In a governance survey and ranking, Delhi was ranked the best in planning and design, but it failed on many other parameters. Is Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal to blame? Meanwhile, Thiruvananthapuram, Pune and Kolkata were the top three Indian cities in the list.
In a survey taken by not-for-profit institution Janaagraha Centre for Citizenship and Democracy (JCCD), Indian cities were ranked based on governance. According to the survey, the higher a city’s rank is, the more it is capable of providing a better quality of life for citizens over the medium and long term. In the ranking, the cities which secured the top three spots were Thiruvananthapuram, Pune and Kolkata. All three of them are very urban and developing cities. Meanwhile, JCCD CEO Srikanth Viswanathan had said that cities in the country cannot handle urbanisation well and this year’s survey has revealed many systemic flaws in urban governance which are capable of affecting public service delivery. The City-Systems structure, consists of 4 important related parts, like urban planning and design, urban capacities and resources; empowered and legitimate political representation and transparency, accountability and participation. Meanwhile, in the ranking list, Delhi dropped two places since 2015, to number 9. While Delhi was ranked the best in planning and design, it failed on many other parameters. Is Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal to blame?
Jane Jacobs, author of ‘Cities and the Wealth of Nations’ once wrote: “All through organised history if you wanted prosperity you had to have cities. Cities
are places that attract new people with new ideas.” Cities are considered as complex entities which are forever organically evolving and can defy all planning. The urban population in India is growing more than three times the total population in India. This essentially means more and more people are shifting to cities now. This is proven by the fact that more than 50 Indian cities have over 1 million people living in them. Here is a look at what makes the three cities click.
Governance: It is the most crucial aspect of a growing city, especially in a democratic country like India. In a city, it helps if the state government and civic bodies work in tandem. This is clearly understandable in all the three cities. Thiruvananthapuram is a major tourist spot as well and the civic bodies have been able to maintain it well enough. Though there have been some problems coming up recently, it has generally been quite smooth. In Pune, as well as in Kolkata, the governments are also largely in sync with the civic bodies. This also gives the citizens a positive future, because there is hardly any issues when development is the discussion point. This also improves political representation and transparency. Most of the top cities ranked have highly empowered and legitimate Political Representation.
Planning: For a city to grow, it is of utmost importance that the development is properly planned else everything goes haywire as the wealth is unevenly distributed. All the three cities have been able to spend well in the areas of health care, crime corrections, education, job opportunities, economy and infrastructure. Surprisingly, all the cities scored 0 out of 10 on effective mechanisms to deal with City Plan violations. The survey accuses Indian cities of building 21st-century cities with outdated planning laws. Kolkata’s planning act came in 1979, while Thiruvananthapuram got it in 2016, which shows the wide gap even in top cities. The cities mainly face planning problems when the responsibilities are divided between the civic bodies, state governments and para-statal bodies and that is what the best cities manage well.
Quality of life: To improve the quality of life, the best cities spend more on services and infrastructure, thereby upgrading the future of urbanisation. Thiruvananthapuram was the top-ranked city last year as well; the city scored particularly well on citizen interest in local elections and on its ability to address citizen complaints. Most cities with better quality of life also have more sustainability and independence. Mumbai, with a population of 12.4 million, had an annual expenditure of more than Rs 33,000 crore in the year 2014-15. Meanwhile, the next 10 Indian cities with a combined population of 54.4 million spent just over Rs 33,000 crore. This expenditure vastly defines the quality of life in the cities. Meanwhile, the top three cities ranked quite high in the list.
Ecology: Indian cities do not follow the famous Zipf’s Law, which defines cities in many parts of the world. According to the law, the largest city in a nation is twice as big as the next and thrice as large as the third. Indian cities cannot follow that law, mainly because of diversity and lack of land among other things. This makes big cities increasingly populated eventually disrupting the ecological balance. This makes it highly imperative for the cities to maintain the balance as far as possible. It is an added bonus if the citizens are more aware towards this aspect of life, which is seen in Kolkata, Pune and Thiruvananthapuram, mainly because of a high literacy rate.
Mobilising Resources: Thiruvananthapuram scored the second highest when it comes to spending per citizen in a city, while Mumbai was ranked first. Even Pune was not far behind at number 3. Meanwhile, according to the survey, most Indian cities do not even generate enough revenue to even cover its staff salaries. The best cities also rank well on transparency, accountability and participation, which is eventually responsible for better utilisation of resources. Different indicators on urban resources and capacities like those on revenue generation, borrowing, expenditure, investment, budgets auditing and indicators on transparency, accountability and participation like Public Disclosure Laws (PDL) and internal audits are needed to be regularised in a study in order to ensure the highest utility.