Nation Current Affairs 04 Oct 2016 Smart city? How dumb ...

Smart city? How dumb can we get...

Published Oct 4, 2016, 2:50 am IST
Updated Oct 4, 2016, 7:06 am IST
Bengaluru may have earned the tag of IT City globally, but it turns out it is not that “smart” afterall.
BBMP has lost the Rs 15 lakh it spent on preparing the report, point out those in the know.
 BBMP has lost the Rs 15 lakh it spent on preparing the report, point out those in the know.

The irony of it all... The Silicon Valley of the country, Bengaluru, again fails to get the Smart City tag! The funding from the Union government under the project may be negligible, but the failures still leaves a bitter taste. The inevitable question is: If many small towns and cities can make a better presentation, why has Bengaluru failed to make the cut? Lackadaisical officers and lethargic civic agencies to blame.

Bengaluru may have earned the tag of  IT City globally, but it turns out it is not that “smart” afterall. For the second year in succession it has lost out on the Smart City tag, and the funds that go along with it from the Union government to help with its development. Although the money may not  be much, the fact that the BBMP failed to stand up to scrutiny and qualify for the required Central aid is clearly a black mark against it.


It appears its report sent to the Union government applying for the Smart City tag did not measure upto standards and failed to meet certain mandatory pre-requisites set by the Centre for a city to qualify for the nomenclature that would have brought  it additional funds..

The fact that the city does not have an effective Solid Waste Management (SWM) system in place to dispose of its garbage has cost it, say BBMP sources. Also, the BBMP report  did not explain well enough where it would get the matching funds from to execute certain projects slated for  Smart City grants, they reveal.


The civic agency was reportedly not convincing enough either when explaining  how the city intended to have round-the-clock water supply, and  go about improving the maintenance of its roads and drains.

Bengaluru’s inability to rise to the occasion has surprised many as even small towns and cities have made successful presentations that have earned them the Smart City tag. Besides losing out on the Smart City funds, the BBMP has lost the Rs 15 lakh it spent on preparing the report, point out those in the know.

But ask the BBMP officials responsible and they claim they did not have enough time to prepare the report submitted in the first week of September to the Centre. “We were given just 15 days to make the presentation, which is far too little,” they protest.


The projects mentioned in the report included  the  mono rail, smart streetlights to illuminate roads and cable cars in some tourist hotspots. The BBMP, which had a blueprint ready for some of the projects, invited suggestions from the people on what its priorities should be, and even developed special mobile applications to help them respond.

As a result as many as 10,37,962 people gave their take on what projects the city needed to treat on priority. While around 24 per cent felt the Smart City funds should go to Mahadevapura zone,  a major IT hub, others suggested the city needed to focus on providing quality roads, better drains and smooth flow of traffic. But as it turned out it  was all a wasted effort as the city received a big thumbs down from the powers that be in Delhi.


Focus on quality infrastructure
“The BBMP has failed to collect 100 per cent property tax and utterly failed in Solid Waste Management (SWM). When it has done so poorly on both these fronts how can it expect a Smart City tag for Bengaluru?” asks urban expert, Ashwin Mahesh pertinently.

Although he believes that the Smart City funds are insignificant for a city like Bengaluru,  he says the BBMP must be more organised in planning and presenting its projects if it expect to get them in future.

“But having said that,  Bengaluru is not losing out on anything by not being called a Smart City. Even if it got the funds, it would be for some insignificant project in some corner of the city. So it is not a loss at all for Bengaluru and the people shouldn’t really care all that much,” he advises, adding that the city should instead be looking at building quality infrastructure like 1,500 kms of TenderSure roads, increasing the BMTC fleet and improving walkability.


“This is upto the BBMP and the tate government. So this is what we need to focus on,” Mr. Mahesh emphasises, echoing the views of other experts too, who feel Bengaluru can do without the Smart City tag and needs to focus on developing in ways that improve the people’s quality of life, which has taken a beating over the last decade or so.

Maybe a good thing we didn’t make the cut: Kathyayini Chamaraj, Executive Trustee, Civic

That Bengaluru has not made it to the Smart Cities Project points to its pathetic governance, its poor revenue generation, failure to conduct audits,  innumerable scams and total lawlessness.


But in a way we should be really heaving a sigh of relief that it has not qualified for the project as it does not address the real needs of a city. Just one small area, and not the entire city, will get infrastructure of world class standards, where foreign and local business interests will thrive, creating show-piece islands of ‘smartness’ in a sea of squalor.

We should be thankful that our elected city council will continue to function with full decision-making powers and not be bypassed by a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), which would be a company headed by a CEO as required under the Smart City project. The SPV would even have powers to collect taxes, in a way privatising governance and making consumers of citizens.


It is also good that six other cities of Karnataka will get Rs 500 crore each, which can bring a great deal of development to them, if used wisely for  their environmental sustainability and equity. This will halt the migration to Bengaluru from all over the state and may make the Bengaluru-centric development , where spending Rs 1,800 crore for a 7km stretch of flyover and Rs 20,000 crore for elevated corridors are considered a priority , hopefully unnecessary.

Location: India, Karnataka, Bengaluru