How to optimise service delivery in the urban sector
We need partnerships for urban management for productive urbanisation and economic growth of cities
The urban sector is India’s economic growth engine, and it is increasingly confronted with the task of climate-resilient sustainable urbanisation. By 2036, 600 million people will be living in urban areas. Over the years, investment in the sector has been rising (from ₹1.57 crore between 2004 and 2014 to ₹9.07 crore between 2014 and 2019, creating a process for the spread of the “Public-Private Community Partnership (PPCP)” model in building sustainable cities.
Running cities efficiently is a complex business. It involves multiple stakeholders in the planning and administrative process, including national, state and local governments. Several beneficiaries and partners (citizens, private businesses, academia, and NGOs/CSOs ) are also important in the urban ecosystem. Managing this complex and socially diverse sector is a challenge for policymakers, planners, and the urban local bodies (ULBs). To move forward, the State, businesses, philanthropies, CSOs/NGOs, and communities must join hands.
However, there are several roadblocks to this collaborative venture: Trust deficit and low interaction among stakeholders, varied expertise and capabilities of each organisation, and disrupted investment affect functioning and service delivery in cities. With the upswing in digital technology, city planning and administration is undergoing significant transformation. The required technical knowledge and financial resources are increasingly spread across multiple stakeholders. In such circumstances, PPCP has increasing importance. While good partnerships bring additional capabilities, they take time and effort to mature.
To create and promote a healthy partnership among the voluntary sector and encourage greater partnership between public and private, the central government has been taking several steps.
Self-help groups (SHGs), which were introduced to empower rural women, have been scaled-up to include urban areas. They now empower more than 67 million women. More than 570,000 SHGs have been formed, assisting 610,000 lakh beneficiaries in setting up individual/group micro-enterprises.
The Swachh Bharat Mission’s (Urban) Community Engagement Guidelines endorses partnerships at the local level to help India achieve sanitation targets. The Smart City Advisory Forum fosters partnerships with active representation from local NGOs/mahila mandli/ and youth associations.
Globally, community partnerships for development at the local level have been a great success. For Indian cities to adopt this model, community awareness and empowerment must be mainstreamed. PPCP can be explored for initiating projects such as the adoption of parks, rejuvenation of water bodies, conversion of parking to parks, nukkad (meaning) development, zero-waste wards, technology innovations, increased access to government schemes. Communities are direct beneficiaries of such initiatives, but are hesitant to participate due to a lack of awareness, funds and leadership.
CSOs/NGOs can efficiently bridge this gap and become the “community constant” for participatory development. Alongside working with communities, this sector may also work for ULBs and development authorities by acting as “translators” of complex urban development policies and communicating the benefits to the community.
They may help create an army of “city volunteers”, who are agents of change and symbols of participatory planning at the ward level. Such initiatives can bring communities closer to the administration and make them stakeholders in the governance system.
Stakeholders must synergise their energies to deliver good governance. Partnerships in urban management can be an effective option to address city-level challenges. However, for a productive partnership, there is an urgent need to further bridge knowledge gaps and gain trust.
PPCP partners need to develop skills, resources, and systems to engage effectively. Convergence needs to be prioritised to provide sustained investment for efficient functioning. As residents of the city, public-private organisations and communities need to become active stakeholders of the governance system. Today, we need partnerships for urban management for productive urbanisation and economic growth of cities.
K Rajeswara Rao is special secretary, NITI Aayog; Neha Awasthi is consultant, NITI Aayog
The views expressed are personal