Our system restricting our cities to compete & perform
Late Prime Minister Rajib Gandhi once told about how Rs 1 reaches as Rs. 00.19 paisa in ground, resulting to decentralization of Governance. So many years passed we are still debating about the democratic structure at the Cities. Twenty years latter does city really enjoys Democratic form of Governance if yes then !Why We Didn’t Produce A World Class City
India’s Growth story is now debated all over the world. Many of its growth stories are written and shaped in its cities home to world’s second largest urbanized population. Some of its modern city is home to worlds best Information Technology houses, Tourist Destination and making profits in operating metro system. Yet our cities represents symbol of ugly portrait of Modern India
aspiring to become Singapore, New York or Shanghai. Knowing the fact not a single city is in Worlds best Livable Cities.
Walking on the streets one will come across a railway line that divides city with open defecation, a river that has forgotten its identity long ago, hips of garbage finding own way, choked with vehicular emissions, informal hawkers & housing spreading and a vehicular path overtaken pedestrian path. Beneath the layer of these challenges is success story India’s urbanization.
Over sixty years of independence India produced some or the finest infrastructure i.e. Delhi Metro, Delhi Airport, Ahmadabad Bus Rapid Transit System etc or champions like TATA’s, Infosys and Wipro making their presence felt worldwide. Same time many do argue why India didn't produce a world class city? A city that is within World Heritage Cities, Mercer Quality of Living and The Economist's World's Most Livable Cities.
In thirty years’ time Singapore transformed itself from a slum to world class city but we cant. Many will argue about our population but China too produced some of the finest cities. Perhaps the worried factor is somewhere in our governance.
The reason for India lagging in producing world class cities is that systems don’t function when perverse incentives reward rather than penalize it. We need institutional changes to end those perverse incentives. The past years will go down in memory as the year of disillusionment ‘chalta hai and jugad’ cynicism,
and further degradation of India’s urban story. Cynics say nothing serious will happen to our cities, unless we have major institutional changes in municipal governance, the existing perverse incentive that rewards no performing will continue.
Without effective leadership all dreams and investments will have no meaning. Today people are aware to pay taxes, cities have various modes of revenues and all most all municipal bodies are in some form of good money to govern than twenty years ago. But unprofessional way of running the engines of growth is hampering cities doing innovation in managing cities. So we need major institutional reforms to ensure effective leadership in municipal governance. First, we need a mechanism that allows everyone the opportunity of becoming Mayor. Second, the relation between Mayors & Executives, Third, we need a system by which Mayors will able to choose their executives, Fourth, we need to groom professional managing cities.
First, In a country where the position of President, Prime Minister, Governor, Chief Minister etc are not reserved nor restricted to chose their executives and no differentiation in tenure but it is applicable in election of local government Mayors
. A Mayor term varies from one, two & half, five years; subject to reservation and has no power to choose their executives. The result we don’t see people like Ratan Tata, N.R.Murthy, Ajim Premji or Nandan Nilkeni etc like character as Mayors
but in Corporate governance in making Indian Business world class. So some says Indian business are world call but not its cities. This will continue
until unless we have an institutional change that allows everyone gets opportunity for contesting city’s top position, equal tenure and opportunity of choosing executives
. This will make electoral victory a cruse for everyone getting opportunity, instead of a particular segment. If such a law enacted, we may well see Indian Mayors as strong as their international counterpart with more visionary and decisive. This reform can truly transform the existing perverse incentives to good governance.
Second, the administrative head of the municipal bodies in the cities are normally an officer of all India or state services with few years of experience appointed by state Governments. Technically in a democratic setup the Mayor should have edge over the state in choosing the executives
. These administrative heads are assisted by a skeletal staff drawn from the state services
with little exposure in urban management and city planning often run engines of growth. The execution of programmes follows principle of ‘Business as Usual’ leading to Rich Cities but Poor Governance
The relation between Mayor and Municipal Commissioner resembles that one is elected by people and another appointed by State Government resulting most often both are in hurry for short term goals, satisfying each one’s bosses at the higher level than visioning for future of city. Many often the latter one is self proclaimed leader of cities over the people’s representatives neither accountable to public nor system
, whereas people have the opportunity to account Mayor at least during elections. However, some tries to overcome these perverse incentives but they fails due to bad governance. In which they are uncertain of their future as Municipal Commissioners. Ultimately a good city suffers in between relation of two leaders, disallowing both Mayor & Municipal Commissioner to practice innovation in City Management on a uncertain tenure or rather future
Third, given an opportunity to Mayors choosing their officials amongst the professional or identified civil servants will encourage more competitiveness amongst cities for performance. Once this incentive system is in place, Mayors themselves will devise all sorts of speedy procedures for long term goals with short term actions, which become precedents and so are adopted by all. The power of choosing officials alone does not ensure cities performance. But it is the biggest missing ingredient in today’s competitive city management, where one performs another perishes. Every city mayor would like to have a competitive Municipal Commissioner as their City Manager in running the Indian Cities like Corporate but delivering social products benefiting common mans.
Fourth, currently professional urban management is worried of recognition in India, because no one gets the opportunity of managing cities. Most of the professionals expertise either used as consultant or in the second-third orders of services supporting executives in Municipal Governments
. Thus professionals prefer to work in private sector than entering municipal governance. If opportunity given, India do have large pool of professional ready to take off the challenge of managing cities. So Instead of using these processionals in lower orders, they need to be groomed for managing cities at higher levels with exposure to international & national best practices. This will further encourage students making Urban Management as their carrier like studying for management, engineering and medical sciences. Perhaps this will enable in coming decade India having professionals to manage cities like their global counterpart
One should not expect a veterinary doctor treating human patient nor human doctor to animal; even if they do reaction is unpredictable
It is essential that democracy be practiced at all levels of Government enabling good Mayors serving cities, the uniformity in tenure, allowing mayors choosing their Executives and encouraging professional for managing cities.
Finally we need to
overcome the syndrome of Rich Cities with Poor Governance by ensuring our cities are competitive and our Mayors are decisive in leading their cities
. Perhaps the future of India’s urbanization will be debated not as dreaming to reach Singapore, Hong Kong or New York but re inventing its own past glory of managing cities during Mohenjo-daro and Harappa (2500-1600 B.C.) era and ensuring within next decade some of its cities are part of the Heritage or Mercer or The Economist's Livable Cities.