Shaping India’s urban future
The Centre, on Thursday, released the rankings of the Ease of Living Index (EoLI) 2020 for cities with a population of more than a million and those with less than a million people. Of the 111 cities that participated in the exercise, Bengaluru emerged as the top performer, followed by Navi Mumbai (6), Greater Mumbai (10) and Delhi (13) among the bigger cities, while Shimla led among the smaller cities. Like EoLI , the government also released the Municipal Performance Index (MPI) 2020 for municipalities with a million+ population and those with less than a million people. Indore topped the first category while the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) led the second. EoLI is an assessment tool that evaluates the quality of life and the impact of initiatives for development and provides an understanding of cities based on the quality of life, economic-ability and sustainability and resilience. Notably, the measures of the index align with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
It is important to measure the performance of cities for three reasons. One, Article 21 of the Constitution guarantees every citizen a certain standard of life that ensures dignity and personal growth. Second, economic growth is intricately linked with urbanisation, but, in India, this has not kept pace with the rate of economic growth. Third, the rise in urban population (40% of India’s total population is expected to live in urban areas by 2030) has vastly outpaced the capacity of Urban Local Bodies (ULBs). The 2020 EoLI clearly shows that the development of cities has been uneven. The better performers are mostly in the southern part of the country, which has a legacy of industrialisation and finance. They also indicate that the concept of liveability is yet to be integrated with urban planning strategies. Among municipalities, NDMC and Indore have been consistent performers in other government surveys.
To improve and also cater to several emerging needs, India’s cities need to go for city-to-city partnerships, mainstream the liveability indicators in planning and policy, develop urban planning frameworks and guidelines that have space for contextualised approaches of cities and can be adapted easily, improve citizen engagement, build capacities of ULBs to catalyse the vision of the 74th Amendment Act, 1992, and remove constraints in governance to not just improve service delivery, but also make them equitable.