After decoding the concept and to some extent definition of smart city, in this section, we will try to analyze what makes a city smart.
Though we have discussed a number of features which one could enroll to get on road for planning a Smart City, but what exactly makes a city smart?
Is it about upgrading the existing technology of a city to bring it at par with the best? .. or is it the well informed/educated and knowledge prone people whose responsible acts make a city smart?
What makes this question more relevant is the Center’s ambitious scheme to develop 100 smart cities in coming years.
We all have felt the level of stress because of various reasons. Let it be the traffic, unruly drivers, roads full of potholes, inequality in the society, vast difference in the socio-economic stature of different sections of the society, policies that help rich grow richer and makes poor poorer, corruption at all levels or growing health concerns because of increasing level of pollution.
Life in a smart city will be very different from present-day lifestyles. It will bring in harmony in the life of individuals by balancing their needs and that of the society by optimal use of technology mixed with good governance. Political will can handle atleast half of the city woes by itself.
What if most of the things could be done online from the comfort of your home. Let it be shopping, paying bills, and even for jobs that could be done from your PC or mobile / telephone. Though most of these are still possible but yet we have to travel for rest of the cases, adding traffic to the already overloaded roads. Better infrastructure and lesser need to travel would lead to lesser congestion and hence pollution. This could be easily achieved by better use of IT and by simplifying processes.
Why same set of information has to be provided every time you open up a new bank account, invest in mutual funds, or go for any other scheme. A govt controlled centralized system can be an answer to this which could be referred using some unique id, such as, aadhar card, PAN No, or even license no. to get the details. This will also eliminate need to update several instances every time there is a change in some information, say, your current address… So?? Less Stress!!
Those were just examples of how just by understanding the issues and by using technology effectively to one’s aid lives could be made better and hence achieve goal of smarter cities.
Regional challenges could be handled using regional competitiveness. Carefully studying all chapters in depth and integrating them with Information Technology would make them better accessible, in turn improving quality of life and will have direct social, human and economic impact. Increasing participation of citizens in the governance of cities will make them more responsible and accountable.
In our next section we will discuss about the Core infrastructure required to build up a smart City.
Below is the link to the first part of this series.
After our last post when we were planning to get onto our next, we stumbled upon this topic and with it being relevant to our cause and since the honorable Prime Minister, Narendra Modi has already pitched for it by setting path for developing next 100 smart cities in the country, it became our pick of the week.
Now since the topic is too vast to be covered in one go, we will be splitting it into sections for easy maneuverability across the various fragments.
What is a Smart City?
We scrolled through numerous web pages, discussed with experts, but, found it difficult to extract a precise definition for a smart city. One thing that we could say for sure is that it is about an effort to take the quality of human life towards standards set at level of idealism.
Before understanding the “What”, we might need to get over with “Why”:
Some of the other terms that have been used for similar concepts are:
Digital city: This would comprise of locally focused, fully integrated, online network encompassing whole of city processes into a single seamless thread.
Flexicity: In a age where technology is growing exponentially, it would be a city having processes and infrastructure made flexible enough for the authorities to allow its upgradation to next version without breaking the existing system.
Intelligent City: A city planned after studying a range of data on air quality, whether conditions, humidity level, traffic, crime, socio-economic status etc to change systems and functionality of cities. Primary focus is on collecting terabytes of data using researchers / sensors etc and feeding the same to an optimal analyzer before letting the information pass through human scrutiny.
Knowledge-based city: A Knowledge-based city is the one that nurtures knowledge and provides an environment for it. William Lever, through his papers, have established a broad relationship between the quality of knowledge base and economy change.
MESH city: MESH stands for Mobile, Efficient, Subtle, and Heuristics. MESH Cities use adaptive, citizen-focused, self-forming networks to learn and inform new design solutions.
They all have their pros and focus on one or more aspects of modernization. As was mentioned earlier, Smart City is a concept that has no true definition and could be considered to be the one encompassing features from one or more of the above.
In the age of Information Technology, it could be safely said that no city could be given this tag until all the city processes / functions are fully digitized. Also, no city can become truly smart unless it is populated by well informed citizens. It should have a place and plan for people of all socio-economic status and with all sorts of cultural and religious beliefs.
The Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2016 (the Act, from hereon) is a Government of India initiative to bring about the much needed transparency and order to the real estate related transactions by creating a systematic and a uniform regulatory environment and paves the way for setting up of RERA for regulation and promotion of real estate sector. This was done to protect the consumer interest and to make developers accountable for timely completion of projects.
Draft rules under RERA were issued in June, 2016, which did not cover the on-going projects. Final rules for it got notified in October, this year, by the ministry of Housing and Urban population.
Central Govt’s rules are applicable to all UTs, but in case of States, it will serve as a model template and could be tweaked to meet specific local demands.
Below is an insight into the Center’s version of it.
For Ongoing Projects:
All promoters of all ongoing projects which have not received completion certificate will have to register with the state-level regulatory authority and provide complete disclosure of project details.
Developers will have to deposit 70% of the amount collected from homebuyers in a separate bank (escrow) account within 3 months of registering a project with RERA. An escrow account is under the purview of a third party essentially a bank or a recognized lender. This provision thereby results in further oversight of the bank account and signing authority is with the escrow account manager say a trustee or a bank or a lender. The funds from an escrow account can only be withdrawn on the request of an engineer, architect and a chartered accountant, by a real estate developer solely for the purpose of construction of the project to which the account belongs and that too in proportion to the stage of work.
Registration of project with RERA
For registration of projects with the authorities, developers will be required to submit details, such as:
Sale on Carpet area and not super build up area
Consumer must know what exactly is he paying for, and hence, the promoter shall be required to declare the size of the apartment based on carpet area (net usable area of the unit and does not include common areas, balconies, verandahs etc) instead of the super build up area.
The law makes it mandatory for developers to post all information on issues such as project plan, layout, government approvals, land title status, sub contractors to the project, schedule for completion with the State Real Estate Regulatory Authority (RERA) and then in effect pass this information on to the consumers.
The promoter will also have to upload details regarding number and type of apartments or plots, status of the project with photographs floor-wise, status of construction of internal infrastructure and common areas with photos, status of approvals received and expected date of receipt, within 15 days of expiry of each quarter on the project website.
Consumer must make timely payments as per the agreement for sale to the real estate developer and against his share of registration charges, taxes, maintenance charges etc or pay interest at a prescribed rate, in case of delay. Possession must be taken within 2 months after the occupancy certificate is issued. Consumer must play an active role towards registration of conveyance deed of the unit, formation of an association of consumers etc.
The Act mandates setting up of an Appellate tribunal by the appropriate government within one year of the Act coming into force. So, State RERA is the first body to approach in case of disputes and as per set of rules this body can establish the nature of violation and prescribe the penalty/ punishment. Any person aggrieved by the decisions of the RERA or an adjudicating officer can appeal to the Appellate Tribunal. This set up will fast track the process of dispute settlement since it minimizes the involvement of the existing judicial system.
Discrimination in sale of properties on any grounds will also not be entertained under the new rules. Adjudicating Officers, Real Estate Authorities and Appellate Tribunals shall dispose of complaints within 60 days
A person can appeal in High Court if he is aggrieved by decision of the Appellate Tribunal however this isn’t allowed in cases where the decision was reached after consent of the disputing parties. The person has to approach High Court within 60 days of receiving the decision.
If an intermediary violates the rules prescribed by the RERA, he will be liable to a penalty for every day of the violation caused and the sum could increase up to 5% of the total estimated cost of the unit in question.
In case of delays, developers will be required to pay compensation to the allottees with an Interest Rate of SBI’s highest Marginal Cost of Lending Rate plus 2%. This effectively means a developer will have to pay interest rates of 11 to 12 % in case of a delay in project delivery.
The rules also contain clauses providing for compounding of punishment with imprisonment for violation of the orders of Real Estate Appellate Tribunal against payment of 10% of project cost in case of developers and 10% of the cost of property purchased in case of allottees and agents.
In a departure from the draft rules, the requirement of disclosing Income Tax returns has been withdrawn in the final rules keeping in view the confidentiality attached with them and as pointed out by legal experts and promoters.