In pursuit of being smart? A critical analysis of India’s smart cities endeavor
India aspires to modernize through 100 smart cities and achieve higher living standards. They are projected as planned models for other cities to emulate and position themselves as growth engines. The government has devised specific criteria for smart cities and encourages intra-city competition and cooperation with private partners. This paper argues that the 100 smart cities strategy reduces cities to a neoliberal commodity, through which improving living standards and reaching sustainability goals are seen through the narrow lens of economic growth parameters, resulting in urban privatization. I suggest that this weakens the democratically elected governance process, leading to splintered infrastructure development that benefits the wealthy, further marginalizing the poor. Drawing on field research, I demonstrate that despite the aims of addressing India’s urban challenges through the Smart Cities Mission, it has embraced neoliberal and entrepreneurial urbanism, value creation, and profiting from the city, while reducing the role of municipalities, residents, and democratic stakeholders.
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