Varanasi’s proposal for Phase 2 of the Smart Cities Challenge was drafted adopting an extensive consultative approach. Varanasi Municipal Corporation’s (VMC) outreach to the citizens of the city, involved a tri-pronged approach which leveraged a combination of online and offline activities. The consultative process can be summarized to comprise of interactions with (a) Subject Matter Experts (b) diverse groups representative of key demographics in the city in addition to (c) renowned local academia. putting citizens at the center of the development process: From the word go, VMC proactively engaged residents of the city by conducting a kick-off workshop wherein a focused discussion with citizens was conducted to determine the Approach for Assessment of Varanasi as a Smart City, in the Smart Cities Challenge, Phase 2.
Basis the feedback received from our residents, we conducted a SWOT analysis with diverse representative demographics in the city. Once a consensus was arrived at among a large base of residents, we isolated the Strengths and Opportunities to propose five areas in the city which were representative of the identified Strengths and Opportunities.
The second stage of engagement involved thorough discussions on the outcome of the SWOT analysis to frame an appropriate vision, representative of the desires of the residents of VMC. The end-outcome of the exercise was as follows:
“To rejuvenate the oldest Indian living city of Varanasi as a great place to live and visit by conserving and showcasing its enriched heritage, culture, spirituality and traditions through innovative social and financial inclusion solutions.” Leveraging SMEs Subsequently, VMC reached out to a variety of SME experts to discuss the detailed outcomes of the SWOT and the citizen’s vision to arrive at possible interventions. The discussions were used to arrive at interventions which focused on the most pressing needs and on the best opportunities to realize the aspirations of the residents of Varanasi. The diverse panel of SME experts reached out to included:
(a) Regional Centre for Urban & Environmental Studies, Lucknow (RCUES)
(b) SME’s from the Indian Institute of Technology, Banaras Hindu University (IIT BHU)
(c) Ministry of Urban Development, Government of India (MoUD) and
(d) Department for International Development, Government of United Kingdom (DFID)
The resultant solutions arrived at were then deliberated with citizens leveraging a combination of online & offline outreach campaign. Basis the feedback received six pillars of SmartKashi were cast.
“The Varanasi Municipal Corporation is delighted to inform you that our city has been selected under Round 2 for Smart City Mission under the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD). Round 2 of smart cities challenge has been provided to 54 cities to upgrade their proposals whose city is not covered in the list of 20. Varanasi is one of them!
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