Wither the Smart City?

Wither the Smart City?

The hullaballoo over the so called “smart cities” in Kashmir seems to have died. The concept, with respect to Kashmir, was always an airy fairy one given its very nature and the immense structural and other issues that were inherent to it. But, yet this did not deter politicians and other protagonists of the smart city drama to not only tout its virtues but also present and introduce the concept as something whose time had arrived in Kashmir. Like all things built on the edifice of lies and or, mildly put, “irrational exuberance” , the concept or more accurately, its practice , floundered on the rocks of reality. All this begs the question: what actually and, in reality, is the smart city? Briefly, a smart city is one which has or in which, Information, Communication and Technology(ICT) is integral and one wherein a stakeholder approach is adopted in terms of governance of the entity. Of course, this is a reductive definition of the smart city but suffices to accord an indicative understanding of the concept and the idea. Now, after definitional clarity, the rational question to be posed is: could the smart city concept have been translated into reality in Kashmir given the extant infrastructure and capacity of Srinagar, for example? Was not the concept and the idea behind it unreal in the first place? The answer to the former question is no and the latter one yes. Inhering in the concept of the smart city is a total and comprehensive revamp of extant infrastructure. Or, in other words, it implies a kind of “creative destruction” which destroys the old to make way for the new. With respect to Kashmir, this was(is) neither feasible nor was it on the anvil. So the smart city concept and its grafting onto Kashmir was a wild idea premised either on a delusion, illusion or “ irrational exuberance”. Whatever be the reason, what can be gleaned from the whole saga is that politicians for reasons pertaining to their personality and their vocation make false promises so much so that some of these fly flat against reality. These promises are defined by lack of proportion and total lack of sobriety and usually come at the expense of peoples’ trust and even gullibility. In terms of Kashmir, the smart city can perhaps never happen. What can happen is improvements in existing infrastructure that actually make life easier for the people and enhance peoples welfare.