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Sunday, Aug 18, 2019

Convergence of civic bodies will ensure better living

Innovative changes have come about with partnership. Gurugram has stellar citizen groups and initiatives that have worked towards improving the city.

gurugram Updated: Aug 08, 2019 14:40 IST
Kalpana Viswanath
Kalpana Viswanath
The Municipal Corporation of Gurgaon(MCG) is one of the three main civic agencies that manage many streets and public spaces of the city.
The Municipal Corporation of Gurgaon(MCG) is one of the three main civic agencies that manage many streets and public spaces of the city. (HT Photo )

At a recent workshop I attended, a participant spoke up about how a group of parents of a school had tried to get a speed breaker put on a road in front of a school where there were many fast moving cars. The group of parents were sent running to different agencies as well as the police to figure out which body would be responsible for actually doing it and finally not being able to get a speed breaker.

As our cities are growing and getting more complex, one of the issues that is coming to the fore is the multiplicity of authorities, the lack of clarity of roles and the difficulty in finding convergence. For example, even a simple thing like fixing or improving lighting is not straightforward. Different kinds and sizes of roads are managed by different agencies, who do not necessarily synergise their work. In Delhi, there are 3 municipal corporations, one municipal council and a cantonment which has jurisdiction over roads. Further, the wider roads are managed by the Public Works Department. And the National Highway Authorities of India manages roads which are considered highways (which includes MG Road that runs between Delhi and Gurgaon).

Gurugram also has its own complex governance structure with HUDA, GMDA as well as the MCG, not to mention builders who still manage many streets and public spaces. It is difficult for an ordinary citizen to understand this structure and try and get problems solved. Also, the complexity is also used to keep citizens confused and therefore we are often unable to place responsibility and demand accountability.

The aim of the smart cities mission was to streamline services in the city as well as provide innovative and technological solutions. With growing urbanisation as well as the aim of building smart cities, this should be addressed. It is true that some changes have taken place with technology and we are able to do much online. Thus, nowadays paying taxes to the MCG takes just a few steps on the laptop. I must say I was pleasantly surprised at the regular SMS reminders of the last date which ensured that I paid on time!

On an everyday level, most urban citizens struggle with the complexity of governance structures, not knowing who to call for flooding, or who is to blame for a road caving in, or who decides to build an entire stretch of road with no thought for the pedestrian. We are left approaching many authorities and often being shunted from one to the other. The city still has many issues that need to be addressed including urban infrastructure, provision of services, public transport, sewage just to mention a few. Governance is the process of creating the structures and environment for local government to respond to citizen needs. In the context of modern cities, this cannot happen without convergence.

Along with convergence of different government agencies, collaborations with civil society is also an important aspect of modern cities. Many innovative changes have come about with partnership. Gurugram has many stellar citizen groups and initiatives that have worked towards improving the city – the Raahgiri and the Aravali Biodiversity park are two examples of great efforts by citizens to bring about a positive change. Both of these were made possible by forging critical partnerships and providing a vision.

An active citizenry can play a crucial role in ensuring good governance, but the ultimate responsibility is with the government agencies and authorities. Systems and institutions must be responsive and be willing to find innovative solutions to new and old problems that continue to plague our cities.


Co-founder and CEO of Safetipin, the author works on issues of women’s safety and rights in cities

First Published: Aug 08, 2019 14:22 IST

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