On December 3, 2005, the PM Manmohan Singh launched the JNNURM (Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission) with a concluding speech, “The Mission has to walk on two legs of improved urban infrastructure and improved urban basic services. The role of governance reform in the Mission should be to catalyze a process that enables both these to move forward.”
The JNNURM dawned to tackle and enhance abject municipal governance, a substandard & limited municipal physical infrastructure & utilities, a deficiency in municipal accountability, a lack of finance for ensuring basic municipal rights of a citizen and urban reforms- for efficiency in municipal processes. Nevertheless, the current government under the leadership of Narendra Modi scrapped out the JNNURM and revamped it to the ‘100 SMART CITIES’ and 500 cities under the ‘AMRUT’ (Atal Mission on Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation).
If not municipal authorities, at least citizens are expecting some great-never-seen-before transformation in cities, which were never heeded earlier. Is it going to be so?
It is an established fact that the JNNURM was not a success and achieved only 50% of its targeted mission, by 2012. The mission’s goal in a span of 7 years witnessed 80% of funds flowing in water supply & treatment scheme along with the widening of roads. In a contrast, the figures of investment in 100 Smart Cities and 500 cities under AMRUT over a period of 5 years can amuse anyone when figures of the both put side-by-side: it is approximately the same amount of investment (INR 1 lakh crore). This figure was for 63 cities under JNNURM and it is approximately same as highly ambitious Smart City scheme for 100 cities. It sounds an implausible, untenable and risible figure for the current scheme in comparison to the results achieved with respect to total cities & time frame of the previous scheme.
The rational context behind both the schemes is same: to accommodate rising migration from rural to urban and enhance the quality of life in a city, so that, cities known as engines of economic growth can function well and attract investors. But, the components in both the schemes are same (except few): inclusion of e-governance, GIS, MIS as cited under JNNURM are found parallelly in the concept of ‘Smart Governance through ICT.’ Also, Mass urban transportation systems (BRTS, METRO), Solid Waste Management, Health and Education along with basic utilities like Water Supply, Electricity , Sanitation, Sewerage , Drainage etc. Though, there are few technological components in Smart City scheme that were not part of JNNURM, for instance, Energy sector includes smart grid & bio-fuels, Education includes e-learning and Health has inclusion of ICT, however, revamping ‘JNNURM’ into ‘Smart City’ does not make sense when already existing policies mandates Integrated Waste Management and implementation of Smart Grid & Bio-fuels (which are highlighted as “encouragement” under smart city scheme).
Instead of the inclusion of ICT for Smart Health and Smart Education, it should have preferred the idea of ‘differential pricing’ in health as adopted by Narayana Health chain in India, as well as in education also. Such initiatives are truly SMART in the Indian context, in against to trying to fit some successful western-derived urban ideas and concepts.
It was claimed in an inaugural event of the ‘Smart City Scheme’ that the current scheme is remarkably very different in a sense that ‘smart concept’ is about decentralized power and integration of citizen’s decision-making power in making ULB’s transparent and accountable. This silently vilifies Indian citizens for their lack of awareness of central government policies: above agenda was one of the mandatory reforms under JNNURM– reforms for decentralization, law for community participation with the introduction of ‘Area Sabha’ in urban areas.
Our civilization is already on the path of making cities smart. Top smart cities like NYC, Toronto, Paris, London, and Tokyo were way far smarter before the concept emerged. In the Indian context, the act of smartness lies in the diminution of urban migration rather than expansion of urban infrastructure whose solution lies in an innovative rural development model. Only an intelligent rather than smart solution can cater to fade-out nought development opportunities in rural areas, which is the root cause for urban migration following a slow-paced economic growth.
Way back before independence, the “PURA” (Providing Urban amenities to Rural Areas) was conceptualized in 1944 by E.V Ramasamy (Periyar) who was hailed as “Socrates of south-east Asia” by UNESCO. Dr A P J Abdul Kalam in his book “Target 3 billion” re-defined the PURA by improvising the earlier version to make it compatible to the current ‘demand’ scenarios of Indian cities and rural regions. Dr A P J Abdul Kalam propagates the idea of (1) PHYSICAL CONNECTIVITY in the form of roads, health centers, water supply, electricity, sanitation etc., (2) ELECTRONIC CONNECTIVITY in the form of a communication-network of phone & internet and (3) KNOWLEDGE CONNECTIVITY in the form of capacity building in terms of entrepreneurship and knowledge building in terms of education and skill development, so that economic connectivity emanates. He stresses on PURA to be business-centric which increases the leeway of growth dimensions for rural people (by becoming entrepreneurs and small-scale industrialist).
With the introduction of ‘environment consciousness’ (in knowledge connectivity), which is an integral component of “Periyar PURA model,” the Kalam’s ‘PURA’ unintentionally takes care of three components of sustainable development which are social, environmental & economic and India burgeons to achieve revised 17 SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) by UN. Such model ameliorates Human Development Index, Inequality-adjusted Human Development Index, and Multi-dimensional Poverty Index accounted by UNDP on an annual basis.
An independent Periyar PURA model has been successful in 8 villages of Pudukkottai district of Tamilnadu and 57 villages of Thanjavur district, emanating economic activities in the field of coconut and coir products, alternative building materials, bamboo applications, medicinal plants, integrated dairy, food processing and bio-energy & bio-fertilizer. Other PURA operational are Loni PURA in Maharashtra, Byrraju PURA in Andhra Pradesh and Chitrakoot PURA in Madhya Pradesh.
The JNNURM failed and the Smart City scheme is just an updated version of JNNURM. Is it not an act of smartness to succor and be the vanguard of well established & successful rural development model in lieu of ‘new urban development project,’ which is still considered to be nebulous & fuzzy in terms of its definition… for the development of a district as a whole?
By Vikas Maurya,
PGD- Sustainable Development & Climate Change,
“Marching zestfully, to master Creativeness”
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