Many dreams turn into reality in the cities of our country, where each day people from rural and remote areas migrate to the urban cities in search of opportunities carrying millions of dreams and hopes in their minds. Cities are great inventions because they are powerful enough to make or break peoples’ lives and in turn, can be crucial deciders of any nation’s progress. Therefore, it is high time we pull up our socks and work diligently towards enhancing our cities.
A recent survey conducted by Janagraha on the cities across India and the globe was certainly eye opening for our civilians as well as our policy makers. The survey majorly concentrated on the local urban governance and points out to various loopholes in the currently existing regulatory mechanisms of our major cities.
Methodology of the survey: –
- Data collection: With the help of information and statistics collected from over 50 laws, 100 financial documents, etc. a huge dataset was developed to provide strong and evident backing for the observations and inferences made during the survey.
- Survey was conducted in various metropolitan giants like New York, Manchester, London, etc and Indian major cities like Mumbai, Pune, Delhi, Bangalore, Calcutta, etc.
- Mega cities like New York, Manchester, etc. have ratings of 7.5-9 on a scale of 10 whereas the highest rated Indian city was Pune with a score of 5.1/10
- Bangalore, the Silicon valley of India fared poorly in the ratings, being the bottom most in the list.
Things Pune did right: –
- Focus on foundational governance
- Augmenting skilled human resources
- Worked on capacity building
- Collaborated with some of the best organisations around the world
- Ameliorating their financial strengths by improving tax revenues and other capital bonds
- One of the major catalysts in their better performance was wise use of technology. They made use of technology to fill the gap between the corporation and the civilians thereby ticking all the right boxes like Transparency, Availability, Accessibility.
- Ensured better connectivity with the people and the community, developed a sense of faith by making the citizens believe that they had a highly responsive and accountable civic body.
- Impact of political instability: It was observed that political stability had huge role to play in the development of the cities. This is why, Bhubaneshwar constantly improved it ranking from 16 to 10 to 4. Bangalore failed to impress simply because of instability in its politics.
- Requirement of systemic approach in big cities: The government initiatives didn’t prove to be as impactful on the big cities as on the smaller cities. Reports have shown that smaller cities like Ranchi, Surat, etc. diligently followed schemes like “AMRUTH” and came out with better results. Therefore, systemic level work needs to be done in the bigger cities of India.
- Size and area: It was evident from the survey that generally cities with smaller geographical area did well. However, experts feel that it was more of the political stability that helped in these cities and not the size alone.
- Unpreparedness: Planning mechanisms are very archaic in nature. All the major sections have sufficiently evolved and changed with the time except the planning mechanism. Therefore, proper preparation and dynamicity is what it demands.
- Importance of citizen participation: The major issue is that citizens aren’t aware of what is to be done, and how they can actively participate in the functioning of these civic bodies.
Way forward: –
- Looking at the pace of migration of people from rural to urban areas, it is extremely important to strengthen our municipalities. Therefore, the goal is to intelligently “Plan, Deliver, Maintain”.
- Capacity building is definitely what we need to work upon. With almost 40% – 60% vacancies in these local bodies and unskilled existing workforce, the gap needs to be filled quickly. It has been observed that the average experience of municipal commissioners in most of the cities was just 2.7 years which clearly indicates the lack of expertise and experience. According to experts, cities should be considered as units of government and there is a need to increase the empowerment and active participation of Mayor in the local urban governance.
- The locally elected members should be given the right to make plans and roadmaps rather than the state government officials, politicians or bureaucrats.
- Since, most cities have failed to adopt to the revisions made in the 74th CAA, suitable measures and actions should be taken in the same direction.
“Reforms have been painfully slow” is what the survey says, therefore need of the hour is to work on some foundational elements like policy implementation, autonomy and evolution of powers of corporation, efficiency in planning process and financial matters, etc. and work at a higher speed with a more focussed approach.