Infosys co-founder NR Narayana Murthy today said the country was “far, far away” from realising the ambition of developing smart cities, a flagship programme of the Narendra Modi government.
“Since we are far, far away from smart cities, I did not talk about it,” Murthy said, when asked why he did not mention the smart city project during his one-hour lecture on ‘City Systems’ here this evening.
“I am a doer, I am not just a talker,” he said and asked the audience to visit Infosys’s campus in Mysore to have a taste of what a smart city can be.
Earlier in the lecture, organised by JSW Literature Live, Murthy also came down heavily on the lack of infrastructure in cities.
“Poor infrastructure can drive away investments and talent,” he said, and pointed out how Mumbai has suffered due to this continued neglect.
“10 or 12 years ago, the desire was to position Mumbai as the Asian financial centre. We are nowhere near that dream for the very simple reason that investments are not coming in, talents are not simply available, productivity has gone down and growth has slowed down.
“We are still placing bandaids when there is a deeper cancer to be cured,” he said.
The government should not compare our cities with those in the developed world, but should look at the emerging market peers like Brazil, Indonesia and Malaysia which are taking great efforts to make cities better, Murthy said.
The septuagenarian industry leader also made a case for directly elected mayors with a minimum of five years term, so that carefully crafted visions can be implemented.
It will also ensure accountability, he said and rued that at present the presence of multiple agencies makes it difficult to fix responsibilities.
He said our cities must be developed for higher economic growth by realising their socioeconomic potential, and urged politicians and bureaucrats to work for the same.
During the post-lecture interaction, when asked who between the two (politicians and bureaucrats) were more detrimental, Murthy said it was the system which had to be blamed.
Stating that cities were engines of growth, he warned rapid urbanisation did not guarantee sustained growth which was possible only if we planned the cities better.
Murthy also made a pitch for being more open so that not only Indians but the foreigners too feel at home in our cities.
Our cities need spatial planning laws, planning institutions and adequate number of qualified town planners, he added.