Strategic rationality of a planning module, defined by Albrechts, places citizens as protagonists of decision making. This empowerment of social and intellectual capital facilitates transparent processes and encourages participatory democracy. A Smart City through its interlayered definitions and components stresses upon the importance of citizen engagement in all its undertakings. The concept dating back to the ‘70s has seen its maturity in the developed world. In recent times, implementation of infrastructure needs and governance tools through smart solutions, places the concept of smart cities as the most sought urban reform, particularly in the developing world. India, one of the biggest agglomerations of the world and with a doubling character in urbanization, has proposed an ambitious proposal of 98 smart cities across the country. Determination of the newly elected Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi saw this model develop as one of the biggest urban reforms with his Ministry of Urban Development penning down guidelines for the federal states to execute. The model proposes installation of smart infrastructure with citizen engagement and feedbacks, through all the stages of decision making i.e., from framing the vision statement to the prioritization of development schemes and proposition of smart solutions. The Smart Cities Mission also aims to foster smart citizenry through consultations, citizen based solutions and calls for active engagements of representative groups. This research juxtaposes itself between the set guidelines of the Mission and ground reality. The country is marked by dominance of public authorities on one hand and poverty on the other hand, playing the main curmudgeons that can render urban projects hapless. Moreover, overcoming problems related to access to information, prevailing inequalities and administrative inefficiencies are critical elements that determine the success of this initiative. With citizen participation framing the crux of the concept, the guidelines outline participatory means and the stages to be adopted in the cities. The city of Tumakuru was one of the first nominated smart cities amongst the 98 cities and forms the context to the findings of this research focusing on the citizen engagement initiative. With an inquiry on the concepts and impacts of urban reforms, contextual parameters that surface the injustices, are observed calling for a case study typology. The premise of this research is concentrated on the vulnerable class of the informal settlements who are excluded in voicing out their opinions. Specific to citizen engagement framework of smart cities, the performance of this particular social class is evaluated and comparatives are drawn with other social classes through semi-structured interviews. Furthermore, adherence to the mission guidelines and the execution at the city’s context are chalked out to analyse the effectiveness in participation. On-ground explorations revealed participation absent in all social classes exposing missing links in networks. These networks were identified as a commendation to strengthen the nexus and foster enhanced participation.

, , , ,
Jachnow, A. (Alexander)
Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies

Shankavaram, H. (Hiranmayi). (2016, September). The Citizen-a fictional character in India’s urban makeovers. Retrieved from