Urban Development – Redevelopment and Rejuvenation of Ancient Cities Redevelopment and Rejuvenation of City Areas built since 1950 and New Smart Cities Narrative .

NARRATIVE:

Indian cities are an unmitigated mess. They are the worst in terms of the ugliness that they present amongst all cities in the developed world. Infrastructure, including roads, pedestrian walkways, cycling paths, public parks, public playing grounds, river banks, seascapes, built-architectural norms, new colonies developed and / or those coming up are a mess and are so dense with minimal open spaces to leave them looking and feeling ugly. Architectural and landscape guidelines for cityscapes etc. appear to be non-existent. If one were to assess our cities from the visuals that one sees as one drives or walks through our cities, with very few exceptions, in a very few areas within our cities, this is the core description of Indian cities.

We have ruined our ancient cities and our ancient heritage by permitting unplanned construction within these precincts, allowing heritage buildings and homes to be demolished and allowing them to be replaced by architectural eyesores; by permitting uncontrolled growth of traffic through the small lanes and by-lanes of our old cities. This is made worse by dense congestion, by permitting commercial activities beyond the capacity of the old-city areas, that exist in a large number of our cities throughout India.

What are potentially huge tourist dollar earners, and wealth creating jobs opportunities, have been flushed down the toilet of political-bureaucratic apathy, corruption and total lack of imagination. This is perhaps one of the biggest tragedies of modern India that no one is paying attention to. No one has the inclination or time to think and act.

Just think of the ancient cities of India including Varanasi, Old Delhi, Amritsar, Lucknow, Jaipur and over 120 listed by Wikipedia as ancient Indian cities which are listed below with their URL’s. Which country in the world can boast of such a rich inheritance and heritage?

Wikepedia lists the following cities as ancient Indian cities including Delhi, Char Dham, Haridwar, Varanasi, Ayodhya, Mathura, Allahabad, Vaishno Devi, Pushkar, Sarnath, Kushinagar,  Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve, Khajuraho temples, Hill Forts of Rajasthan, Jantar Mantar (Jaipur), Bhimbetka Caves, Sanchi monuments, Qutb Minar, Red Fort, Agra Fort, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, Amaravati, Andhra, Anga Bhagalpur, Bharuch, Ayadhya, kanyakumari, Badayun, Bayana, Bhattiprolu, Bhinmal, Chandraketugarh, Chunar, Chirand, Dhanyakataka, Dwarka, Guntur, Gwalior, Hampi, Hansi, Harappa, Jhansi, Kalibangan, Kalinjar, Kalpi, Kanchipuram, Kannauj, Kaveripoompattinam, Kodumanal, Kotivarsha (Devkot), Kumbhoj, Kurukshetra, Lothal, Lashkar, Madurai, Mohenjo-Daro, Muziris, Nalanda, Osian, Paithan, Pataliputra, Pistapura, Allahabad, Pundravardhana, Pudumadam, Pushkar, Quilon(Coulão), Rajgir, Rajahmahendravaram, Rajapura, Sangrur, Ayodhya, Sirkap, Sitanagaram, Somnath, Sopara, Sravasti, Tamralipta, Tamluk, Taxila(earlier Takshashila), Thanjavur, Tirunelveli. Udayagiri(now Bhopal), Ujjain, Urayur, Vadodara, Vaishali (ancient city), Vallabhi, Varanasi, Vidisha, Bairat, now Viratnagar, Vijayavatika, Vijayawada, Vrindavan etc. More can propably be added to the list if one digs deeper.

This is real wealth lying un or under-utilized under our feet; in fact it is being largely decimated because our politicians and bureaucrats are unconcerned with our ancient heritage, and the huge opportunities it offers to our nation to both create tourism-dollar-wealth and huge number of jobs in the process.

In terms of our heritage, India should be the number one tourist destination of the word. The Rising India Party intends to make it so.

Our new cities and colonies that have mushroomed, and continue to mushroom, are so expensive, and so awful as to leave one gasping in disbelief. Most of these are developed within the politician-bureaucrat-builder nexus, where land is grabbed, easy permissions granted to favored crony builders, and then they are allowed to build while flouting any small norms that may be in place. Builders, build every square inch of the land, with narrow unsustainable roads, little open space etc. in the chase for higher profits, thus we find that the ratios of parks, open spaces, walk-ways and pubic playing grounds are minimal in these new monstrosities.

