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‘We need to hold our MPs accountable for their work’

India, which has primarily been a rural nation is urbanising rapidly and facing a range of problems related to infrastructure and service delivery, urban mobility, housing, pollution and urban governance.

opinion Updated: May 09, 2019 08:01 IST
BJP,Congress,MPs
Home minister Rajnath Singh at an election rally ahead of the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. (Yogendra Kumar/HT PHOTO)

Come Sunday, the residents of Gurugram and our neighbour Delhi will be casting their vote to choose a Central government for the next five years. What are the different parties promising in terms of addressing key urban issues and problems? India, which has primarily been a rural nation is urbanising rapidly and facing a range of problems related to infrastructure and service delivery, urban mobility, housing, pollution and urban governance. We need to make informed decisions as voters and hold our elected representatives responsible for the next five years. Democracy does not end, but begins with the vote.

One of the major issues that has been discussed over the past several years has been the issue of the 74th amendment and devolution of power at the local level. Further there have also been discussions on strengthening the mayoral system.

The Congress manifesto mentions the 74th amendment and devolution of power, functions and funds to the municipality. The BJP plans to set up five regional Centres of Excellence on Urban Issues to assist states and local bodies in urban governance. While the Congress manifesto clearly states that they will create a direct election system for the Mayor, this is already in effect in Haryana since 2018. This is an important step towards better local governance and should be implemented across the country.

It is interesting to note that no one is talking about smart cities in this election but moving towards delivery of services. The Jannayak Janata Party (JJP), which has tied up with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) talks about developing and managing infrastructure.

Transport and mobility are very important issue for cities and the two parties have addressed some of the concerns. The BJP promises to bring an Urban Mobility Mission to provide technology-based mobility solutions and promotes single mobility card across various modes of transport and improve last-mile connectivity. The Congress states they will implement an Urban Transport Policy and make public spaces safe for women, children and other marginalised sections. These policies will need to be holistic and engage with the needs of the most vulnerable groups of people in cities. While technology is important, it must take a bottom up approach.

Air pollution is the other major area that our cities need to urgently address. All cities in the National Capital Region are in the list of the most-polluted cities in the world. Any government that it elected must urgently address transboundary pollution. Just living in these cities has become a health hazard.

There are several others arenas, including provision of public toilets, shelters for the homeless, addressing the needs of vulnerable groups such as street vendors or migrant workers, creating walkable public spaces, gender friendly spaces and concerns of senior citizens, among others, that must also be addressed to ensure Indian cities can healthily accommodate its growing numbers.

What is also crucial is strengthening of all our institutions so that democracy is active and transparent. As citizens, we must participate in the democratic space to ensure accountability and engagement. All candidates who win must engage with the people who are sending them to the Parliament as we are the eyes and ears on the ground. Let us all go out and vote in large numbers this Sunday and participate in making India a vibrant democracy.

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

First Published: May 09, 2019 03:49 IST