[ Taba Ajum ]
There is an air of optimism following the inclusion of Itanagar under the smart city project by the ministry of urban development.
Pasighat town is already part of the smart city project, and the Government of India is releasing the first installment of funds for implementation of the project. The inclusion of Itanagar and Pasighat under the smart city project has given a ray of hope to the citizens of both the towns. But fear of potential misuse of fund also worries the citizens.
Pasighat, which is the oldest town of the state, still has vast scope for development due to availability of land. In comparison to the Capital Complex it is well planned and has ample land available for future development. Also, the citizens of Pasighat are well educated and strictly monitor all the government projects, thereby ensuring their proper implementation. A sense of community bonding also helps Pasighat to properly implement government projects.
The situation in the capital region is quite the opposite. Though Itanagar has been included under the smart city project, in the true sense it is not smart at all, and is an example of urban chaos.
The majority of government land, including highways, sector roads, and even colony dustbins have been rampantly encroached on. Successive governments and administrations have miserably failed to stop the menace of encroachment. The sector roads in Itanagar, Naharlagun, Karsingsa and Nirjuli are all in pathetic condition. Also, the poor drainage system makes life miserable for the capital’s denizens during the monsoon season.
The situation is so pathetic that, a few years ago, a journalist friend of mine from Delhi, who was on a visit to Arunachal, said this to me: “Sorry, but your whole capital region looks like a slum area.”
The Capital Complex does not have proper alternative roads, and motorists are heavily dependent on NH 415 which connects Itanagar to Banderdewa and Hollongi. There is a lone bridge over the Pachin river at Barapani, which connects Itanagar with Banderdewa. If for some reason this bridge is damaged, the twin towns will be disconnected from each other.
Though NH 415 is being upgraded, there is an urgent need to construct an alternative highway, including a ring road, to decongest NH 415. Itanagar will not be smart if it takes two hours for commuters to complete the 25-minute journey between Itanagar and Naharlagun.
The lack of basic amenities like public toilets, parks, parking lots, etc, is also well documented.
Further, with the introduction of the municipal council, the major burden of keeping Pasighat and Itanagar smart has fallen on the Pasighat Municipal Council (PMC) and the Itanagar Municipal Council (IMC). The recent allegation of corruption and nepotism in the IMC, made by none other than members of the council itself, has made citizens of the capital very skeptical. The fear of potential misuse of fund for the smart city project is making the residents of the Capital Complex uneasy.
As it is early days for both the IMC and the PMC, the state government should appoint an IAS officer, who has experience of working under municipalities in mainland India, as chief municipal executive officer to ensure better implementation of the smart city project. Though already it is too late, but still, if sincere effort is made, Itanagar can at least be made a better place to live if not a smart city.