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There was a interactive panel discussion in Mumbai WTC on the 29th of January 2015 organized by World Trade Centre (WTC) and All India Association of Industries (AIAI) in collaboration with the Indo-France Chamber of Commerce and Industries (IFCCI). It was to discuss ‘Smart Cities in India: Reality in the Making’.

Dignitaries on the stage included Mr. Sanjay Sethi (IAS) (Additional Metropolitan Commissioner-I, MMRDA), Ms. Laura Prasad (Secretary General, IFCCI), Dr. Laveesh Bhandari (Founder and Chief Economist, Indicus Analytics Pvt. Ltd.), Mr. Vijay Kalantri (President, AIAI and Vice Chairman, MVIRDC WTC), Mr. Shankar Aggarwal (IAS, Secretary, Ministry of Urban Development Government of India), Mr. Dilip Shekdar (Chief Architect, Naya Raipur Development Authority), Mr. Ravi Kant Malhan (Director, Head Business Development:  Smart Cities and Special Projects, Schneider Electric India), Capt. Somesh Batra (Vice Chairman, MVIRDC WTC) and  Mr. Abhishek Lodha (Managing Director, Lodha Group).

A journalist, Shruti Ravindran who had attended it, tweeted a photo of a shocking quote from a brochure 'Smart Cities in India: Reality in the Making' released during this event.

Smart cities that exclude the poor
Smart cities that exclude the poor

 

The quote in the above photo says:

...There are only two ways to keep people out of any space - prices and policing. In other words, the prices will automatically be higher in such cities - the notion that they will be low cost is flawed. Even if possible from a cost provision perspective, they cannot be low cost from a demand supply perspective.

Even with high prices, the conventional laws in India will not enable us to exclude millions of poor Indians from enjoying the privileges of such great infrastructure. Hence the police will need to physically exclude people from such cities, and they will need a different set of laws from those operating in the rest of India for them to be able to do so. Creating special enclaves is the only method of doing so. And therefore GIFT is an SEZ and so will each of these 100 smart cities have to be.

(excerpt from an article by Laveesh Bhandari, Founder and Chief Economist at Indicus Analytics Pvt Ltd)

So let me get this right. The government will be used to empty land to build smart cities in the name of developing the country. It will be called "inclusive development". And the smart cities built on this land will be for the rich - by design. And we are talking of a hundred cities, displacing god knows how many people. The police of the land will be used "on the tax payer's money" (as these hotshots like to call it) to keep the poor out of these cities using laws OTHER THAN INDIAN LAWS.

Am I the only one being reminded of Arundhati Roy's infamous quote that earned her the anger of the oh-so-innocent middle classes? Here it is, if you don't remember. And she said this in 2007.

We have a growing middle class, being reared on a diet of radical consumerism and aggressive greed. Unlike industrializing western countries which had colonies from which to plunder resources and generate slave labour to feed this process, we have to colonize ourselves, our own nether parts. We’ve begun to eat our own limbs. The greed that is being generated (and marketed as a value interchangeable with nationalism) can only be sated by grabbing land, water and resources from the vulnerable. What we’re witnessing is the most successful secessionist struggle ever waged in Independent India. The secession of the middle and upper classes from the rest of the country.

~ Arundhati Roy

This could be considered the impractical fantasy of rich men (albeit very rich men and sponsors of the ruling party behind this government), but the brochure also carries an introductory message from Shankar Aggarwal, IAS, Union Ministry of Urban Development, GOVERNMENT OF INDIA, not to mention him being personally present there and meeting journalists on the sidelines to announce the Framework for 100 smart cities to be ready by February.

