Ease of Living Index: Centre’s report ranks Greater Mumbai at 10
One way to read the Ease of Living Index 2020 (EoLI) in a way that makes the glass seem half full is this: three cities of Maharashtra, Greater Mumbai, Navi Mumbai and Pune form part of the top 10 ranked cities among 111 cities, including Smart Cities and those with a population of more than a million. If you stretch it to the top 20, another four cities from this state enter the list, including Thane and Solapur. Apart from that, many cities in the state such as Thane, Navi Mumbai and Pune score high on some of the parameters on which the cities have been ranked. For instance, Pune emerges as a top performer on sustainability; Navi Mumbai scores fairly high on recreation and quality of life; and Thane on mobility.
Launched by Union ministry for housing and urban affairs, the EoLI and the accompanying Municipal Performance Index (MPI) examine the quality of citizens’ lives in 111 cities across four main pillars: economic ability, sustainability, citizens’ perceptions and quality of life. Expanded, these pillars cover 14 different categories such as housing, economic opportunities, green spaces, and even city resilience.
Now for the glass half-empty approach.
The pillars that Greater Mumbai fares worse in than it should are also what makes the city one of the most sought-after metropolises and what Greater Mumbai prides itself on: mobility, which includes public transportation (noteworthy: the suburban train network is often called the city’s “lifeline”) ; and economic ability, which includes both economic opportunities and economic development.
It is some consolation – though it shouldn’t be -- that economic ability is the worst performing pillar across all 111 cities, with a wide score range of 0.55 to 78.82 (Bengaluru). Greater Mumbai scores 32.12. Delhi, Pune and Ahmedabad score higher than Greater Mumbai.
To be sure, the indicators measuring the level of economic development are based on factories per lakh of population, and per capita wages, which would thus favour industrial hubs focused on manufacturing rather than cities where economic activity is driven by trade and services. That would explain why a majority of the cities attained a low score on this pillar. Besides Bengaluru, Pune, Thane and Navi Mumbai were positive outliers in this category. As far as economic opportunities are concerned, the indicators focused on credit accessibility and skill development. Greater Mumbai is one of the positive outliers in this category.
Aaditya Thackeray, state environment minister and guardian minister for Mumbai, said, “Let me go through the report and its basis. We are working on upgrading ease of living. But it’s not a hidden fact that the ease and joy of living in Mumbai is actually the highest, irrespective of this ranking, (else) so many people wouldn’t call it the City of Dreams.”
Urban development experts said that Greater Mumbai’s ease of living cannot improve unless larger infrastructural issues that face housing and transportation in the city aren’t tackled first.
Madhav Pai, executive director at WRI Ross Center (India) for Sustainable Cities, said, “While we have to look at the indicators, it is very clear that Mumbai is not able to attract talent because housing and commute are major issues. The Metro network will solve at least one of these issues.”
Three indicators were used to rank the cities in terms of mobility: availability of public transport, transport-related fatalities, and road infrastructure. In a city of more than 20 million residents, at least 8 million passengers would travel by local train network – that’s 1,774 trains on the Central Railway and 1,367 trains on the Western Railway – everyday, in pre-pandemic times. However, the report lists Chennai as the best performing city in this pillar.
Greater Mumbai scores little above 60 -- the national average is 79 out 100 -- in the category of housing and shelter. Metropolitan cities including Delhi, Chennai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad, as well as satellite cities like Thane, Vasai-Virar, Kalyan, Navi Mumbai score better than Greater Mumbai.
Pankaj Joshi, principal director, Urban Center, pointed that the report needed to be clearer in terms of the methodology and parameters employed. “Even in 2019, we had stated that the ministry needs to be clear on what are the parameters on the basis of which cities are being ranked and what are the indicators based on which cities can do better? It is also unfair to classify all cities in India as either more than a million or less than a million population. A Delhi cannot be compared to an Indore or a Nanded.”
Joshi’s point bears out. In the first EoLI report released in 2018, Greater Mumbai scored a first rank for public open spaces and mixed land use – a fact that took experts by surprise as it did not square with the ground realities.