If one assesses purely on the basis of visual evidence of walking through these new colonies throughout India, with few exceptions, if any, one has to conclude that there are no norms of how many trees per household must exist on each parcel of land for construction including in high-rise construction, nor of sufficient open space for parks and playing fields; and those that exist are flouted with impunity by the builders absolutely confident that no one can touch them because of their politician-bureaucrat cronies.

Public oversight is non-existent. It is commonly known that most land-bank companies, colony builders, hospitals, educational institutions etc. have political-bureaucrat nexus behind them. For proof, what the political-bureaucrat nexus would never allow using the way laws are written up by the British and still in force, the court system would not enable any accusing citizen or citizen body to simply deep dive into each deal, which if it were done would end in bringing out in the open the actual picture clearly.

Rather, they put people behind bars and harass them to death on fictitious or trumped up charges using the powerful State machinery; such is the threat level to citizens in the country when it comes to seeking audits on those who rule them. Only a new Political Party can get the job done, with public support, by winning elections.

There has been much talk and propaganda of “smart cities”. A term that rolls around and propels political imaging. Smart cities as are meant by our politicians are copy images of the west, with no individual deep-thought by Indian policy maker bureaucrats. The official website smartcities.gov.in amply demonstrate that there is no original thought but a slogans and half-baked moves are being made that will again result in more of the same.

The government has shown no stomach for firstly addressing existing cities and their haphazard growth and deficiencies but has hastened to project new smart cities, which, of course, is a smart move when one thinks of the huge opportunities for the political-bureaucrat-builder-crony nexus to corner huge resources and potential wealth, while nullifying the public’s attention from the sick and sad state of affairs in our current cities; the public thinks something is being done while the politician-bureaucrat-builder-crony network drools over the possibilities of massive new wealth to be sucked out of the system. That story is already underway even as this Policy document is being written.

According to the official site, “quote, Smart cities, a bold new initiative equates adequate water supply, assured electricity supply, sanitation, including solid waste management, efficient urban mobility and public transport, affordable housing, especially for the poor, robust IT connectivity and digitalization, good governance, especially e-governance and citizen participation, sustainable environment, safety and security of citizen, particularly women, children and the elderly and health and education”, end quote.

It would be noted that all of these are normal requirement of normal cities throughout the world, and should be the story in all our existing cities, but is not so.

Our bureaucrats have outdone themselves in coming up with this smoke screen to not fix the existing monstrosities we call cities, while building more of the same without deep thought or planning, and to create more opportunities of sub-standard haphazard blundering building, and of course, create opportunities for loot by the same old crony nexus. There is nothing new or innovative in these initiatives; simply an escape mechanism from the existing mess.

The official site further goes on to amplify under the heading Smart Solutions the following headings:

E-Governance and Citizen Services – public information, grievance redressal; Electronic service delivery; Citizen engagement; Citizens, city’s eyes and ears; video crime monitoring.

Waste Management: Waste to energy and fuel; Waste to compost; Waste water to be treated; Recycling and reduction of city waste

Water Management: Smart meters and management; Leakage identification, preventive management; water quality monitoring.

Energy Management: Smart meters and Management; Renewable sources of energy, Energy efficient and green buildings.

Urban Mobility: Smart Parking; Intelligent traffic management; integrated multi-modal transport.

Others: Tele-medicine and tele-education; incubation trade facilitation centers; skill development centers.

Most of these listed items are and should be actually already done in existing cities but the bureaucracy has been unable to so deliver; and such services are normally expected from any government, and indeed, are so, in most parts of the developed world.

The Rising India Party lays down its vision and Policy Framework, for smart cities below, for the people of India to consider and vote upon.

