Smart City

D084D689-5D83-4CC8-B418-B53A371FF1A3It was the recurring theme of my thoughts “ Unki kameez hum se safed kaise.” The Sun was brighter, the sky clearer, the water blue-er and the land was cleaner. As I inhaled lungs full of unpolluted air, I wondered where we had gone wrong. Weren’t we the agrarians and they an industrial nation. They a consumerist society, we the wise minimalists with ‘reduce and reuse’ ingrained in our being, even if recycling was an alien concept. Weren’t we the cradle of civilised society? Didn’t we teach the world about town planning and civic amenities through the Indus Valley civilisation?

Well, it seems that while we were gloating over our glorious past, they were working towards a better future. They have developed while we continue to claim that we are developing. They woke up while we slept on. More importantly they woke up as a nation, which means not just the policy makers and law enforcers but the common citizen. So every resident feels the need to do his bit to promote cleanliness and prevent pollution, whether it is segregating garbage or dutifully picking up after their dog.

Back home  the change is  noticeable. Some dismiss it as  pre-election propaganda, a last ditch effort to catch the voters attention. Some call it  a partially fulfilled promise. The promise of a smart city. Whatever be the reason, the effort is visible and welcome. Using the flyovers as a giant canvas, social messages and graphics have been painted, to inform and adorn. Roads have been widened. Berms have been cleared of weeds and dirt which will hopefully prevent water stagnation and surface damage. Trolleys ( yes trolleys!) full of garbage have been removed from the green belts. Flower baskets hang from electricity poles. Trees and perennials have been planted. Traffic lights work. Garbage is collected door to door. The state in a working state  is visible everywhere. 

Sadly, the work of the average citizen is visible too. One day the roadside is garbage free and the next day it is strewn with rubbish filled polythene bags, carelessly chucked from a moving car. One day a signboard is hung, the next day it is plastered with the poster of a self acclaimed leader smiling with fake benevolence. One day a fence is  put up to seal the highway, the next day it is broken down for a shortcut across the road. The list is endless, covers removed from manholes, flower pots stolen, cycles borrowed from the government stands but never returned, roads blocked to put up tents, cars  parked with no consideration, marriage and religious processions stopping traffic,  loudspeakers blaring into the night, domestic animals abandoned on the roads. 

Is it because we are too many or is it because we are too poor? I believe it’s neither. We are the way we are because we have the ability to justify our wrong actions . The common excuse of litterers is that since everyone else is trashing public spaces, what difference can one person make. We are as, Amartya Sen rightly says, the Argumentative Indian, ready to rationalise anything. 

Which  makes me wonder can a city become smart if it’s citizens refuse to be?

( published in my column in The Tribune on 2/2/10)

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10 thoughts on “Smart City

  1. Dr Ranjana Parihar says:

    Manju, the fact is , we as citizens, are still not ready for this so called SMART CITY wave. It’s all nothing but a sham. Until unless we all follow the basic civic sense, all the efforts made by government are going to be useless. And moreover government machinery or associates are doing all this to get their points and once they are conferred with tag, they no longer bother to sustain those services. Still at the end of the day .. NOT A BAD MOVE.. At least they have started thinking in this direction

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Ranjna Parihar very right about the motivation behind the move….my point is we are lacking too….it is not only the people who govern us.

  2. Dr Harbir Kohli says:

    Basic human instinct is to have easy way out, that’s all across. Lot of so called manners, etiquette s have to be inculcated. It takes couple of generations to have visible results. It starts from home, school & law enforcement agencies. Once it becomes a habit…… any habit it stays with you be it good or bad. It has to be enforced. Don’t expect one day it will come on its own.
    Yes we justify everything & also hesitate in penalizing the guilty…….result of our karmic theory or fatalistic approach.
    We are the way we are now but can be changed. Look at Singapore ……just 4 to 5 decades …it’s evolved

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      We will change only if we feel the need… which doesn’t seem to be the case right now…but perhaps as you say after a couple of generations….if humanity survives the onslaught!

  3. Mitra says:

    We have learnt to demand our right but no inclination towards our duties .
    Civic sense is obviously missing ..
    Indians keep their own homes clean …Outside be damned .
    Selfishness ,self-centered ness and a justification for everything that’s wrong ..
    In this country if some right-minded person chooses to uphold the correct behaviour or action ,he may have to pay with his life ..This is real ,our resident dr was shot dead in the train when he opposed rough behaviour of some youngsters towards an old fellow passenger .
    No punishment for the guilty ..
    No reward for a good Samaritan.
    मेरा देश बदल रहा है ?????

  4. Dr Minoo Thakur says:

    Very well expressed, Dr Manju.U have enumerated the efforts d state has made but we need to change d public mindset,which is quite a task ! Do u think some fine /penalty could discipline the public?

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Thanks for appreciating… since when have I become ‘Doctor’ MANJU to you?
      Yes … fear always works… till conscience takes over… which is possible in a more evolved society and will take a couple of decades
      But I believe that certainty of punishment is more important than its severity… which means that if you are caught littering you can’t take the name of some minister/ bureaucrat and get out of the situation

  5. Dr Uravashi Rathi says:

    Sad truth – and all of us need to take responsibility. I remember as a child if I ever tried to hide behind the usual justification : but everyone is doing it, my parents standard response was always : If everyone jumps in a well, will you follow them?
    Let’s start with ourselves – along with cleaning up after ourselves, let’s take along an extra bag and pick up some extra trash left by others too. ……
    Great article……

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Totally agree with you and your parents….two years back I trekked to Kheerganga…and there were these youngsters who were picking up trash from the hillsides… and I thought I would do it too …if I was young… a couple of minutes later I modified my statement and wished I was fit enough to do it
      A year later on my trek to valley of flowers and Hemkund sahib ( which are much more rigorous) I collected garbage from the trail….it was neither age nor fitness….it just required the willingness to do something…rather than do nothing

  6. Rohini sehgal says:

    Smart city yes
    We all want it but before that we all have to assess our role in it
    Cleanliness is a very personal issue
    If we start making cleanliness our personal agenda others will follow suit sooner or later
    It is good the government is taking steps and we need to do whatever little we can to sustain the drive

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