Delhi, Mumbai not the best in urban governance, Thiruvananthapuram first
Thiruvananthapuram, Pune and Kolkata have emerged as the top three Indian cities that were tested on various urban governance parameters, according to a 21-city survey by Bengaluru-based advocacy group Janaagraha Centre for Citizenship and Democracy.
According to the fourth edition of the Annual Survey of India’s City Systems 2016, Delhi that has a population of about 18 million has been ranked at a distant 9, behind much smaller cities such as Bhopal and Kanpur.
The national capital, which was ranked 6 in the 2015 survey, fared poorly on three aspects of urban governance --- urban capacities and resources of municipalities to undertake reform; empowered and legitimate political representation; transparency, accountability and participation. Delhi, however, topped the chart in the urban planning and design category with a score of 3.7 --- ahead of Mumbai and Bengaluru, among others.
Chandigarh, perceived to be a planned city, and Jaipur finds mention at the bottom of the list.
“Our cities have continued to score low indicating that progress, on fixing city-systems, has been slow,” Srikanth Viswanathan, Janaagraha CEO, said.
Mumbai and Ahmedabad with a score of 4.4 top the list of cities that have invested adequate funds in public infrastructure and services. A majority of the cities rely heavily on government grants.
The survey found that the 21 cities generate just 37% of the amount they spend on average, with Patna raising only 17% on its own. Only Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad and Pune generate over 50% of the amount they spend from their own revenue.
While Thiruvananthapuram’s per capita spend on capital expenditure is Rs 8,389, it is as low as Rs 418 in Patna.
Irrespective of the rankings, none of the Indian cities match up to London and New York, which top the global benchmarks.
All the 21 cities scored between 2.1 and 4.4 out of 10 on all the indicators as against 9.4 and 9.7 scored by the two global cities, implying how grossly under-prepared Indian cities in terms of delivering a high quality of life that is sustainable in the long term.
The survey says none of the Indian cities, for instance, have effective policies to deter plan violations, which is evident from the mushrooming slums and unauthorised colonies across states. All the 21 cities scored zero on this parameter as compared to 9.1 to 10 for London and New York.
The report quotes a survey done by Bangalore Municipal Corporation in 2014 where out of 400 buildings that were inspected only three conformed to rules.
“Our cities singularly lack in municipal capacities running on outdated systems. Municipalities are the closest governance system to citizens directly impacting their lives. They are responsible for improving the quality of life in our cities,” KT Ravindran, dean emeritus at the RICS School of Built Environment, said.
“If we are serious about improving our cities, we need to invest in municipal capacities, training staff, etc,” Ravindran, who is the former chairperson of Delhi Urban Arts Commission, added.
Most of the Indian town and country planning acts date back to last century. India has one planner per four lakh citizens as against 48 in the United States and 148 in the United Kingdom.
And poor urban planning can cost a country 3% of its GDP, the survey says.
However, the findings also reveal silver linings and aspects where Indian cities can learn a lot from each other.
“Rajasthan ushering in urban land titling reforms and Odisha’s efforts to increase municipal capacities by constituting municipal cadres are excellent examples from this year of how we can move forward and help our cities serve their citizens better,” the survey notes.
It recommends amending the planning laws, constituting a metropolitan planning committee anchored by municipal elected representatives for formulating city’s metropolitan plan among others to address the deficiencies in city planning.