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India and USA Relationship on Smart Cities, Comment

Boston, Chicago, Barcelona, Stockholm-centres of attraction for young people and techies. It is quite often seen that people from Asian and Middle East countries are migrating to these places for job. But what is so special about these cities that attract people worldwide? The fact that they are Smart cities is the answer to this. Now we should know what a Smart City is as it is a popular topic of discussion since Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to America on September 2014. In USA, the PM, by virtue of his charismatic personality, left a good impression on the minds of the people regarding his vision to shape the future of India. He promised to formulate policies that would encourage trade between USA and India and that any American can now invest in India to see for himself, how things work out in a highly professional manner.

A very promising future for India was ensured on the eve of Republic Day. In his visit to India, American President Barack Obama declared that United States Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) would work hand in hand with India to develop three Smart cities in India. With this starts the implementation of PM Modi's promise to build 100 smart cities in India.

A smart city is one which is highly digitalized and uses principles of ICT for technically supported effective communication. It can actually mean balanced governance in which citizens could interact with government officials and get their demands fulfilled in an easier manner. It is not only digitalization that makes a city Smart. It should have a balance in economy, in meeting basic demands of its inhabitants as well as imparting efficient, transparent, accessible public services.

In this decade and the past, we have seen significant advancements in technology arena in terms of flourishing of Android Technology, Cloud storage, Advanced Database Management System etc. Now a common man can reap the benefits of such high-fi technologies as it was called few years back. This is probably the perfect time that such a partnership between USA and India has come into being. We know as per census and statistical data that in India people are tending to shift from rural to urban areas. Now there is a rapid urbanization needed and the project of Smart city is a step taken forward in that direction.

As per the decisions taken-the three cities to be developed into Smart cities are 1.Ajmer-for being a place with majority Muslim Population, the aim likely being to aid the minorities 2.Allahabad scented for Hindu Pilgrimage 3.Visakhapatnam a major port city of India which has been badly affected due to Hud-Hud storm. Task teams have been formed. Each team has three persons-one on behalf of Central government, one on behalf of State government and one on behalf of USTDA. The teams have started their work and have been asked to submit a report. The report will cover how and in what areas they feel changes are required, resource availability, cooperation on part of state to provide resources etc. These will be assessed by the American counterpart before investing and making action plans.

The 2014-2015 Financial Budget shows Rs.7060 crores have been allocated for Smart City project. There is also a promising number of foreign parties interested to invest in Smart City development in India.

For each city's project, there should be a chief innovative officer to guide regarding certain matters of sustainable development and in coordinating investments. They should be the communication links to top regional leaders and Central government to assure proper implementation of suggested action plans. The indigenous enterprises should be given a chance to work in collaboration with US companies. This would lead to a proper implementation of plans and also exposure of such companies to high-tech knowledge of US companies, which would help them to develop upon their skills.

Also over the last decade we have seen technology students from India and also other meritorious students tend to settle in America due to better job opportunities higher remuneration and better lifestyle. This is termed as 'Bran Drain'. The most precious resource of a country is its Human Resource. This Smart City project will surely be a step to reduce this as with better opportunities, India will attract many such people.

But we are a nation where a high percentage of the population lacks the basic amenities of life. We are so attracted by seeing the glamorous pictures of Smart Cities like Chicago. Let us imagine within next 10 years Indian cities emerge to have the same look as Chicago. Will it look nice if we see people begging on streets, lying on the footpath due to lack of shelter in such high-tech cities? No, it won't. So we should take care that the existing socio-economic problems of the country be looked after before dreaming about Smart Cities.

Anwesha Banerjee

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