Not so easy


Stung by the declaration of the Kohima, the capital city of Nagaland, as the second most unlivable city in the country by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, Government of India, on its Ease of Living Index (EOLI) last year, the Kohima Smart City Development Limited (KSCDL) appears to be going all out to remove the infamous tag in the ongoing Ease of Living Index 2019 being conducted by the same ministry till February 29. The target appears to be the Citizen Perception Survey, which has been assigned 30% weightage, with the appeal to citizens to participate in the survey through social media platforms, citizens’ app, as well as face to face interview through random sample surveys to be conducted by the ministry. But has the authority done anything to improve citizens’ ease of living since August last year when the index ranking Kohima the 2nd most unlivable city in the country was released? It is debatable. So is Kohima ‘livable’ as per the framework of the Ease of Living Index 2019. The first pillar in EOLI is “quality of life”, which is reflective of an individual’s ability to survive and prosper in a particular area. It indicates whether a region can provide its citizens with the basic needs of survival such as safe and livable housing facilities, improved sources of water and sanitation, access to basic education and health facilities, etc. The next is “economic-ability” that focuses on the economic building blocks of the individuals and city as a whole and takes into account the need for growth and change in the economic well-being in terms of increase in wages, creation of greater employment opportunities, need for clusters, etc. The third pillar “sustainability” aims at realising the need for greener cities and an emphasis on reduction of energy consumption. Kohima, as a city, is immersed in problems. In certain case Government is prompt to address the problem, while in others the response is tepid. But there are some problems that have been completely neglected. Among them is the case of the underprivileged, marginalized, and economically distressed people, living in this city. Usually when we talk of poor and marginalized, it takes us to far flung areas. Our mind never goes to the people living in big towns, and the city itself. Hence they receive less or no attention. But the fact of the matter is that there is a significant number of people living in the city whose lives are miserable, to put it bluntly. Unfortunately, Kohima never comes in discussion from this point of concern. Our discussions on this city cover politics, economy, development, and governance, but never this burning problem, though that is badly needed. There is a need to take up matters that directly hit the poor and marginalized people living in the capital city. It must inform our education policies, the distribution of education infrastructure. Likewise, in the health sector, the distribution of human and material resource need to factor this thing in. These are the people who are left out of the network of schemes made for the rural and peripheral poor. Otherwise the condition of the urban poor is no less pathetic than the poor elsewhere. Indeed Kohima is a beautiful city. The very absences of order in the location of the houses and their tumbled-down appearance add a peculiar charm to the scenery, and it possesses at once the attraction of a city full of life and a city of ruins. No doubt Kohima is a lively city but the most important aspect of the city which due to so called ‘development’ has been squeezed is the lack of open and green spaces. People have virtually gone berserk in constructing shopping complexes and residential houses which have drastically reduced the open spaces, especially the green spaces. Forget about green spaces, even there are no parking spaces. Green open spaces are considered to be the lungs of a city. Due to material greed we are choking the lungs of the city. We have to collectively think if we want the capital of the State to remain ‘unlivable’ as declared last year or we want to revive it to be the paradise of the earlier times? Not only must we safeguard whatever open green spaces are left but ensure that the authorities make it mandatory on the builders of all new colonies and complexes to have sufficient open and green spaces. In the alternative, we have no right to call Kohima a ‘Smart City’!