A Fool’s Errand?

A Fool’s Errand?
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Some noise has been observed (or heard) regarding the development of Srinagar into a “smart city” after a hiatus of three years or even more. While there is an element of grandiosity in turning the city into a “smart” one, the mission purports to transform Srinagar into an eco-friendly, resilient and socio-economically vibrant city that celebrates its natural and cultural heritage creating harmony and opportunities for all. This “mission statement” is in consonance with the nature of formation and development of smart cities. But, the question is: can Srinagar be actually transformed into a smart city? Is the intent grandiose? And, is it practical? The answer to these questions might lie in understanding what a smart city actually entails. This entity is in the nature of a city which is defined by its connections and linkages with the Information, Technology and Communications (ICT’s). The resources and assets of the city are managed dexterously , effectively and equitably using technology and the overall approach to this city concept is a stakeholder one. That is, it is not a top down approach to city management but a synthesis of the top down and bottoms up one. To repeat, technology is central to the smart city concept and embedded in it. Now, in terms of Srinagar city, whose urban design needs a desperate rejig, it might actually be prudent and practical to start and begin with small but concrete steps instead of grafting the smart city concept on it. This is not to decry the smart city concept but to inject sobriety and proportion into the scheme or idea. Consider an example here. If Srinagar city is to be turned into a smart city, it would entail a wholesale demolition of the city which is neither possible nor desirable. What is possible are small but effective steps to pave the way for developing Srinagar into a smart city. But, all this might mean getting ahead of the whole idea and argument and putting the cart before the horse, so to speak. As things stand now, it would appear that the smart city idea has gotten bogged down in bureaucratic torpor and inertia. Steps to transform Srinagar into a smart city are, at this stage, merely rhetorical. Let there, first be clarity on the issue and an intent which goes beyond rhetorical flourishes and statements.