Last year, the NDA government launched its flagship program to develop 100 smart cities across India. But Indian cities still have a long way to go before they become smart.
A survey of 21 cities carried out by Bangalore based advocacy group Janaagraha Centre for Citizenship and Democracy found Indian cities continue to fare poorly -- scoring in the range of 2 to 4.2 on 10, as against the global benchmarks of London and New York, which have scored 9.4 and 9.7 respectively on various urban governance indicators.
“These scores imply that Indian cities are grossly under-prepared to deliver a high quality of life that is sustainable in the long term. This is particularly worrisome, given the rapid pace of urbanisation in India and the huge backlog in public service delivery,” states the Annual Survey of India’s City-Systems report.
Of the 21 cities, Mumbai with an overall score of 4.2 has been ranked at the top for investing adequate funds in public infrastructure and services, having skilled manpower to run its municipalities, using information technology for governance and encouraging citizen’s participation among others.
Chandigarh is at the bottom of the list. Delhi is ranked 6th. The national capital fares poorly, scoring 0.9 out of 10 for failing to implement the city’s master plan successfully.
“Today, more than 30% of Delhi’s population lives in illegal settlements. Since the 1960s, Delhi’s flawed masterplans with insufficient allocation for low-cost housing have led to the mushrooming of illegal housing colonies in the face large-scale migration from neighbouring states,” the report states.
In Mumbai there is distortion of heritage conservation in urban planning. In fact, a majority of the 21 cities fare pathetically when it comes to implementing their respective cities master plan. Besides Delhi, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Kolkata and Mumbai have also scored 0.9 out of 10. In contrast London and New York have scores 9 and 9.5 on this count.
Similarly, the survey found that none of the 21 cities have an effective mechanism in place to deter master plan violation with all cities scoring zero.
“The survey does not focus on the dysfunctional aspects of Indian cities that stare out at citizens-the potholed roads, lack of 24x7 water supply or over-stretched public transport. It seeks to highlight the flawed legislations, policies, processes and practices that lie at the root of these issues,” Srikanth Viswanathan, Jaanagraha’s Coordinator (Advocacy).
A majority of the 21 cities lack skilled manpower in the municipalities with many having large scale vacancies, the survey found. Patna, for instance has 64 % vacancy in its municipal corporation followed by Bangalore (52%) and Mumbai (21%). Lack of adequate number of skilled staff in municipalities could lead to lower property tax collections and own revenues, which affect a city’s financial resources
“Our work has led us to the firm belief that there are a common set of root causes that underlie most quality of life challenges in our cities. Unless we address these root causes of poor spatial planning and political leadership, our quality of life is unlikely to change,” Viswanathan added.
The report recommends amending the planning laws, constituting a metropolitan planning committee anchored by municipal elected representatives for formulating city’s metropolitan plan among others to address the deficiencies in city planning.