Touted as the most famous industrial and educational hub of Central India, Raipur’s upping the game with some thoughtful smart city initiatives.
Once home to the majestic Mauryan kings, Raipur now houses premiere educational institutions and the maximum number of steel plants in India. Apart from a phenomenal growth rate in the past few years, some new schemes and projects have also paved the way for the budding smart city to secure its name on the national stage.
Recently, the city also hosted India’s first ever Garbage Festival, celebrating the best out of waste. The four-day extravaganza called the ‘Kachra Mahotsav,’ apart from showcasing attractive art installations fashioned out of waste: bottles, buckets, punctured tyres and scrap metals, also saw famous band like Dharavi Rocks perform with their upcycled waste bins.
We take a look at some of the enterprising efforts undertaken by the Raipur Municipal Corporation under its smart city initiative:
Renovation and digitisation of a century-old library
The heritage building of Anand Samaj library stands tall in one of the busiest areas of Bramhanpara in Raipur. Built in 1908, this library is the oldest in the state of Chhattisgarh. Still regaining an old-world charm, the structure is now in the process of receiving a contemporary makeover, one that does not tamper with its vintage architecture though.
Inside the ground floor library are dusty wooden cupboards which are emptied of the books ranging from those that describe modern foreign governments to Wodehouse classics; from the first published magazine of Chhattisgarh to the Sanskrit copy of the controversial Padmaavat written by Sufi poet Malik Muhammad Jayasi.
Under the Smart City Mission, the library is being renovated to add an extra first floor, along with rearrangement of its compound area, adding inclusive infrastructure and decoration of the premises with interesting graffiti.
First estimated at an initial cost of 80 lakhs, the project has now overshot over one crore. The project is also digitising over 5 lakh books including major literary works of the medieval period and the ones record tribal history, music and heritage.
5am Army - team of officials and volunteers who made Raipur open-defecation free
A brainchild of the officials of Raipur Municipal Corporation (RMC), this initiative was intended to educate people and make them aware of the hazards of open defecation. Equipped with torch lights, whistles and cameras, the 5am Army went around picketing different areas in Raipur, picking on people who choose to defecate in the open.
Comprising both RMC officials and volunteers from the civil society, the 5am Army met in the wee hours daily, spread across in smaller teams and went around patrolling various open defecation sensitive spots along railway lines and different slums areas.
Speaking of this rather unique campaign, Rajat Bansal, the Commissioner of RMC, says,
For most city dwellers living an affluent life, open defecation is a matter to be ridiculed. However, there are many who still practise it every day, even in our cities. Our aim was to identify such people in various open defecation spots across Raipur and go about changing their mindsets.
Sehatmandi - for a fit and healthy Raipur
Launched under the Rising Raipur campaign, Sehatmandi is one of the most popular initiatives undertaken by the RMC. Organized every Sunday, this citizen engagement event kicks off at 6AM at Marine Drive or other noted landmarks of Raipur, where various fitness regimes like yoga, Zumba, aerobics, cycling etc… are promoted.
Open to citizens of all age groups, the initiative has largely been welcomed by the people of Raipur who are now inspired to inculcate healthy living habits. RMC officials have also been pushing several private companies working in the fitness sector to tie up with them and put up stalls that acquaint citizens on various exercise options available.
Toilet my right
Brainchild of the officials of RMC, the ‘Toilet My Right’ initiative first started as a mechanism where citizens could lodge complaints about public toilets that were dysfunctional, locked or poorly maintained.
We started it as a grievance redressal machinery but ultimately it spiralled into a public campaign where we roped in several public players like top hotels, restaurants, shopping malls, marriage halls etc… to provide free, easy access to clean and well-maintained public toilets to even non-customers and outsiders, says Rajat Bansal, the Commissioner of RMC.
Apart from public toilets, separate toilets in several government offices across Raipur were also sanitised and made available for public use under this praiseworthy initiative.
Open gyms, reading zones and wall of kindness
In an ambitious plan under the Rising Raipur Campaign, the city municipality has refurbished popular lake and park areas in Raipur with open gyms that allow citizens to exercise and adopt a fitness regime every day. An under construction oxy-zone library which allows students to read in a calm, open and green environment will also be made available to people of Raipur soon.
Several public park complexes also have a wall of kindness, which encourage people to donate useful things like warm clothes, slippers, blankets etc… for the poor and needy.
Despite several smart city initiatives that are targeting holistic development, there are popular discourses that debate how majority of the growth and progress is merely restricted to Raipur and subsequently fail to trickle down to other cities of Chhattisgarh.
However, it remains to be seen how these unique initiatives of Raipur go about in bringing a greater impact for the entire state that is still reeling under insurgency and tribal exploitation.