The ‘smart city’ list is out.
And by names (of the cities) it involves, it seems the whole
process to select the first 20 has been done meticulously and smartly.
Or that seems so?
Well, to go with the verity of the process that went into
making of this report, we can say that two big, electorally important states,
going to polls this year and the next, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh, have not
got any of their cities shortlisted.
Or it can be like, BJP has nothing much to lose or gain in
West Bengal, where it is politically non-existent, so it can safely be placed
in ‘politically motivated’ category and by the time the UP assembly polls come,
in the first half of the next year, the state, where BJP and its allies won 73
out of 80 Lok Sabha seats in 2014, and where it failed to perform in every
subsequent poll and bypoll, the party may announce to shortlist all UP cities
(from the names sent) in one go next January (in 2016) to score the
But that goes with one imperative – how Varanasi is developed
further – how the city looks by that time – because, so far, during the first
20 months of the Narendra Modi government and during the first 20 months of
Varanasi being the parliamentary constituency of India’s prime minister, the
city has failed to move on development parameters.
In fact, those who come from Varanasi can tell you nothing
has changed so far – when we compare Varanasi of pre and post Narendra Modi
era. The city doesn’t need WiFi at its ghats. It needs cleaner ghats and the
Ganga. It needs a cleaner city. It needs uninterrupted 24/7 power supply. It
needs a sewage system that is efficient and covers the whole city. It needs a
governance system that can coexist with its ancient tradition and cultural
flow. It needs modern civic infrastructure based on the real estate development
in the city. The city desperately needs a traffic system that could take care
of its perennial problem. The city needs dirt free, dust free and garbage free
roads. The city needs dedicated superfast trains like Shatabdi or Duronto. The
city needs a larger, better airport.
Well, nothing is happening on that front. It is good that Varanasi
would be developed as the twin city of Kyoto – the Japanese temple city that is
a model the world over.
But given the state of affairs the things are in, the first
and the immediate imperative is – Varanasi needs its basic civic amenities
Narendra Modi’s candidature did some positives to Varanasi –
liking causing a multi-fold jump in its real estate prices – like putting the
city again on global heritage map.
But, on the ground, in terms of developments that the city
desperately needs, nothing has been done – and people have started raising
Anyway, this write-up is not about Varanasi. I wrote about
Varanasi to present logic for one of the arguments here – that BJP didn’t name
any UP city now to time it according to the UP assembly polls.
The Ministry of Urban Development says it followed a
scientific process to shortlist cities out of 97 entries it got – with answers
and responses on a set of questions/parameters.
The states that have got representation are – Odisha,
Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh,
Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Delhi, Assam and Punjab – 12 states.
Three of them, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Assam are going to
polls this year and except Assam, BJP has no great chances.
Waiting for another year to make announcement about UP
cities is an unforeseen risk, especially in the context of the facts/logic
mentioned above, that the party would not like to take.
BJP may have performed miserably in Bihar polls (Bihar has
no city in the list) this year but then it also did so in Delhi. Similar logic
can be given for other states like Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya
Pradesh, Maharashtra, and so on.
So, the argument that the list is politically motivated
doesn’t hold much ground.
But we must be watchful to see what really happens to these ‘smart
cities’ – to see whether the concept is smart enough – let’s see what this US$
7.5 Billion can do?