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Harisal, a moonshot from the shadow of darkness to being a smart village


The state started working in the village some six months back and in a short period of time, the development juggernaut has waved through the village, says Kaustubh Dhavse, Officer on Special Duty (OSD), Chief Minister, Government of Maharashtra

Abhishek Raval

Maharashtra plans to build all villages as Smart. A funding proposal regarding which is already put before the central Government. Harisal, a remote village in the state has been developed as the first smart village in the country. Please elaborate on the initiatives taken ?

The Maharashtra government started working in Harisal six months ago. It’s one of the most remotest villages in the state. The total population is close to two thousand.

We have raised a telecom tower in the village. All the three schools have been digitally connected with each of them having smart classrooms. The village has a dedicated Wi-fi!      
This is all live. The Public distribution System (PDS) has been recently integrated. The entire village is banked and all have an Aadhar card, which is linked to the bank account. This is crucial because most of the population (approx. 1500) live as nomads or they are from the scheduled tribes (STs). The Government spending on them is considerable to raise their economic status. However being nomads, they keep moving, hence for them to access the Government allocations becomes easy by linking the bank account with Aadhar.

The state is facing electricity issues however efforts are on to build capacities from the renewable source of energy and we are also in the process of doing a PoC.

Recently, the Government has opened a Skills development centre with the help of Dayal Baug institute. With the partnership of J J Hospital, a tele-medicine centre has become operational. Narayana Nethralaya is also a partner. HP has put machines for primary health centres.

The Government has also tied up with eBay to set up a digital platform for the villagers to sell the local produce – Honey, which is found in abundance. Harisal is also famous for its handicrafts. This produce can then be sold digitally anywhere globally using the eBay platform. Technology can empower the rural economy and thus it can improve the overall GDP of the village. This helps the village ecosystem to be self-reliant.  

The Chief Minister has sent a proposal to get funding to convert all the villages in Maharashtra as Smart. The framework used for making Harisal smart will be used for all the other villages. The target is to make 100 smart villages by the end of 2017 under a set framework.

What’s the Smart village framework and the role of technology ?

The framework is that the villages should be Wi-fi enabled. Smart classrooms in all schools. The villagers should be digitally empowered with a bank account, Aadhar card because it becomes easier for the Government to deliver the subsidies, other benefits, insurance amount etc that they have a right on. A smart village also includes a Skill development centre.

How do you define a Smart city

Smart city means effective and efficient utilisation of the city’s resources to make life easy for the citizens. It’s also about creating a fertile environment to interconnect pieces to work together. The different functions of the city should work in a cohesive fashion – whether it is utility, infrastructure, any resources that the city uses, how can it be better mobilised. You will notice this aspect of ‘synchronised functioning of different government departments’ in every single tender that we do.

The Smart city programme forces us to think in an integrated fashion, rather than as different systems which are in Silos. Hence the Smart city programme is futuristic and it forces to combine projects together to derive consistent, inclusive results.

Technology has a major role to play. Once the building blocks are built then it’s just a matter of designing applications atop to plug and play.   

The concept is evolving. The focus on the deliverables is clear. It will be different for all city corporations. There cannot be a common tender for every city. Some cities may want tourism to be tightly integrated in their smart city applications because the economy of the particular city is dependant on tourism. Some city might have a dearth of power, so the technology is built in such into all the Smart city applications, so as to efficiently utilise the available power.

So, what’s the role of IT?

Information Technology (IT) is the fundamental building block. The IT platform of all the Smart cities will have a citizen’s portal, through which the citizens can be delivered services online. Thus all the services will be digitised and offered on various hardware platforms like mobile, online, Citizen service centers (CSCs) etc. giving the citizens the power to push requests and pull citizen services with tremendous ease.

As far as the transportation is concerned, the Government is building a robust framework for single-pass-all-access – (with regards to public transport). Whether it’s about travelling in a bus, train, metro, other modes of transport which are public in nature, will have a common pass. It will be managed under the Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority (UMTA). It will  require a large technology intervention.

The other initiative is related to enhancing the efficiency of water supply. It involves using technology of the movement of water from the source, using analytics. This will help the government in predicting the amount of water needed, on which days is it required more etc. The system will work on advanced water metering technology. The water pipes will be sensored and the information from them will be passed on to the relevant ancillary applications.

For the safety and security, the city will be monitored by CCTV cameras and the intelligence & analytics built onto it. Fibre optic cables laid underground will power seamless connectivity. The city will be dotted with Wi-fi spots. However it’s on a revenue model, so the Wi-fi is free for a specified time period and then it will be on a paid model.

Broadly, this is the framework, within which there can be many small projects. My sense is that the City Municipal Corporations will have their own thinking on certain customised programmes to preserve the cultural fabric of the city and still provide the state of the art city experience as visualised under the Smart city programme. Some cities are trader focused so more trading platforms will be set up to further encourage and build the trading community. Over a period of time, a Smart City Corporation will also be set up, it’s a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) company and in all possibilities it will have a Chief Information Officer (CIO).  

What’s the progress on the tenders for various Smart city projects in Maharashtra ?

The Pune tender should be out shortly. The Nagpur tender is out. Nashik, Thane, Navi Mumbai, Kalyan Dombivali Municipal Corporation, all will be out in the next three months.       



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