Manifesto for compassionate cities
With the pace of economic development increasing in our country, it is inevitable that there will be increasing urbanization. The urbanization by itself does not say much about the extent to which people care and have love for each other. Certainly, the kind of institutions and technologies we use will influence whether future smart cities will give greater space for leadership to dumb people, manipulative or selfish people, altruistic people and people who are creative, compassionate and collaborative. The character of a city not determined by the number of flyovers we have or swanky malls we have or other sources of entertainment but by the culture and values with which we use the space under the bridges. The concern with which we follow the law of land in providing amenities to the workers who make the bridges or other buildings also influence character of the city. The kind of facilities we provide to physically challenged and other disadvantaged citizens does determine some of the characters of the city. The way we rehabilitate the poor people who are inhabiting some of the modern icons of affluence and splendor.
Let me share some of the concerns for making the city compassionate. Every city may have a few hundred to thousand schools run by municipal corporations. Can we claim that these are the schools most reputed for the quality of education such that the employees of Municipal Corporation will like to admit their children in these schools. Unless we can transform the culture, creativity and quality of education in these schools the children who study in these schools will never aspire for leadership positions in the society. We will have two categories of citizens produced by the public policy. The private sector will produce citizens through private schools which will run the state and other institutions. The state will produce the citizens who will serve the first category at different levels. This divide run so deep in our structure that peace, love and communitarian spirit will become more and more difficult to sustain. Already a large number of housing societies of middle and elite categories have their own security system. They don’t trust the state to save them from untoward possibilities. The only unsecured people are the one who cannot afford to have their own security. Police could decide whether to take better care of those who have no facility of private security or invest more police men and other infrastructure in the localities where the private security is much more present. If state and market forces converge, who will take care of the social segments and needs which may not like to or be able to serve.
A compassionate city cares for the wildlife and stray animals. It provides very agile systems for serving elderly people and the women. It takes care of the disadvantaged children on priority and with pleasure. The management of urban common properties lies at the heart of the process creating compassionate communities. Recently, when I met children in Arzoo Educational Centre, even the very young kids recalled their visit to Kankaria lake as one of the most pleasant experiences. Naturally, more access to such places free of cost for the poor children and other people create a sense of ownership and belongingness for them. Under every overhead bridge, community learning centres should be developed for encouraging innovation, entrepreneurship and co-creation. Everybody ranging from road side vendor, auto driver, mechanic or children on the street should be able to use these social innovation labs for solving problems. Every week, challenge should be issued for finding creative solutions for civic problems and through mass sourcing of solutions and celebration of these solutions. A culture of creativity and compassion can be infused at all levels. On major crossroads, idea of the day and idea of the week can be announced in which civic authorities will invest for further experimentation. Every professional in the city should pay a compassion tax of Rs.50 a month. The fund so collected becomes the part of city social innovation fund. No idea should remain pending for evaluation for more than a week. Every telephone company which uses state infrastructure for putting their towers and selling their services should provide free sms and call numbers for people to submit their ideas. They should also provide logistical support in collaboration with different colleges for processing these ideas. The city will get transformed slowly and slowly into a co-creating community. Every college will create innovation clubs which will search, spread and celebrate the innovations and sense the unmet needs. This manifesto may be rejected by the political parties and that will prove its merit!