“Smart Cities” through the lens of “Smart Villages”
A smart city is an urban region that is highly advanced in terms of overall infrastructure, sustainable real estate, communication and market viability. It is a city where information technology is principle infrastructure and the basis for providing essential service.
Cities are currently known as engines of growth, as they contribute approximately 60% to overall GDP. Despite economic importance, urbanisation in India is characterised by haphazard and illegal construction, growth of unplanned urban sprawl and slums and deteriorating social services. This has made cities highly polluted, unhygienic and vulnerable to natural hazard and biological hazard (dengue, malaria). With failed regional planning, every year millions of people migrate to cities creating a burden on already stressed infrastructure and services.
By 2050 it is estimated that 50% of the country’s population will live in cities and to accommodate them 500 new cities are required. Hence, if urban dreams with which people come to cities, may turn into nightmares. Smart City Mission aims at providing smart solutions to problems of urbanisation, it aims at introducing a bottom up approach to town planning, providing basic and core infrastructure and a clean, decent and sustainable environment.
PURA and RURBAN mission aims at reducing pressure on cities and providing new avenues to village people. Under the mission 300 villages across the country will be developed as growth centres for the area by creating city-like infrastructure. The mission will provide digital and physical connectivity as well as quality healthcare and education in selected villages. Skill development, digital literacy, quality sanitation, agro-processing industry among others is the objective of the Smart Village missions. RURBAN Mission will therefore provide a better quality of life and increased employment opportunities in villages itself.
Given the existing imbalance in regional development, the smart cities may further sharpen the difference between the rural and urban region. This would further boost the influx of people from villages exacerbating urban woes. To avoid this, it is necessary that smart village programmes are taken seriously. As 70% of India still lives in villages, without smart solutions to the problems of Indian villages, smart cities cannot be a success.