The Rising India Party takes the position that India must move simultaneously to:

  1. Fix existing cities and 
  2. Create new ones in a holistic-integrated plan to bring about a revolution in the way cities and human clusters are set and managed.
  3. These would be done in Public-Private models of cooperative partnership, while co-opting large segments of India’s people and expertise.
  4. These moves, taken cumulatively would form a “New Deal” for our nation; unleashing immense wealth and opportunity for all segment of our population and in the process bringing all segments of the socio-economic population, from the poorest to the richest, together into one holistic development story such that all benefit, according to their contribution, capacity and ability, even while creating the safety net so essential for the weaker segments of our society, that is so essential in a fair and supportive social system, that is our civilizational right.

The Rising India Party asks the Indian public and citizens to carefully go through the core suggested Policy Framework and strategy to cure existing ills and to build great new cities on clear concepts that are laid down in clear unambiguous terms.

Please consider:

  1. The Rising India Party, on winning elections, will undertake Policy initiatives aimed at rejuvenating, resetting, and relaunching existing cities through various policy initiates set our herein under.
  2. The government would bring into being new cities that are thoroughly thought through and planned to exist in self-sufficient, self-sustaining population clusters that live in green, open spaced environment as a standard cityscape design.
  3. These would core-contour along the lines laid out below;
  4. All are subject to debate and change in an open source document and Party. The Rising India Party is the world’s first Open Source Political Party.
  5. The government would set up City Audit Groups(CAGs) in all cities and population clusters tasked to audit the current functioning narrative of the government and civic bodies.
  6. The government would bring into being Plans Board Groups functioning in every city or population cluster tasked to bring in the new models of managing cities.
  7. Audit Board and Plans Board groups would work in-tandem with each other from a common Board.
  8. The personnel or these Boards would comprise; 25% drawn from the existing government servants, 50% from experienced and highly qualified engineering and technical population, including talent from the private corporate sector and 25% from the wider population across various segments at random selection basis, or other mix as thought stronger to deliver the vision.
  9. The Audit Boards would quickly produce reports of on-ground realities in all the government departments, municipalities PWDs and so on who are providing the services since independence.
  10. The Audit Groups would physically intensively tour their cities to know the pulse of the city; and the on-going constructions and audit their back-wash.
  11. The Plans Board Groups will sit with the Audit Board Groups and condense the narrative to issues and solutions.
  12. Where hard solutions are required such as banning of construction or demolitions under certain conditions, the Audit and Plans Board Groups would have the power to order such bans.
  13. The government would call for immediately launching massive underground urban capacity buildup to start the process of de-stressing and rejuvenating our cities surface areas to viable plans, in all cities across the country.
  14. All these projects would be opened to private investors to invest and build capacity on basis of earnings from infrastructure built, to include parking, malls, bulk storage and so on in underground land lease arrangements.
  15. Such building would be permitted across the entire metro area including under the land owned privately.
  16. When underground construction is carried out below privately own land, the government would work out some form of compensation; for example, they could be offered rent on the immediate two floors below their properties that would be in all likelihood income earning underground properties.
  17. This would become an attractive proposition for the entire population fueling the economy and income increases.
  18. All projects that fall within the population cluster, would have representation from such clusters to make the entire exercise from planning to implementation public-inclusive with public-oversight.
  19. Private sector companies with the machinery and knowhow who have capacity would be brought into the composite story of building underground networks of parking, shopping malls, bulk storage, and even residences, gym, games, pools, with commercial benefits would be built to bring surface traffic underground.
  20. This would relieve above ground activity pressure and allow for a rebuild of our ancient heritage.
  21. Above ground would be for greening, pedestrian walk-ways, cycle ways
  22. The government would move to build underground road systems eventually aimed are replacing the existing surface roads with multiple capacities in two or even three tier underground build.
  23. In the short run, the government would commission the build of underpasses and overpasses to make city traffic signal free to the maximum extent.
  24. The private sector would be given opportunities and coopted to both finance (on fee collection returns in build, operate, transfer models; and build such systems within 12 to 18 month spans.
  25. This would reduce budgetary burdens on the government releasing funds while fueling the economy.
  26. Multiple companies and contractors would be brought and assigned sections to finance and build. Toll Booth Free, Auto toll collections, would be used
  27. The government would keep 25% of the fee collection till agreed period in the build operate transfer models as agreed.
  28. All Indian cities, large and small are in dire need of upgrade of the civic infrastructure. The above moves will get these functioning to new realities and going very quickly. 


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