Our cities are in definite need for resuscitation. As per a 21-city survey conducted by Janaagraha, our cities continue to score poorly in comparison with the likes of London and New York.
The lowest-ranked city among all is surprisingly Chandigarh, having the dubious distinction of coming last among 21 for the second time in a row. Further, our cities are grossly underprepared to deliver a high quality of life that is sustainable in the long term.
This is particularly worrisome given the rapid pace of urbanisation in India and the huge backlog in public service delivery. Cities face governance challenges on multiple levels. Most fail to disclose audited accounts. They have no evaluation mechanism for the plans implemented by the municipal corporations. They have extremely weak finances and no city among the 21 reviewed has an effective system in place to monitor and prevent violations or mechanisms to undertake punitive or corrective action. City leaders don´t really have the power to formulate a long-term vision or the length of tenure to execute the same. How is it possible for Bengaluru and Jaipur to become smart cities unless they provide some stability to their commissioners? Both cities have had six commissioners in five years while Raipur has had eight! The Swachh Bharat mission has also ranked the ´cleanest cities´ in India where Mysore, Chandigarh and Tiruchirapalli have secured the top three honours. Now, the smart cities challenge launched by the Ministry of Urban Development has set a race among cities and their leaders, including chief ministers, in urban renewal. Although there is a long way to go, this is now being taken up on a war footing.
So far all deadlines for the smart cities mission have been maintained and the programme appears to be moving forward to prepare India to rebuild its growth engines: Its cities. Read this issue´s cover story for a ringside view of the plans for the cities of tomorrow.....