoiler.

    3. The great “quota” saga, a group of “experts” who have no expertise in managing -maintaining -operating a portal. So when it repeatedly crashes, the public abandon the use of it.

    The only way our Cities will be smarter is when the dance of death comes a little closer than Nepal.

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