Ahmedabad was amongst the first slot of cities to be selected for the Smart Cities Mission. Ranked at sixth, the city was be-hind Pune, Bhubaneswar, Jaipur Kochi and Surat, however, the recent tag of becoming India’s first heritage city has boosted the enthusiasm of the city officials who are trying their best to maintain the status of India’s first heritage city and at the same time transform it into a smart city. According to Rakesh Shankar, CEO- SPV (Smart City), Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, in the last few months, the city has taken many steps to transform the city. And he feels that with its latest prepaid Jan Mitra card, the city has really taken a smart leap in this direction.
The card, launched in October, is a multi-facet and multi usage card. The Jan Mitra card, as it is called, can be seamlessly used for all the major transport systems, for paying bill, parking, recreational areas, municipal bills, utility payments, retail and will also be compatible to travel in Ahmedabad Metro Rail, which is expected to be operational in the city by the next year.
“It is a very dynamic and well leveraged card. In fact, in India, this is first of its kind of card, where only one card takes care of all your needs. You do not have to carry anything else in your pocket,” said Rakesh Shankar, CEO- SPV (Smart City), Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation told BW SmartCities.
Apart from being compatible with BRTS and Metro, these cards can be also used to pay bills, to pay property taxes, to pay toll taxes, for parking purposes, for other recreational activities in the city and also for shopping, which the city authorities claim, will remove the need for carrying debit card. “It is also going to be compatible for metro that comes in future, 2018, at the same time, with the same card, you can pay all your corporation taxes. You can come as a citizen and pay your taxes there and then you can do shopping, so your merchant transactions, your detailed transactions, your corporation payments, your typical payments for transit, everything can be done by one card. You do not need anything else,” Shankar added.
Progress So Far
Expressing his satisfaction over the progress of the smart city project in the city, He feels that the smart city mission project is well on the track. Lots of civil works are going on in the city and according to him its impacts will be visible in the coming few months. “In pan-city project, we have already completed our aims,” says Shankar who feels that the Ahmedabad Smart City is well on track. The progress on ‘Safe Ahmedabad project’ is good and once installed it can modernize the traffic movement in the city. The whole project boasts of command and control system, red light violation detection system, traffic management, smart parking and the IoT project, which he claims will be completed well on time.
Overall, out of the 11 total projects, eight projects are already in progress. Further, with regards to the area based development, progress is on. The slum area development project worth Rs. 450 crores has already started. Work is undergoing for the housing projects on the PPP basis.
Streamlining the traffic in the city had been a major area of concern for the city authorities. however, the Municipal body is taking many measures to ease the traffic. This includes installing Automatic Number Plate Detection System to control traffic rule violators, which is expected to be operational by next year.
“Also, one tender is in the offing, where we envisage that the multi model hub, which connects BRTS, AMTS, GSRTC, and upcoming metro station all at one place so, the citizens of Ahmedabad and people who are coming to visit Ahmedabad can get aligned with last mile connectivity with modern transportation with ease. That’s the promise of Ahmedabad smart city,” asserts Shankar. Also, city will be placed under heavy surveillance system. BRTS is to be equipped with smart card, CCTV, optical fiber and Passenger Information System (PIS). The city authorities have also gone ahead with massive smart street lighting programme.
“We have changed all the lights of corporation, (1.5 million street lights) and only 20,000 are remaining. All the traditional lights are replaced with the LED lights and are seamlessly connected to a command and control system."
On challenges Shankar feels that retrofitting work is more challenging. “One thing we will have to realize is that city is a management of old infrastructure and you keep building on new infrastructure and there is a lot of maintenance that is happening. There are a lot of customer complaints, citizen complaints with regards to sewerage, water, gutters, roads, gardens, parks,” the CEO laments.
And here, he feels, technology can play a pivotal role, by not just bridging the gap but, also in making citizens reach the authorities with their civic problems. “What technology does is to bridge the gap on how the citizens will access you for raising their issue. First, technology bridges the gap between your client, the citizen and the corporation and the the service provider and secondly, what technology does is that it saves time for solving problems,” Shankar argues.
And he gives the instance of SCADA technology. “If you look at SCADA technology, which we have already deployed, it helps us to know, where exactly the problem in the motor systems are and then solve that specific customer problem. Same thing is applicable for other areas like for sewerage, for roads etc. So, technology helps you with this gap. It cuts down your cost of maintenance and second, it helps your clients, the citizens to connect with you faster and better,” said Shankar.