Power and accountability key for councillors to transform Gurugram
We need not only visionary leaders, but a system that allows them to function with clear lines of authority. It is important to empower elected officials so they can be held accountable.gurgaon Updated: Nov 22, 2018 11:57 IST
This column has, over the past few months, addressed several problems and concerns of this city, Gurugram. We have problems such as air pollution, congestion, traffic and poor infrastructure. We also have social concerns, particularly the divide between residents of the gated communities and others and making Gurugram a more inclusive city. To address these concerns, both local authorities and residents need to play their role. Particularly when addressing social concerns, it is the larger social community that will need to play an important role.
In context of the first set of problems primarily related to infrastructure it is important to understand the structure of governance. It is only in 2008 that the Municipal Council for Gurgaon (MCG) was set up. So we have had only two sets of councillors and mayors till now. While their mandate has been to deal with a range of issues, including construction of new roads, maintaining old roads, building and maintaining parks, maintenance of sewage and drainage systems, rainwater harvesting, availability of drinking water and power, it has taken time for them to start functioning effectively.
Before the setting up of the council, the Haryana Urban Development Authority (now Haryana Shahari Vikas Pradhikaran) was responsible for many of the development activities. Over the past decade, there has often been confusion on which body is responsible and accountable for the different functions. In 2017, many of the HUDA sectors were transferred to MCG for better maintenance and accountability. More recently, the Gurugram Metropolitan Development Authority (GMDA) was set up to develop a vision for sustained and balanced growth of the city, coordinated planning, infrastructure development and provision of amenities.
Last week, I wrote about the Liveability Index that the GMDA is working on.
Multiple authorities for urban governance and management have often been the bane of many Indian cities. We see that as an issue even with Delhi where service delivery is affected by jurisdiction and political issues linked to the different bodies, such as the Municipal Council of Delhi (MCD), Public Works Department (PWD) and Delhi Development Authority (DDA), among others. Often the casualty of this are residents of the city. We are left confused about the actual responsibilities of different authorities and whom to approach to get their problems redressed.
Globally, we have seen that cities that have transformed themselves have had strong mayoral systems, where the elected representatives have the key responsibility to deliver on services and infrastructure and city planning.
Some key examples that come to mind, include London, New York, Bogota and even Seoul closer to home. In Bogota for example, one mayor, Antonio Mockus, took over a city in the 1990s that was seen as unruly and unsafe with high levels of violence and corruption. He transformed the city using unconventional methods. To address behaviour such a jay walking or jumping red lights, he hired 400 mime artists to gently poke fun at people to get them to change their behaviour. He asked citizens to tell him about good behaviour by taxi drivers, so they could be rewarded. He held a symbolic event called ‘Night for Women’ to address women’s safety issues, where men were urged to stay in and over 2,00,000 women were urged to go out and claim the streets, including in low-income neighborhoods. He addressed crime and water shortage and other civic issues with an innovative approach, but a firm hand and transformed the city.
With all the problems we are facing as a city, we need not only visionary leaders, but a system where they are allowed to function with clear lines of authority and power. Further, it is important to empower elected officials so that citizens can hold them accountable.
(Co-founder and CEO of Safetipin, the author works on issues of women’s safety and rights in the city)
First Published: Nov 22, 2018 11:56 IST