India’s Smart City Project was announced with much fanfare by the Central Government in 2015. In Maharashtra, Pune, Mumbai and Solapur were chosen among the 98 cities identified for the project.
Now, eighteen months down the line, the Smart City project in Pune still remains a distant dream, a vision unfulfilled. Infrastructure in the city is at a low point. The recent rains have played havoc with the roads, with potholes everywhere, roads resembling the moon.
The electricity department is yet to see the light amid regular power cuts and load shedding. One drop of rain leaves the power department and citizens just groping in the dark. The Internet providers in the city haven’t been reliable except a few and all the 4G service promise is mere eyewash.
Trees have been cut recklessly, garbage piling up regularly and traffic getting worse by the day. The work on the Metro System is also leading to traffic jams. The public transportation system is at a standstill, services irregular since decades and not showing any signs of improving. The Bus Rapid Transit System (BRT) hasn’t been much of a success.
The burning of waste and polluting vehicles have made the city air into a cloud of polluted particles. To add to the city’s woes, the population is also increasing rapidly, including migrants.
We spoke to Punekars to find out what they really think of the Smart City Plan and do they see it happening in the near future.
“If you are constructing a Metro rail for showcasing Pune as a smart city then it is all wrong. Does Pune need an expensive Metro rail? We should concentrate on planning first,” Pune hotelier Tejas Dongre said.
“Firstly there is no proper planning in the city. If we are talking about the Metro rail, then its route is parallel to the BRT route. For example, there will be a BRT route from Shivajinagar to Pimpri and the Metro to will travel on the same route. It is a waste of money.
Sushant Deshmukh, a student, said the infrastructure in the city is pathetic. “One person died in city due to falling in manhole and 23 people were killed in a stampede.
“Is this a Smart City? The aim of a Smart City is reduce traffic, save energy and improve public safety.
“Pune is already an information technology and automobile hub. Hence, it is imperative for the local authorities to provide residents with an efficient and reliable infrastructure, enhanced quality of life and economic opportunities.
There should be more dialogue between the citizens and the local bodies to move the project forward. “Else the Smart City project will remain on paper only,” he added.
“The power supply in the city is pathetic. The Maharashtra State Electricity Board has been failing to do its job over the years,” said Moin Sheikh, of Hinjewadi.“They always overcharge, never attend to problems and are totally lethargic in their approach.
“If we are to progress then basic amenities like water, roads and electricity are essential. “But if we fail and continue to do so on these fronts, everything seems futile.
“Recently, I went to the power company to complain about my meter reading. They said there was some fault but they haven’t repaired it as yet. “Now they are insisting I pay my bill. This is injustice,” he added.
However, a housewife, Neelima Tiwary, says that things will happen at its own pace.
“We are lazy by nature. I am still optimistic that something may happen but when, I cannot say.”