In the words of Edward Glaeser, author of Triumph of the City, “Cities enable the collaboration that makes humanity shine most brightly”. The Union government’s announcement on Thursday that 20 cities have been selected from Round 1 of the Smart Cities Challenge recognises this inherent potential. The winners were chosen on the basis of variables such as feasibility, result orientation, citizen participation and other key performance indicators. The fact that competition was the medium for selection of these cities rather than need is a welcome step.
In Census 2011, India saw the increase in urban population crossing its rural counterparts for the first time since independence. A renewed focus on developing capabilities in cities will help India realize its potential. But this is only the first step in a long journey. A simultaneous strengthening of state institutions is necessary if India’s cities are to be truly smart.