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India and USA Relationship on Smart Cities, Comment

In today's dynamic and hi-tech world everything 'Smart' is often preceded by 'i' or 'e' before it take for example e-governance, e-bill, e-payment, e-portal, i-phone to name a few and the growing dependence on these smart innovations has made us more connected and together so it is quite obvious that our cities will also evolve as 'Smart Cities' which is one of the pet projects of our current PM, who is aggressively marketing it to fulfill his dream of 100 smart cities in India . For this our PM is pitching hard at the international forum and also on bilateral visits to China, Japan, and USA. India's current diplomatic engagement with USA says a lot about this too.

Taking into view the recent visit by US President on Republic Day and subsequently a range of agreements on technology and research could help a lot in making our cities really smart. Everyone is well aware how we could gain from this symbiotic relation with USA, who is compelled to develop India as part of its 'pivot asia' project to counter China by having MOUs and technology sharing initiatives. Through collaboration and regular visits to major cities in USA and quick information sharing with their experts town planners and analyst our cities could soon become world class in terms of many facilities which define a smart city like well managed transport system, modern communication, security planning, good infrastructure and what not.

Here we should not forget the famous saying "Charity begins at home" and give proper impetus to the ongoing as well as future domestic projects like Golden Quadrilateral joining four metros; LED street lighting initiative for smart cities; Swachh Bharat, as cleanliness is prerequisite for any modern city; Make in India for developing a good industrial base with improved GDP contribution. All these projects in synchronization with e-governance initiative of the current government would be a boon to make our cities smart and self sufficient in real sense. If properly executed these projects would not only help in checking the menace of migration which destabilizes the facilities in cities but also improve our GDP by giving push to tourism and hospitality sector. Common knowledge of the history of present smart cities gives us a blue print of how development of basic infrastructure and transport facilities attracts investment in industry by domestic as well as foreign firms with boost to tourism and at a later stage all these changes set a good base for healthy growth of service sector, currently the largest contributor to our GDP.

As a developing country our focus is to have proper participation of primary and secondary sector in our GDP which has been a major issue in our growth to be a developed country. Still around 64 % of our workforce is involved in agricultural but its contribution towards nation's development tells a different story mainly due to lack of proper facilities of irrigation, storage, nearby market to sell the produce coupled with inadequate roads and transport which is quintessential for proper logistics in any field. Coming to the secondary sector the major hurdle has been lack of proper infrastructure at ports, railways and other necessary setups which discourages proper investment in this sector specially discouraging FDI in spite of a increase in cap of foreign holdings in firms. Another issue is the rising menace of NPA(Non performing assets) by banks and other financial institutions c developing a lacuna between the demand and availability of investment creating a vicious circle affecting the efficiency of almost every institution and individual either directly or indirectly. The strong industrial base and financial institutions of USA can make a huge difference here with proper channel of funds and expertise to tackle these issues bilaterally which will also improve trade between both the nations and address our rising BOP and current account deficit problems too.

Lastly, an important point to be noted here is that development should be inclusive with proper role of citizens as any initiative could not become a success without effective people participation. And I am quite certain that we will develop a chain of smart cities with proper focus and guidance of our great leaders one of whom gave us a mantra – "The earth has enough for one's need but not for one's greed".

Harsh Bhardwaj

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