City Spidey had recently carried a report on the results of the Annual Survey of India City-System (ASICS) in which the national capital had secured the sixth position among 23 cities across the country. Conducted by Janaagraha Centre for Citizenship and Democracy, a Bengaluru based institution, this survey essentially evaluated cities on the basis of their infrastructural capacities, resources and public service acumen.
Incidentally, the survey established that Delhi’s infrastructure is relatively much better than the other metros. However despite this, the overall score of the national capital falls below cities like Pune and Thiruvananthapuram. This has largely been attributed to the absence of a proper platform to involve citizens in the civic governance of the city coupled with the one year tenure of the Mayor office.
Srikanth Viswanathan, chief executive officer (CEO) of Janaagraha Centre for Citizenship and Democracy, explains, “The city lacks in terms of the quality of its municipal services, which was a major criteria evaluated in the survey. Until 2012, Delhi had a single municipal corporation in which the mayor enjoyed tenure of five years. However, after the tri-furcation happened (SDMC, NDMC, EDMC) the Mayor’s tenure was reduced to just a year, which is grossly insufficient for implementing new ideas. Moreover, the trifurcation also impacted the revenue stream. Apart from SDMC, the other two municipal corporations are perennially reeling in a cash crunch.”
This cash crunch automatically translates to disruptions in delivery of civic services. “For instance municipal workers in charge of collecting garbage, have frequently gone on strike to protest against their paltry wages,” says Viswanathan.
A line in the survey report read-The Mayor and Councillors of Delhi are toothless. They don’t enjoy complete decision making authority over critical functions like planning, housing, water, environment, fire and emergency services.
Talking to City Spidey, Farhad Suri, former MCD Mayor (unified MCD) agreed that tri-furcation of MCD had indeed been a bad idea. “Earlier a Mayor of Delhi was as powerful as the Chief Minister. The city’s transport system, electricity and many other key services were under the purview of the municipal corporation. However, now the powers of the Mayors have been reduced. Today Mayors are dependent on executive bodies for implementing ideas. Often there is an overlap of jurisdiction between the MCD and the state government that dilutes the impact and quality of its services.”
City Spidey also spoke to Ravinder Gupta, another ex mayor (of NDMC) who had served a one year tenure. In his words, “I had written a letter to the Urban Development Ministry and had urged them to extend the tenure. One year is insufficient for long term planning and execution.”
Incidentally, the national capital has scored below five (on a comparative index of 10 points) in terms of the capacity of its municipal corporations to undertake reform. According to the report, the municipal corporations of Delhi are handicapped because they do not have adequate revenue sources of their own. “Instead of relying on central government campaigns like Swachha Bharat the municipal corporations of Delhi should have pioneered their own signature cleanliness campaigns. This however has not happened,” says Viswanathan.
Cities having legitimate political representations, along with transparency and public participation have scored high on the survey. Delhi however, has fared poorly in terms of accountability and public participation.
Commenting on this, Viswanathan said, “In Delhi fragmentation of the power system and involvement of multiple agencies are major issues. The system for public participation is weak. For instance, people hardly have any role on budget preparation.”
TAGS: ASICS / Janaagraha Centre for Citizenship and Democracy / SDMC / NDMC / EDMC / Urban Development Ministry / Swachha Bharat