THE GOVERNMENT’S plans to set up 100 Smart Cities and augment facilities in existing urban conglomerates under the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT), if properly implemented, can dramatically change the country’s urban and economic landscape. Smart Cities are expected to use information and communication technologies (ICT) to make urban living and commerce easier, faster and more convenient.
Zoning in on the code
To live up to their potential, these proposed cities will have to be safe, secure and free from urban problems like crime, slums and traffic congestion, to name a few. Their architecture must be embedded with a number of security and safety features at the initial stage itself. Unless this is done, trying to graft these features at a later stage will not only be prohibitively expensive but it also may not be possible to seamlessly integrate. It is very important, thus, that while planning for Smart Cities their safety, security and policing requirements are adequately catered for at the planning stage itself.
Many parts of India fall under Seismic Zone V (Very High Damage Risk Zone) or Zone IV (High Damage Risk Zone) and must be able to withstand fairly strong earthquakes. The adoption of proper building codes must be made mandatory for Smart Cities so that they have an IS code zone factor of 0.36 for Zone V and 0.24 for Zone IV. Particular attention should be paid to crucial buildings like hospitals, fire stations, electric substations, administrative and police buildings. A proper disaster management plan must also be worked out for each Smart City, with frequent mock drills to clearly define roles during an emergency.
Smarter policing for cities
In the West, most cities have efficient and well equipped police forces that function under the mayor of the city. In India this may not be possible as local bodies do not have such powers. As per Article 246 of our Constitution, Public Order and Police figure at serial no. 1 and 2 of the State List (List II). So, while policing in Smart Cities will continue to be supervised by the state government, it would be highly desirable for each Smart City to have its own semi-autonomous police that is answerable to the city’s citizens. This can be provided by having a system of Police Commissionerates in each of the Smart Cities. In fact, this is precisely what the British did when they set up Police Commissionerates in the erstwhile Presidency towns of Calcutta, Bombay and Madras at the beginning of the 20th century, to provide superior policing than the rest of the country.
Like many other agencies, the police are also expected to provide ‘smart policing’ in these cities, for which they will have to adopt many best practices from different police forces. These include a web-based system for filing of complaints and FIRs, a mobile application for distress assistance on the lines of the Himmat application of the Delhi Police, a web-based court cases monitoring system on the lines of the model followed in Vijayawada (Andhra Pradesh) and e-challans for traffic offences and Vehicle Database Access on the models of the Delhi Police and Karnataka Police, to name a few.
Policing in each Smart City would be provided through a grid of police stations and a central police control room (PCR) with its own fleet of vehicles and communications setup. Ideally, a universal number like 911 in the US must be made available in all the Smart Cities, connected to the PCR that would further direct the appropriate agency to respond. A grid of CCTV cameras strategically spread over the entire city (possibly via a PPP model) would be monitored round-the-clock from the PCR and the use of specially-designed apps can also help cell phone users contact the PCR on a real-time basis, all the while being tracked through GPS.
Keeping up with crime
Delhi Police has been using the Himmat app to try and instill confidence amongst the citizenry but it is seen that only 20-25 percent of the complaints made on this app are police related while others relate to non-police subjects. It is likely that as apps become better designed and more user friendly this percentage will improve. It is also necessary for the police to educate citizens regarding the services available to them and how to approach the police in an emergency by using these apps. It is not necessary for every smart city to have a separate app. A well-designed all-India app that is available in the local vernacular language is needed. If necessary, small modules can be added on to this app, depending on local requirements in a particular city.
The police could also use social media advantageously to connect with citizens in real time. The Bangalore city police have been pioneers in using Facebook and Twitter to connect with their populace. It is important for not only the police commissioner but also his subordinate officers to have social media accounts that are monitored 24x7 to respond to crime and anti-social activities. It has been observed that while police and law enforcement agencies are generally slow to adopt cyber media, tech-savvy criminals and terrorist organisations have been using cyberspace to gather new recruits, carry out scams, crime and terrorist acts quite quickly and efficiently.
This calls for better educated and tech-savvy policemen who can beat cyber criminals at their own game. The profile of the ordinary policemen in Smart Cities will have to change, including the recruitment of more qualified personnel. The training methods and technology available to them will have to be cutting edge for which tie ups with leading cyber security agencies will have to be made at an institutional level.
The issue of women’s security and safety as well as that of senior citizens living alone has come to the fore in recent years. The only deterrent to crimes against women is if the criminal knows that he will certainly be caught and punished. Unless the conviction rate is above 90 percent, crimes like rape and sexual molestation will continue to thrive. Effective use of CCTVs, particularly in crowded areas and public transport, and specially-designed apps along with the physical presence of male and female police officers in vulnerable areas, are a must. Professional and speedy investigation of rape cases backed by fast-track courts for a speedy trial are needed if the conviction rate has to be improved. Ideally, Smart Cities must not only ensure time-bound investigation but also time-bound disposal of criminal cases.
There is also a need to revive and plan for community policing in Smart Cities with police officers regularly visiting senior citizens within their jurisdiction to enquire about their welfare. The community policing model of the Punjab Police as applied to Khanna township may be suitably modified for this purpose.
Smart Cities are likely to use cyberspace for commerce, telecommunications, security and a host of e-governance services. Unless the systems are secure, this could lead to chaos in vulnerable areas like power and utilities, telecommunications and banking. The need to keep sensitive data secure from hackers and other cyber criminals cannot be overemphasised. While secure firewalls, encryption and passwords play their role, they are not enough. Not only individual or non-State hackers but even some rogue government entities have been carrying out cyber attacks in a planned and systematic manner.
To counter these threats to cyber security it is essential to have a national-level organisation that will keep track of the latest developments regarding threats to cyber security. Each Smart City must have a robust anti-cyber-crime unit that would take the help of state- and national-level units to curb cyber crime. Preventive measures to strengthen cyber security will have to be continuously revisited in view of increasingly virulent cyber attacks.
Securing Smart Cities is, therefore, a continuous task that will require effective planning from Day One itself. The structure and design of Smart Cities must have security features embedded in their architecture itself. Tech-savvy policemen will have to continuously monitor cyberspace for security threats. They will have to continuously improve and upgrade their arsenal as the challenges that they face keep evolving and upgrading. Proper databases, spatial maps and CCTV cameras will help them in this daunting task.