Need of empowered City Administration – UPSC GS1

Facts:
  • Cities across the world contribute about 80% of global GDP.
  • In India:
    • Around 50% of a city’s population occupies 10% of the land
    • 26-37 million families in urban India reside in informal housing.
Impacts of unbalanced urbanization in India:
  • Environmental Vulnerability:
    • Unbalanced development has made cities more vulnerable to environmental shocks that get more frequent and intense.
    • A World Resources Institute India report notes temperature rise and flooding as two key risks to Mumbai.
    • Mumbai’s municipal commissioner has highlighted the possibility of 70-80% submergence of key parts of the city by 2050.
  • Lack of adequate health infrastructure. It resulted in the mass movement of laborers towards their homes during the Pandemic. This mass movement of labour paralyzed industrial units, apart from civic and other services in cities.
So, building equitable and sustainable cities is the solution.
Challenges in building equitable and sustainable cities:
  • Reactive approach to development rather than the proactive approach often results in short-term gains that don’t keep pace with the city’s changing face.
  • Issue of disaggregated management of cities. For instance, there are many different departments running a city, both from a planning perspective and for the provision of government services. This hampers the way city infrastructure and land usage get rolled out and increases the challenges for citizens in their interactions with the city administration.
How implementing the 74th amendment act in letter and spirit can solve the issue?
  • It envisaged city planning, land-use regulation, and city services to be managed by local governments in a holistic way.
  • It set out the basis for local empowered governments and active citizen participation. However, its roll-out is still slow in most cities.
What needs to be done to truly empower our city governments?
According to Urban Governance Index, an empowered city government is the first step towards building equitable and sustainable cities.  It can be done by focusing on the following areas:
  • Empowered city-elected representatives: By investing in building capacity of the elected representatives. Municipal councillors are critical in this journey, given their structured participation in city processes and a better understanding of available resources and citizen needs.
  • Empowered city administration: Technology should be used to enable a data-based dialogue between local governments and the citizenry. It can be turned into a city data hub that is easily accessible to citizens and municipal employees for grievance redressal, or for sharing information on government services
  • Empowered citizens: Citizens’ understanding of a city’s working and their ability to be a part of local governance needs to be enhanced. For example, Organizations like Mahila Housing Trust are attempting to innovatively do this at scale in places like Delhi and Gujarat.