I was invited to an open debate on Smart Cities by the Focus (Odisha) TV. It was organised at the G.M. College fields in Sambalpur yesterday and the show went live on the TV. The discussion lasted for two hours. Three politicians (the MLA of leading BJD, the Congress candidate who lost to her in the last election and a senior local leader of BJP) were there on the dias with me as discussants. Hundreds of audience were present and the anchor called them 'Buddhijibi' meaning 'intellectuals'. The debate was more political and the audience seemed to be a well balanced mix of followers of the above three political parties. A few intellectuals who were there, including some from the above parties, had to remain silent when there was time for audience questioning/reactions.
I will write a detailed piece on the Smart City issues later. However, wanted to post this short note of observation as it virtually came out as a 'sad affair' and not a real debate on the issue. In fact, no one seemed to be aware of what the Smart City is but everyone wanted to get it. As if Smart City is a bunch of money that we would miss if we don't wage a political fight.
In fact, I said it during the debate itself, our political leaders should now stop showing their visionary skills in declaring whimsical schemes. Schemes should be discussed with the people at large and then finalized. The current mode of Smart City programme is going to see more dirty battles than the smartness it wants to achieve in the cities of the nation. In fact, we all need to be smart enough to understand the dirty tricks politicians play to force us into a rat race by showing some peanuts called 'funds'.
Development has to be local specific and it must take the local people and ecology into consideration and on board. It cannot merely be a 'Scheme' that is thrown upon states/districts/cities as a matter of competition!
Thanks and regards,
Convenor, Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO)
Convenor, Combat Climate Change Network, India
Mahanadi River Waterkeeper (Member, Global Waterkeeper Alliance)
(Thanks to Sarose Purohit for sharing photographs of the show that he clicked from his TV screen)