In Smart City times, survey holds up a mirror: Cities ‘grossly under-prepared’https://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/in-smart-city-times-survey-holds-up-a-mirror-cities-grossly-under-prepared/

In Smart City times, survey holds up a mirror: Cities ‘grossly under-prepared’

Thiruvananthapuram shares the top spot with Mumbai, followed by Kolkata and Pune.

It may be a no-brainer that Mumbai tops the list of 21 Indian cities in a latest nationwide survey, but what is interesting is the cities that follow — or do not follow. Thiruvananthapuram shares the top spot with Mumbai, followed by Kolkata and Pune.

Chandigarh, often hailed as India’s most planned urban landscape, comes last in the third edition of the Annual Survey of India’s City-Systems (ASICS).

The survey, conducted by Janaagraha Centre for Citizenship and Democracy, highlights systemic inadequacies in urban governance and is based on “actual governance”, and not popular perception. Based on 83 parameters, the survey ranks these cities on a scale of zero to 10, with all cities remaining under 5 in overall score, and only a few going past the halfway mark in different parameters, such as urban planning, urban capacities and resources, empowered and legitimate political representation, and transparency, accountability and participation.

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While Mumbai and Thiruvananthapuram score 4.2, and Kolkata-Pune 4.1, Chandigarh scores the lowest — 2. Delhi finishes with 3.7, tied with Bhopal.

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The global benchmarks for the survey are New York (9.7) and London (9.4).

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“These scores imply that Indian cities are grossly under-prepared to deliver a high quality of life that is sustainable in the long term,” the report states.

Pointing to the lack of specialisation in delivery of civic services, Srikanth Viswanathan, coordinator (advocacy), Janaagraha, said, “Mumbai and Pune score high because of the availability of municipal cadre. Most cities have extremely weak finances and are revenue-deficient.”

Noting that Indian cities see recurrence of the same problems, the report says, “Band-aid solutions like creating more landfills, filling pot holes, desilting drains ahead of monsoons do not address the root causes, which have made our cities what they are today.”

Seeking to provide an objective basis on which to evaluate the quality of governance in Indian cities, the report emphasises the need for access to more buoyant revenue streams for civic agencies, making audit of balance sheets mandatory, employment of competent personnel for development and implementation of Spatial Development Plans, and to ensure effective mechanism to monitor and prevent violations. It also pushes for putting effective complaint management systems in place to ensure feedback.