Smart cities seem very far away when the winter brings death and fear

  • Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Dec 25, 2014 22:39 IST

The authorities must be extraordinarily cold-hearted not to be moved by the plight of people as winter tightens its icy grip on north India. But, if past experience is anything to go by, then we can hardly expect them to be moved.

With minimum temperatures in the Capital hovering around 5 degree Celsius, hundreds of trains have been delayed, scores of flights either diverted or cancelled and homeless people are shivering on the streets with nowhere to go. The authorities are just not equipped to deal with the situation.

More than 70 people have died due to intense cold already. Many homeless people prefer to sleep in the open as they find night shelters unsafe for women and children. Those who do often struggle with the lack of basic facilities like proper bedding, thick blankets and toilets. Made of tin sheets, these portable cabin night shelters become even colder in winter.

The weather also creates hazards on the roads. Two persons lost their lives and 40, including six British tourists, were injured in a massive pile up of 27 vehicles triggered due to dense fog on Wednesday morning on the Yamuna Expressway.

In near zero visibility, the absence of street lights or other hazard lights makes commuting positively dangerous. Two years after the horrific December 16 rape case, for many women going back home on cold foggy winter nights and using public transport are risks they would rather not take. Last mile connectivity, well-lit streets and public conveniences still remain elusive.

While there are appeals from the authorities every winter for blankets and other material, proper systems like functioning, clean shelters and provision for food need to be institutionalised. It cannot be ad hoc and only thought of when the temperature drops. The PM wants India to have 100 smart cities. The foundations for these should have built in to them mechanisms to minimise the effects of extreme weather conditions on the vulnerable. But for a start, let us at least make the ones we have got functional for people all year round.

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