Framework for 100 smart cities to be ready by February says Aggarwal - Moneylife
Framework for 100 smart cities to be ready by February says Aggarwal - Moneylife

Here are some relevant excerpts from the brochure including the message from Shankar Aggarwal, the program schedule of the event, including names of speakers, the profile of the author Dr. Laveesh Bhandari, the article itself, and another article on GIFT, which is referenced in this article as a model. Excerpts from Smart Cities in India: Reality in the Making

Given the opaque manner in which this government operates, as well as dramatic undermining of protections of local interests and environment through ordinances, such views should be a cause of alarm for citizens, if the much heralded development is going to actually be displacement on a massive scale, disenfranchisement of local populations and their explicit exclusion from the "growth story" while the rich use the country's power to get land for their shangri-las, use the country's resources "24/7" (can this ever be promised to those who will be displaced to create these "enclaves"?) and use the country's police force to protect what will essentially be elite facilities barred to the common masses through special laws created to protect the elite.

I imagine, the elites will also only be paying for their actual residences and the cost of creating these havens for them will also have to be borne by the country.

Is this development or colonization of India by the rich? The Gujarat model is all set to exploit India as well. All we need are new signboards, "Poor citizens and dogs not allowed"

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With much advertisement of the Gujarat model, all eyes were on the Modi government, particularly since BJP expects higher standards of those it criticizes than itself. The reality is stunning, but not in a nice way.

Nitin Gadkari with dubious financial dealings with Ideal Road Builders including a no interest loan to his company, Purti Group - amount of loan was greater than company's turnover - from them in a period when Gadkari handled the ministry in Maharashtra and massive lucrative contracts went to them gets to build the country's roads. Nitin Gadkari was assessed by the Income Tax department as having evaded 7 crores in taxes by means of benami investments and over a dozen firms operating from bogus addresses. Gadkari also threatened Income Tax officers. Gadkari is said to have six DIN numbers - something BJP had raised a huge hue and cry over Priyanka Vadra and Karti Chidambaram. Cabinet Minister for the Prime Minister who made grand declarations about corruption in his election campaign. This is apart from the much covered up case of the dead girl Yogita Thakre found in his car.

Rao Inderjit Singh - whom the BJP itself accused of involvement in a Defence land scam when he was in Congress is Minister of State and handling (hold your breath) defence in Modi's government as well.

Smriti Irani, Minister for Human Resources Development, which includes education faked her own educational qualifications in an election affidavit.

Gopinath Munde apparently got a degree in 1976 from a college that started in 1978.

Ordinance Modi turn
Ordinance Modi turn

After criticizing ordinances passed by UPA2 government for less than urgent reasons, the Modi government has so far passed two ordinances. One weakening TRAI act to be able to appoint Nripendra Misra as Principal Secretary (which the act barred) and the second on the controversial Polavaram project. Neither of them requiring immediate action that can't wait for a Parliamentary session.

Varun Gandhi's mother is in charge of child development.

After endless accusations of Congress misusing the CBI to frame Modi, Satya Pal Singh, who defended Mumbai's encounter cops was head of SIT for Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case is now in Modi's cabinet.

Ajit Doval, ex-head of IB (which has consistently served to dilute cases of state sanctioned human rights abuse in Gujarat), with dubious links to the gangster Chota Rajan is now National Security Advisor. A National Security Advisor with links to gangsters is whose idea of development?

After condemning multiple DINs by Priyanka Vadra and Karti Chidambaram as proofs of corruption, Two ministers in Modi's cabinet (Coal Minister, Piyush Goyal and  Transport Minister, Nitin Gadkari) so far have been shown to hold multiple DINs.

30% of Modi's ministers have criminal cases against them in a Lok Sabha with 21% ministers with criminal cases against them, which is already disproportionately high compared with India's general population. Development of India or criminals? Or perhaps that IS the Gujarat Model? After all, 57/182 MLAs in Gujarat too face criminal charges - 31%. That may be the magic ratio of development.

In the much advertized OBC-chaiwalla's government, 2/3rd of the cabinet is Brahmin, Thakur, Rajput.

For those who claim Modi will controll RSS, of 23 ministers who swore in on the cabinet,a mind boggling 17 are affiliated with the RSS or affiliate organizations. That is over 80% in case anyone is interested. Or in other words, Modi's cabinet has 6 non-Hindutva ministers. That will really finish the RSS, I think.

As usual, the accusations BJP levels at others turn out to be true about themselves and virtues it takes pains to advertize turn out fake.

Is this a government or a joke?