Event Report – Indo-German Smart Cities Workshop: Sustainable Urban Development, Ranchi, 19 - 20 November, Radisson Blu Hotel, Ranchi

Despite Challenges, Ranchi is Committed to Become a Smart City

- Simi Mehta, Athar Imam Raza and Arjun Kumar

A two-day Indo-German Smart Cities Workshop on the concept of Sustainable Urban Development was held on November 19-20, 2018 at Hotel Radisson Blu in Ranchi, the capital of Jharkhand. This international Workshop event was jointly organized by Heidelberg University of Germany (Branch office New Delhi) and Impact Policy Research Institute (IMPRI) jointly with Observer Research Foundation (ORF), School of Planning and Architect (SPA), Council for Social Development (CSD) and Indo-German Chamber of Commerce. The Urban Development and Housing Department, Government of Jharkhand and Ranchi Smart City Corporation Limited (RSCCL) as well as Central University of Jharkhand (CUJ) and Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ranchi, also collaborated in the Workshop as local partners. The event was generously supported by the Friedrich Neumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF). This Workshop was held in continuation of similar initiatives previously organized in Bengaluru, Bhubaneswar, Coimbatore, Kochi, Kolkata, New Delhi, Pune, Shimla and Aizawl since 2016, which would continue beyond 2018. The Ranchi Workshop was the first of a kind organized in Jharkhand that brought together the law and policy makers, senior bureaucrats, implementation authorities, civil society and experts from the State as well as from around the country on the same platform. As is well-known that the concept of smart cities is an area of extensive research, policy formulation, practice and implementation, it encompasses the adoption of a variety of approaches. The overarching theme is to look at urban challenges from an integrated, holistic and inclusive perspective, to foster sustainability and to explore the opportunities that Information and Communication Technology offers. In this regard, the Workshop had pertinent technical sessions on ‘Governance and Inclusive Cities’, ‘Infrastructure’, ‘Resource Management’ and ‘Mobility’. Political leadership, top practitioners and academic experts from top universities and institutes participated in the conference and committed for the advancement of Ranchi and Jharkhand into a progressive city and state.

The Workshop was inaugurated by Mr. C.P. Singh, the Hon’ble Minister for Urban Development, Housing and Transport Department, Government of Jharkhand. Appreciating the initiatives, he opined that his Department in the Government looked forward to working closely with the organizers, which would complement the efforts to build Ranchi as a model Smart City in the country. He appreciated IMPRI for the instrumental effort in mobilizing the experts and organizing this pertinent Workshop in Ranchi.

Dr. Sandeep Chachra, a social anthropologist by training and currently the Executive Director of ActionAid India, as well as the co-chair of World Urban Campaign, UN-HABITAT, delivered the Special Address in the Inaugural Session. He highlighted the need for just and democratic governance and economic justice while creating the mission and action plan for smart cities.

Prof. Dr. Amitabh Kundu, currently Distinguished Fellow at the Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS), New Delhi and formerly Professor of Economics at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, delivered the Keynote address on Vision and Mission for Smart Cities- Inclusivity and Sustainability. The overall focus of his address was his urge to the practitioners and policy makers that while enumerating the mission of Smart Cities, one should pay special attention to the vision along with inclusivity and sustainability, which caters to the needs and aspirations of every section of the population, especially the local tribal population.

The Deputy Mayor of Ranchi, Mr. Sanjeev Vijaywargiya, complimented the organizers of this Workshop and hoped the inputs of the conference would help the city government in building an inclusive, smart city.

The Chief Secretary of Government of Jharkhand, Mr. Sudhir Tripathi, while delivering the Special Address, said while the government is keen to build the cities as engines of growth, it would also give special attention to maintaining environmental balance. He emphasized on the need to balance the concrete structures with the environment. Noting that Ranchi is a greenfield choice, Mr. Tripathi said environmental concerns will be kept in mind while building the smart city, which in itself is a multi-dimensional exercise with multi-stake-holders. Quoting the chief minister, he said “the USP of Ranchi smart city has to be Ranchi itself. It should have all the characteristics of the city.”

The Principal Secretary, Urban Development & Housing Department and & CEO, Jharkhand Urban Infrastructure Development Company (JUIDCO), Mr. Ajoy Kumar Singh, in his speech explained the work on the Smart Cities Mission in Jharkhand and the plans for further expansion of the projects. He said the Ranchi city would be built in an integrated way with all the digging, construction and infrastructure works being taken up together to avoid repeated constructions and diggings. He said the government has adopted a model tried successfully in Pune, the area side approach model to develop cities – in Ranchi as well as other towns.

