While friends-turned-foes Shiv Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) squabble over the Mumbai civic body’s status as the country’s most transparent municipal corporation, according to the Centre’s economic survey report for 2016-17, here’s a look into the fine print of the report.
The Union government’s economic survey report last month ranks Mumbai joint number one with Hyderabad in terms of transparency, accountability and citizen participation, but the survey on which the report is based gave a poorer ranking to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).
The Centre’s report is based on non-profit group Janaagraha’s Annual Survey of India’s City Systems (ASICS), 2015. The survey assesses the transparency and accountability of local bodies on two parameters — putting out adequate information and participation of citizens, and on how well does the city address complaints of citizens. On the first parameter, the Janaagraha report ranks Mumbai third, after Hyderabad and Bangalore, with a score of 5.8, out of 10, while on the second parameter, the city is third from the bottom with a score of 2.1.
Srikanth Viswanathan, chief executive officer at Janaagraha, said, “The economic survey report mainly focuses on finances of cities and its economic position. They were interested in some select questions, according to which they graded the cities. We gave them the results of those select questions. In the case of transparency, they picked up the question of public-disclosure laws and a few others and computed the ranking accordingly.”
Mumbai’s number one ranking for transparency in the Centre’s report has kicked up a political storm in the city, ahead of the civic elections on February 21.
The Shiv Sena and the BJP who have ruled the BMC together for past two decades are now at loggerheads over the civic body’s functioning. The BJP had been targeting the Shiv Sena over graft cases and a lack of transparency in the BMC, where the latter has the larger presence. However, once the Arun Jaitley-led Union finance Ministry released the economic survey, placing Mumbai at the top spot in terms of transparency and accountability, the Shiv Sena went to town with it, ridiculing the BJP’s allegations of non-transparency in the BMC. It even used the ranking in its official election campaign, putting the BJP on the back-foot.
The BJP, on the other hand, claimed the credit behind Mumbai’s ranking. Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said the criteria on which the city has been ranked well are mostly initiatives of the state government, while it has scored zero on several points for which the Shiv Sena-controlled BMC is responsible.
The scores on the two parameters in the Janaagraha survey were based on nineteen questions, of which Mumbai scored full marks on eight. Five of these eight are to do with initiatives of the state government. These are the enactment of a public disclosure law, its compliance with the model law, a community participation law, requirement to carry out an internal audit according to the municipal act governing the civic body, and whether the state has mandated guaranteed public service delivery to citizens.
The three counts on which the civic body’s initiatives enabled Mumbai to score full marks are constitution of ward committees, making internal audits available in public domain and harnessing the spirit of volunteering among citizens.
Mumbai has not scored well on 11 of the 19 questions in Janaagraha’s survey, nine of which relate directly to the BMC. These are whether the city has area sabhas, a participatory budget-making process, a single-window citizen service centre, citizen satisfaction surveys, quality of the citizens’ charter, open data standards for annual reports of work done, ward-wise financial information, data on civic works, minutes of meetings and so on.
The Janaagraha data are, however, nearly two years old. Over the past year and a half, the BMC has started providing a lot of its information online for public perusal. For instance, the civic body has put up details of minutes of meeting, expenses on corporators’ foreign trips, details of budget among others, on its website.