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Old Posted Dec 25, 2015, 9:34 AM
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BolliBatlu BolliBatlu is offline
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Road to smart cities goes via Dharavi, not Chandigarh
Dharavi teaches how a city grows organically when people move from villages and learn to live and work in the same place. To service their needs, kirana shops, barbers, cycle repair and mobile phone recharging vendors pop up. The strength of Dharavi is its face-to-face sociability where human bonds of inter-dependence are formed with strangers.

Because of historic prejudices, many city regulators do not allow mixed use of land where working and living co-exist. Many do not allow high-rise buildings, which is absurd in a country where land is in short supply. By living vertically we would make horizontal space available for precious common goods — parks, schools, libraries, and public squares — which encourage sociability and friendliness. In a country where the aam admi walks and cycles, we should have generous pavements and bicycle paths. Instead of wasting hundreds of acres on a university for a thousand students, a land-scarce country should have high-rise campuses in the middle of a downtown where students become part of the community.

Most important: a smart city must have freedom, especially autonomy in governance and finances. Today, an Indian city is at the mercy of the state government. The 74th Amendment provides for this political reform but the states have thwarted it. Unless there is an elected mayor accountable to the citizens of a city, the delivery of services to the community will not improve. The municipal commissioner should report to the mayor and not the chief minister. A city should be able to become financially more independent. It must have its ‘own’ sources of revenue, both from taxes and from levying rational user charges for services. It must be entitled to predictable formula-based transfers from state governments as part of revenue-sharing arrangements. It should be able to issue municipal bonds as many cities do around the world.
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