Demystifying the Indian smart city: An Empirical reading of the smart cities mission

By Persis Taraporevala
10 August 2018

The newly elected federal Government of India (GoI) launched the Smart Cities Mission (SCM) in 2015 with the stated purpose of improving the governance and infrastructural deficiencies that plague Indian cities. Missing, however, in the pageantry of the new programme is a cohesive understanding of a smart city. While the government documentation repeatedly implies infinite liberty for cities to self-define their understanding of ‘smartness’, the actions demonstrate that there is a larger idea of ‘smartness’ that the federal government seeks to implement. It is at this disjunction, between the rhetoric and practice of the Mission, that this paper finds its core research question – ‘What constitutes a smart city in India?’ Through a detailed reading of the government documentation of the top 99 cities, the paper argues that the there is a profound chasm between the professed objectives of the Mission and the strategies enacted to achieve these objectives.