Report on India’s smart cities mission highlights serious human rights concerns

Publish Date: 
Monday, June 12, 2017

A study released in New Delhi on 9 June 2017, by Housing and Land Rights Network (HLRN), India, brings to light several human rights issues related to India’s much publicized Smart Cities Mission (SCM), which aims to create 100 ‘smart cities’ in the country by the year 2020.

As the Mission completes two years this month, HLRN’s report titled ‘India’s Smart Cities Mission: Smart for Whom? Cities for Whom?’ presents a human rights and social justice analysis of the process and guidelines of the Mission as well as of the 60 selected Smart City Proposals. The report also provides recommendations to the government and other involved agencies, with the aim of fulfilling the realization of human rights of all residents and promoting inclusive, integrated, and sustainable national development. 

The study finds that the positive components of Smart City Proposals lie largely within the ambit of formulating technological solutions, developing renewable energy sources, and building resilience of cities. The proposals, however, lack a comprehensive vision for the future that omits the needs and aspirations of cities and their inhabitants, especially the majority who live and work in cities.

HLRN’s report highlights major human rights concerns and challenges related to the Smart Cities Mission. These include the following:

  1. Failure to adopt an inclusionary and sustainable approach to development
  2. Absence of a human rights approach
  3. Dilution of democracy
  4. Denial of the rights to participation and information
  5. Forced evictions and displacement
  6. Unrealistic reliance on technology and violation of the right to privacy
  7. High dependence on foreign and private sector investment

Given the human rights issues and multiple challenges of the Smart Cities Mission, HLRN has proposed some recommendations to the government and involved agencies and hopes that these actors will consider implementing the recommendations presented in its study.