Delhi slipped two spots to rank ninth among 21 major cities evaluated by the 2016 edition of the Annual Survey of India’s city-systems.
Delhi slipped two spots to rank ninth among 21 major cities evaluated by the 2016 edition of the Annual Survey of India’s city-systems (ASICS 2016). While the national capital fared reasonably well on the parameters of urban planning and availability of funds at the municipal level, it lagged behind many cities with respect to transparency and accountability of urban departments, the survey by the non-profit institution Janaagraha Centre for Citizenship and Democracy suggests. As the Delhi’s civic bodies go to polls on April 22, Pratik Kumar spoke with Janaagraha CEO Srikanth Viswanathan on the city’s prepardness to deliver quality governance.
Q. Why does Delhi lag behind others on the parameters of accountability and transparency?
A. The municipal corporations of Delhi rank 20th out of 21 cities studied by the ASICS 2016. This is principally because they neither put out adequate information for citizens to use nor do they actively facilitate citizen participation. Information like service levels, audited accounts, particulars of major works, details of plans, incomes and budgets, etc. are bare essentials of transparency at a city level.
Q. Does Delhi have a better ward-level planning? How much useful can mohalla sabhas be in ensuring decentralisation of governance?
A. Yes, Delhi was possibly the first major city in India to mandate ward-level plans and even today is one of the two cities covered under ASICS 2016 that are required to have ward plans. What quality these ward plans are of and whether they are being implemented as envisaged are not factors we have evaluated under ASICS 2016. Mohalla sabhas were first envisaged as Area Sabhas under the Community Participation Law, a mandatory reform under the JNNURM. They were meant to be formal platforms at the level of polling booths. So well-conceived Mohalla Sabhas, on the lines of Area Sabhas, will be immensely useful in ensuring decentralisation of governance.
Q. Why do you think there are lower turnouts in civic polls compared to Assembly and LS elections? Do you see this trend changing?
A. Citizens are poorly engaged with their municipalities. Municipalities have a credibility problem and state governments are to blame. They haven’t moved fast enough in the last 25 years since 74th Amendment to strengthen municipalities and make them competent as local self-governments. So citizens care more about their MLAs and MPs than their councillors. We need to restore the credibility of the municipality and that of our ward councillors. They are after all the citizen’s first touch point with democracy.