Mrs. Asha Lakra, Mayor of Ranchi Municipal Corporation, graced the occasion and motivated the organizers of an event of International stature on the soil of Ranchi city. As an elected representative, she is keen to learn and collaborate with the expert partners of the Workshop to make Ranchi city a Smart city par excellence by 2022.

The Director, Directorate of Municipal Administration, as well as the CEO of Ranchi Smart City Corporation Ltd. (RSCCL), Mr. Ashish Singhmar, said the best and smart practices being followed by his team would also help in improving the governance practices of other government agencies, not only in Ranchi but other cities as well.

Vice Chancellor of Vinoba Bhave University Prof. Ramesh Sharan ended the proceedings of the first day in his address highlighted the historical shift of rich soils of Jharkhand giving way to concretization. He urged for greater consciousness for building up the cities. Strict water conservation laws, zoning laws being implemented strictly, public utilities are needed and so does the need to abort manual scavenging by the law.

The Technical Sessions of Day 1 included the following:

Day 2 began with the Welcome remarks by Dr. Rumi Aijaz, who is a Senior Fellow at Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi, responsible for the conduct of the Urban Policy Research Initiative, conceived and deigned by himself. He said that to generate awareness regarding smart cities mission and sustainable urban development in Indian cities, nearly 60 participants from various academic institutes, NGOs and research organizations across India have presented their insightful research output yesterday and urged to adopt a holistic approach to curtail the smart city challenges. This was followed by the Special Address by Dr. Gurjeet Singh, who is the Coordinator, Social Audit Unit, Government of Jharkhand. In his speech, he emphasized that accountability and transparency in smart city management needs to be strengthened, by adopting a people centric approach. For better smart city governance, there exists a vital need to build transparent audit mechanisms. Dr. Singh also stressed on people friendly technology and importance of peripheral area development in smart city mission. City open space and its inclusive characters must be preserved. For example, he felt that, people belonging to lower strata, slum dwellers, labor class, and vegetable seller should have get equal access to urban space. Their respective cultural, religious, ethnic activities should be respected equally and preserved accordingly. Finally, he argued that transparency and accountability should be developed in such a way so that even slum dwellers could take participate in the smart city governance process.

Dr. Singh’s address was followed by Technical Sessions IV and V, which focused on Mobility and Resource Management- II.

Prof. Dr. K.B. Saxena, a career bureaucrat and Distinguished Fellow at Council for Social Development (CSD), New Delhi delivered a Special Address, where he enumerated the hurdles and challenges in building the Smart Cities. He said that unless the basics of equity and equality are not fulfilled, and that the vulnerable sections of the population including, women, children, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, the specially enabled and the elderly are not prioritized, the dream of a Smart City and Smart India would remain unaccomplished. He drew examples from his long career as a civil servant and the focused on the challenges and prospects of wiping out graft and corruption from India.

The two-day Workshop was coordinated and facilitated by Dr. Simi Mehta (CEO and Editorial Director of IMPRI), Dr. des. Radu Carciamaru (Resident Representative Heidelberg University, New Delhi) and Dr. Arjun Kumar (Director of IMPRI). Rapporteuring was thoroughly undertaken by scholars from IMPRI and CUJ. Excellent services and hospitality was provided by the staff of Hotel Radisson Blu, Ranchi.

In essence, the two-day Workshop in Ranchi was a huge success, which witnessed the enthusiastic participation from the eminent speakers, scholars, government representatives, civil society, students and the mass media. They represented reputed organizations, institutions, state-government departments, universities and schools. The print and electronic media in English and Hindi covered the Workshop widely, for example: Dailyhunt, Prabhat Khabar, Navbharat Times (Indiatimes), Dainik Bhaskar, Dainik Jagran; ET Reality, The Week, Eletsonline, Moneycontrol, Business Standard, Eenaduindia, Reporter post, Devdiscourse, India.com, Times of India and the Telegraph.

Their zealous interactions demonstrated their aspirations to build a Smart City of their dreams that would converge with the overall theme of Sustainable Urbanization catering to the needs of every section of the society as well as the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations in a time-bound manner.

A detailed report of the deliberations and findings of this Indo-German Workshop held in Ranchi would be disseminated to all the relevant stakeholders and citizens in the form Workshop proceedings of a Special Report by ORF and a book with an ISBN number by IMPRI and the videos would be uploaded on the YouTube channel of IMPRI.