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Not so Smart and Liveable Cities at Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit 2017

January 13, 2017

‘The Smart and Liveable Cities’ Seminar, that had a good start, watered down quickly, and as expected. Apart from the problems the Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit is mired by this time, it is also a topic that no one – really, no one seems to be able to explain clearly.

The seminars were drab and so many of the attendees were just roaming around, again, as anticipated by many. A good number of those who came, came because they were forced to. Without interest or anything real to gain. From chaos raging in Capital’s corridors of power to the confusion created in lower ranks by the slow and lacklustre decision making at various levels of leaders and officers in not such a distant past, there have been goof ups before and during the summit. It may be that new set of officers behind this event don’t seem to have as much of a handle on what works and what doesn’t. The move from near Ahmedabad to Gandhinagar since 2011 hasn’t helped matters, more so in the aftermath of demonetisation.

Urban Development, that found footing as a focus area since 2005, has had all kinds of projects being showcased. From private Industrial townships and Diamond City Surat to Sabarmati Riverfront Development to backlit acrylic models of GIFT City, the Global Investors’ Summit had it all. But the ‘Smart’ sobriquet is no use to any of the cities. Ahmedabad is doing its pilot in some godforesaken corner, and it is evident that even senior officers are still struggling to understand what makes a city smart – certainly, not 8000 affordable houses. If Riverfront Development is the showcase project for creating pedestrian facilities and green areas, imagine what the rest of the city has: Dug up roads, ugly buildings and gated developments.

The action seminars did not see enough action and participation was lukewarm at best. Even the municipal Commissioner of Ahmedabad spent a few quick and uneasy minutes. Smart villages, another hollow idea used by uncomprehending half experts, does no service to the meaning of “Smart’ not contributes to any understanding of villages by the crowd at the summit. Self proclaimed subject experts are not able to say anything that makes any sense to the dimwit reporters who then resort to taking random photos of people, and create negative headlines out of sheer desperation. If there were great speakers, I am yet to see any reportage of their explanation of Smart anything. Venkaiyah Naidu came, and RBI governor came, and many others came and went, but the void in the middle of this VGS is obvious.

But then again, I was told that Gujarat is better than most other states, and that cities here are ‘smarter’ than others. Only time will tell.

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Vankaiyah Naidu at VGGS 2017



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