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Slumdog Millionaire & Intelligent Urbanization

Like many Indians, I woke up today with an Oscar fever, watching the live telecast of the Academy awards from Los Angeles! Most of India is toasting to the success of Slumdog Millionaire at the Oscars today. A staggering eight Oscars, including two for India’s most loved and my favorite music composer -- A.R.Rahman. Slum dog’s story is that of a young man’s trials, tribulations and eventual triumph set in the background of Asia’s biggest slum -Dharavi in Mumbai, India. However not all of India is celebrating the success. A section of India is dismayed that the film has put a spot light on India’s underbelly -slums of urban India. The film captures in gory detail the poor living condition of urban India and many of its dark shades. Pictures that do not reconcile with the”India shining story,” pictures which renew the old”western” stereo type of India, pictures that makes you uncomfortable as an Indian. I too was initially sad when I saw the millions of dollars spent on promoting”Incredible India” by India’s Ministry of Tourism evaporate into the thin air. However I gave it some more thought and reconciled. As some one said ‘For everything said about India, the opposite is also true”. India is a land of paradox. India is as much about Dharavi as it is of A.R.Rahman, it is indeed home to some of the richest people in the world as it is to the millions of homeless and it surely is one of the fastest urbanizing countries in the world! Which leads into something that I have been involved with professionally in the recent times and wanted blog on -Intelligent Urbanization. As with many other things today, urbanization presents a challenge and an opportunity. The 20th century cities were built on infrastructure such as roads, and telephones. The contours of new cities of the 21st century will be defined by internet and broadband. Internet is expanding beyond connecting traditional devices such as computers and PDA. Today we have the ability to connect virtually anything -cars, hospitals, buildings, energy, home appliances, schools-.our imagination is the limit. Two weeks ago, Cisco launched the global Intelligent Urbanization initiative from Bangalore and signed a MoU with the local government to develop a roadmap for an intelligent and sustainable Bangalore City. Any one who has visited Bangalore will know that it is one of the fastest growing cities in the world. From the garden city of the yore, it has transitioned to the IT capital of India. The transition has left many scars in its way -the cities infrastructure is bursting at its seams as it struggles to cope with growth. As the Chief Minister of the state mentioned at the launch, the city has grown from a population of 4 million people in 2001 to 8 million in 2008. Over 4 million vehicles ply on the roads of Bangalore, suspect on the same roads meant to hold a million.Bangalore is only symptomatic of a larger malaise faced by India and the world. Over 29% of India’s billion population lives in urban India, international trends indicate that a nation hits an inflection point in urban population growth when it breaches the 25% mark. Therefore, what we are seeing today is just the tip of the ice berg. Around the world, over 500 million people will be urbanized in the next five years. One hundred cities of 1 million-plus citizens will be created by 2025. And the resulting environmental impact will be significant; already the top 20 megacities use 75 percent of the world’s energy. The need to sustainably balance social, economic and environmental issues is more urgent than ever before.Intelligent Urbanization enables us to enhance the quality of life for citizens, unlock productivity in areas such as public services and city management and least foster sustainable growth. It’s estimated that a city of 5 million people build on intelligent network could generate US$15 billion revenue, achieve 9.5% GDP and create 375,000 jobs and bring 30% energy efficiency within 20 years!Creating world class physical infrastructure has been a bane for countries such as India. Today, we have the opportunity to leapfrog to the future and build intelligent cities of the future. The good news is that it much more economical and faster to build an information highway than the traditional highway! Even better news is that Government’s around the world are waking up to this opportunity.Slumdog Millionaire is all about triumph of human spirit against great adversity -an intelligent urbanized world will be triumph for a billion people in their quest for better living -let’s make it happen!

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7 Comments.


  1. Good commentary. Urbanism is a tricky balance between consolidation and distribution of resources and people. Much like networking. I would add that the need for education has never been higher, as the use of resources and skills is critical at the individual level. I see great promise in the power of unified communications and data/voice/video integration to support a distributed workforce that requires little travel.

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  2. Great analysis Harish. Two quick comments. Every country, developed and emerging, has the same split between the bright and dark side of their national narrative. It’s always tricky when films take a slice of thta narrative and show it to the world, because there might be some who assume it is the whole story. Those of us who know India better, or in my case are getting to know it, don’t make that mistake. Slumdog Millinaire”” is a brilliant film which in my view does not in any way diminish the story of India’s astonishing growth and potential by virtue of the unflinching embrace with one dimension of its national life. And you are right too about the urbanisation story. Funnily enough, what the Mumbai story suggests is India’s potential role as a global leader in the kind of susatained investment in new infrastucture and new services that will gradually create cities, including Mumbai, whose growing wealth can sustain a life that is more open, sustainable and inclusive than ever. Incredible India indeed!!”

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  3. This is an interesting article. It discussed the benefits and need of Intelligent Urbanization, but did not discuss the strategy or means of implementing Intelligent Urbanization. I am not implying Mr. Krishnan intended to cover these subjects, or should have, but that the article did raise these questions in my mind. I would like to see some articles on the strategy and means of implementing Intelligent Urbanization. Again, I thought it was an well written,interesting and thought provoking article.

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  4. Amazing thought, Harish!!! As Bob has said, it is a thought provoking article…

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  5. Major factors for civilization to end were, trade war, urbanization affecting natural resources and environmental disaster, modern growth neglecting basic human needs, population growth and human degradation, rivalries and aggression, excessive regime expenditure and economic failure. Extinction of any civilization is gradual, prolonging survival depends on strength of the country’ social pattern and resources. Strong countries prolong until they commit mistakes to become weak. It is because of natural law “nothing is immortal”. All civilizations when reaching to its peak, the regime’s overconfidence on modern materialistic growth and neglecting approach towards natural resources became the root cause to their extinction.Mesopotamian’s civilization with multi cities having finest cultural and literature achievements crumbled during 2300BC due to high toxic land unfit to agriculture. Between 1500-1000BC Indus valley civilization comprising two cities Harappa and Mohenjo-daro with more than 100 cities and villages were highly civilized knowing scripts of more than 250 characters. Rivalries and devastation by flood weakened this civilization; later invaded by Ancient Aryans. Ancient Mayan’s civilization was the first to introduce accurate calendar, mathematics and astronomy. This developed society gradually ended due to rivalries, converting crop lands to inspiring temples, complexes, and homes, diseases and viruses. The Plagues of Egypt (absolute astronomy.com) Archeology and natural explanation – The Egyptian Ipuwer Papyrus is a single surviving papyrus holding an ancient Egyptian poem, called The Admonitions of Ipuweror The Dialogue of Ipuwer and the Lord of All…. describes a series of calamities befalling Egypt, including a river turned to blood, men behaving as wild ibises, and the land generally turned upside down. However, this is usually thought to describe a general and long term ecological disaster lasting for a period of decades, such as that which destroyed the old kingdom.Disrupted natural resources accounted falling of major civilizations. Major factor of each civilization’s disintegration was devastating agriculture land and ecological disaster. Most civilizations neglected the role of rivers when reached to modern growth. The situation applies to our modern world too as most of world river water unused end up in sea. Forests are converted to agricultural land, and agricultural land to urban cities, rising population and consumption of fuel, industrial commodities mounting up pollution for species. Anarchy formed by heavy urbanization and urban industrialization and so on.

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  6. awesome article!

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  7. I must admit that I was stumped when I first saw this film. It was advertised in the UK as ‘the feelgood film of the year’ which didn’t prepare me in any way for the darker aspects of the movie.

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