At the beginning of 20th Century, Mahatma Gandhi had said, “The soul of India lives in its villages.” Today we are standing on a dwindling cliff, where the soul of our country is in distress and losing the significance of its existence. The villagers in the hope of prospects and employment have been migrating to cities which are leaving our villages crippled.
This migration to cities has led to an unplanned and unsustainable growth of cities augmenting urban agglomerations. This growth is like a tumour affecting the cities somberly. The infrastructure of cities is not sufficient to support extra population which leads to poor conditions be it in transport, sanitation, education etc. The cities don’t have sufficient housing for the people, sufficient drainage to supply water, sufficient schools to educate children or sufficient hospitals for health care facilities. This leaves the migratory population in inferior conditions than their own villages which they left.
This segment of the population ends up finding their solace in the slums which are areas with deprived conditions. As per Indian census around 40% of the population in Mumbai is living in slums and conditions are not much different in other metros. These slums have clans where one room is available for an entire family in a house covered with tin sheets or asbestos roofing. The sewerage supply is not present which leads to poor sanitation and thus health problems; however still the percentage of the population in a city living in slums is growing with each day.
The intensification of slums in a city needs to be strictly controlled. The chieftain reason behind them is the migratory population which comes to the city looking for opportunities. Today, while we are thinking of making 100 new smart cities but we are forgetting our villages. A smart city will remain smart, only if it is allowed to support the population it is planned for. Any encumbrances on these cities need to be abstained, for which we need to make our villages Smart and desirable.
The investment required for the development of villages and creating opportunities therein is meagre in comparison to that required for a smart city. Moreover, it will safeguard planned development of city thereby protecting the massive investment that would be done to create smart cities. Hence, the entire conception of a smart city cannot be done in isolation leaving the surrounding areas. Creation of smart city has to begin with a conversion of surrounding and neighbouring villages to smart villages.
These smart villages have to have sustainable housing, health, sanitation, education, electricity, drainage and allied facilities. In addition to it, the ‘X’ factor of each village has to be identified and work should be done to enrich it. These aspects would vary from agriculture, heritage, culture, micro-industries, nature etc. These factors need to be institutionalised within village level and developed making it self-sustainable. The infrastructure should be sufficient to give it an equal opportunity as a city in terms of roads, electricity and telecommunication. The limited population of a village (which could vary from 1000-2500) helps in an apposite planning and implementation.
The scale of the villages is much more convenient and there exist examples like Tilonia, Dharnai, Punsari, Mawlynnong, Pothanikkad etc. which have utilised their forte and today are standing taut on world’s map. There are micro-industries like Pottery, Manufacturing of Khadi, Sari, Churi, Craft work like Brass, Mojri, Silverware, Leather, Puppets etc which can be harnessed and centralised institutions can be developed for them. This will also help in boosting tourism, but it should be controlled and strictly monitored. It needs quality workshops and training for the villagers along with a creation of suitable infrastructure. The scale and requirement of these villages are just fit for trying new strategies like energy production through solar, micro-wind turbines, net metring, rainwater recharging and harvesting, geothermal cooling etc. It will set up model smart villages and will help us in converting our existing cities into smart zones.
Hence, a zonal plan should be developed for creating a smart region rather than aiming to create solely a smart city. The villages neither could be left alone nor separated if we are talking of smartness. The development of smart villages and smart zones would have far-reaching effects leading to successful implementation of our plans.