Source: Arvind Unni, http://www.dnaindia.com/analysis/standpoint-of-smart-cities-and-unsmart-decisions-a-tale-of-misplaced-priorities-1998212
It has been more than a month since the Modi-led BJP government swept to power at the Center, primarily riding on the anti-incumbency wave against the UPA, and on the promise of good days ahead (ache din aanewale hain).
Now, it is the (over-employed) mantra of “minimum government and maximum governance” that leads the policy-making discourse, advocating shrinking the top levels of government with “expansion at the grass-roots level”. Having worked on Mumbai’s housing and urbanisation issues at the grassroot level, I’d like to highlight the misplaced priorities and the consequent policy contradictions in urban areas that have emerged in the new government’s short tenure until now. This article analyses our urban future given the current political climate in light of a few recent incidents in Mumbai. It is time for the State to rethink its priorities and goals for urban India.
The BJP Manifesto – Promises Galore
The BJP’s election manifesto, like all party manifestos was full of loud claims for urban India. It clearly stated that “our cities should no longer remain a reflection of poverty and bottlenecks.” Contrary to the rural-centric policies until recently, BJP clearly views “urbanisation as an opportunity rather than a threat” and outlined an (albeit vague and contradictory) urban agenda to make cities “symbols of efficiency, speed and scale.” To achieve this, the manifesto makes many promises – it plans to prioritise low-cost housing and public transport, build 100 new cities, upgrade the existing 8,000 urban centres, use technology to improve urban services and also make development sustainable. The dream is powerful in rhetoric and imagination. But no one knows how these grand imaginations would pan out on the ground. If this very early tenure is to be analysed, it has frighteningly been heavily tilted towards intensive capital investment while the working poor and environment are at the margins of this envisaged development.