The city’s waste management is in the dumps, its air quality often as bad as New Delhi’s, and its roads riddled with potholes. Yet the Annual Survey of India’s City Systems, a comparative study of local governance in various cities, has ranked it number 1 among 21 cities spanning 18 states.
On the face of it, this appears to be a huge leap forward for the city. After all, it was ranked 9th in last year’s survey, conducted by Bangalore-based Janaagraha, a non-profit that works on urban governance and policy issues.
But look just below the surface and you’ll find that despite the number-1 ranking, Mumbai’s institutions remain weak, and its plans and policies far from sound. For instance, on a criterion as basic as addressing complaints, Mumbai was one of the worst, managing a score of just 2.2 out of 10 while smaller cities such as Thiruvananthapuram came out on top. Mumbai also came in last on power sharing between elected representatives and bureaucrats. The city’s average score was a mere 4.2 out of 10.
And according to Janaagraha, all the cities surveyed fell well short of global benchmarks set by cities such as London and New York. According to Srikanth Viswanathan, Mumbai may have come in first but it still has a long way to go.
“There is a dire need to go beyond these ratings and understand the real problems that ail our cities. What we found was that institutions and larger systems are missing. As a result, money is spent but problems don’t go away; in fact, they only become worse,” said Srikanth.
The study looked at four broad categories - urban planning and design; urban capacities and resources; empowered and legitimate political representation; and transparency, accountability and participation.
Unsurprisingly, Mumbai failed miserably on urban planning and design, scoring just 2.5 on 10. This category deals with land use and development planning, implementing these plans and making them people-friendly. The study found that Mumbai doesn’t just lack a decentralised planning system, it has no concrete mechanisms in place to ensure that plans are implemented without violations.