SHAIKH JAMALUDDIN | NT
Panaji: Though the work on converting Panaji into a smart city under Smart City Mission has been going on since 2016, most of the city residents contacted by this paper said that they were not aware of what was going on and that the transformation of the city was not visible.
Public awareness about the smart city concept and project is almost absent and people expressed ignorance about the development that is being undertaken. Most people said that they were not aware as to who was heading the development project and what is being done to make Panaji look smart.
One of the respondents, a motorcycle pilot, said that he has been told that as per the smart city concept, people will have to park vehicles outside the city limits and enter the city either walking or through public transport run under the project. He also said that as per information he has gathered, there would be air-conditioned sheds for public to beat the heat and sun.
A rickshaw driver stated that he has been told that all roads in the smart city will be clean, no littering of garbage anywhere. Besides, the city dwellers could hope for a nuisance-free environment.
Yet another person said that Smart City Mission was nothing but a money-making racket. “I have been staying here for the past 60 years and no development is visible even after spending crores of rupees under the mission. There is no sign of the much-hyped smartness in the city,” he added.
Since the project is aimed at transforming the city, it is necessary that people are taken into confidence while executing the project so that they too understand the concept in full and help in ensuring that it not only looks smart but remains one, said yet another city dweller.
Another citizen of the city said that despite crores having been spent on smart city project, Panaji still lacked proper toilet facilities forcing people, especially the visitors, to ease themselves along the roads or in open spaces. “It is necessary that cleanliness and proper sanitation should be top on the agenda of those trying to transform Panaji into a smart city,” he added.
“Smart city mission is a good concept introduced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Goans should thank him for this idea. Panaji has been a tourist destination and turning it into a smart city would attract more tourists,” said another city resident alleging that he believed that funds earmarked for the projects have rather been misused by the management of Imagine Panaji Smart City Development Limited. He said that much of the funds were spent on consultations and the project was visible only on the papers and nothing was visible in reality.
X Colaco, another city resident, said that he has seen people fighting and objecting to certain works of Smart City Mission. He also said that there have been altercations between public and CEO of the project, Swandiptapal Chaudhury, and director Sidharth Kunkalienkar. He felt that the opposition and arguments could have been avoided if proper public awareness was created and people taken on board before starting execution of works.
People also pointed out that the city was facing traffic hassles, garbage menace and parking problems for decades and nothing has eased even after three years of the beginning of works under smart city mission. The Smart City Mission has failed to address these issues even after spending crores on “infrastructure development” which is not visible. People continue to face the same hassles which they faced prior to commencement of smart city works and there is no improvement in their lives, the city residents said.