Improving Urban Governance — A Key For Realising ‘Vikasit Bharat 2047’

Amit Paranjape

May 26, 2024, 05:32 PM | Updated 05:30 PM IST

India's cities will drive country's growth.
India's cities will drive country's growth.
  • India's cities will drive national growth, mirroring global trends over the past century, needing proper focus and governance to succeed.
  • 'Vikasit Bharat' by 2047 is a great goal and we all should strive hard for achieving it. However, one of the big hurdles along the way is the state of our urban governance today. I have written about this issue multiple times over the years on Twitter (now X) and elsewhere.

    We need a drastic improvement in the governance of our cities. Today, India is around 35-40 per cent urban, and we are heading towards 50 per cent.

    Some states like Maharashtra are already near the halfway mark. Urban India (and especially the top 20/top 50 cities) contribution towards a large chunk of our GDP (gross domestic product).

    However, today our cities function as 'colonies' of the state government. They don’t have true governance autonomy. Their development and management are often neglected.

    Capital cities get some attention, by the virtue of the state government being right there — but large cities that are not a state capital (eg, Pune, Surat) are even more worse off.

    Our cities need ‘permissions’ and ‘grants’ for many key projects from the state and Centre — and the chief managers of the city report to the state hierarchy.

    Our cities don't have an elected 'chief representative' who has direct accountability, responsibility and authority for running the city. And by this, I mean someone who has direct control for the chief civic administration and for maintaining the law and order.

    In many cities around the world, the 'municipal commissioner' and the 'police commissioner' function, report directly to the elected city mayor. In our case, they report up to the state government.

    In many countries — cities are financially autonomous as well. They get good revenue allocations from the state and the Centre and also have control over robust local taxation schemes. In India, cities often have to rely on 'grants' from the state and Centre for various projects.

    In order to realise the dream for India’s growth — we need to make our cities more efficient and more autonomous.

    We need to improve governance and drive down local corruption. We need better urban planning and implementation. And in order to achieve all this, we need to first seriously look at our urban governance structure.

    We need to have a clear long-term plan (eg, ‘Top-50 cities should have an independent elected mayor with control over the civic administration and law and order’ by a certain date) and take specific steps in implementation to get there.

    Along with the ‘elected mayor’, many other improvements are required in the functioning of our urban governance structure. We need a lot more active citizen participation at the neighbourhood as well as at the city level.

    We need to streamline the processes and bureaucracy in the various city management functions. We need full time domain experts working in the various city management areas.

    Our cities need better financial autonomy as well. Can a small percentage of the GST (goods and services tax) be allocated directly to the cities (just as they are allocated across the Centre and the state today?).

    Just like in many other countries over the past 100 years, cities in India will play a key role in the country’s growth. We need the right focus and the right governance structures to enable this.

    This article was first published on the author’s LinkedIn page.

    A Technology Entrepreneur, with many diverse interests across Information Technology, Emerging Tech, Economics, Healthcare, History, and Urban Development. He tweets @aparanjape

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