Tag Archives: urban governance

Minimum Government, Maximum Governance in Urban India- Myth & Possibility

All governments, regardless of their political inclination will fail to deliver till they fix the administrative mechanisms that are meant to deliver on Government policies and plans. A rickety & flawed system will always beat a ‘Visionary’ or ‘well meaning’ (there have been more than one) and the Current PM is no exception. I had mentioned this in earlier blogs as well in an earlier blog. That the Prime Minister has turned out to be a great politician winning one electoral victory after the other is accompanied by what is a failure in Governance related to health, Security, Education, Municipal Management and of course Economics

The catchphrase Minimum Government, Maximum Governance sounded good but would have failed anyway.

India requires sustained, daily, repetitive ‘Maximum Administration and Maximum Governance’. The Prime Minister’s much repeated maxim is of no real use as Minimum Government and Minimum Governance is what we have lived with for years. The phrase ‘bhagwaan bharose’ is known to most Indians.

Look around you. Do feel the presence of the Government, Do you see public service utilities functioning, do you feel secure against lumpen elements, do you feel your grievances  are addressed in time, do you feel courts deliver justice quickly?

Do you feel help will come quickly if needed? Do you think you will get timely justice in courts?

If the answer to the above is No, then how will an absent Government be minimum and maximum at the same time?

We can of course trudge along like this as we have for the last 70 Years. But trudging along like this will not help much.

Prompt delivery of state services, public health, security and justice is not possible through a Minimum government in a diverse and a severely overpopulated country

Much of Minimum Governance is seen as keeping the inspector away.  There is excessive legislation, & rules and regulations which allow a small number of Government employees to exploit a vast population of powerless people. But the opposite of Inspector Raj is not abandonment Raj. A shortage of Courts and a lumbering Judicial Administration provide little succor to 1.30 Billion Indians at the receiving end of, socio economic disparity, bureaucratic apathy and a shortage of Public health services , education, prompt delivery of basic minimum civic amenities & security

Let us look at some figures

There is a shortage of 1400 IAS, & 900 IPS officers

There is a shortage of 5 Lakh Police Personnel

There is a shortage of 5 Lakh Doctors

2.8 Crore Cases are pending in District Courts even as a shortage of 5000 judicial officers

There is a collective shortage of 10 Lakh teachers in India

These are figures from the admissions made by the Government itself often in reply to questions in the parliament

The Number of MPs/MLAs & Municipal councillors as a percentage of the population is way less than what are required. For example U.K has one M.P to represent 93 Thousand people (in 2009) people while one M.P in India represents 20 Lakh people

These are all signs of Minimum Government & Minimum Governance. There is no maximum Government. It is a myth.

But the reason for this illusion is as follows; if you were to see 100 scattered people with sticks, and only 10 people with machine guns protected with battle gear and armored vehicles who would you notice more? The Government in India is not ‘Maximum’, but a small number of peons, clerks and officers protected by an Armed State have an overwhelming and unaccountable power over the people. And their transgressions are virtually un-punishable.

The Indian state is distant from the people, aloof and its officers maintain a barrier from coming into contact with society. This comes from a colonial tradition of the white sahib maintaining a distance from the natives. The State appears at the time of mass distress with doles and rescue operations or through state violence in times of mass upheavals.

The Indian State is not Hobbes’s Leviathan; it is an occasional bully and a careless protector

Which is why, we are faced with an utter crisis of governance.

Every Indian today seeks a reassurance from the Government on Security, equality before law, Justice Clean Environment, Health care and education. Yet the Government is trying to achieve all this through awareness programmes and appeal to the good sense of people. It just won’t work. There is no evidence for it.

India is diverse, with multitudes of poor people often separated by ethnicity, religion, caste, language, dialects and many more subdivisions which are not replicated in any other region of the world

A chaotic, emotional and often undisciplined people steeped in superstition and tradition is unlikely to self regulate themselves into a law abiding society. It simply will not happen.

We are a rapidly overpopulating nation. More than one Crore (10 Million) lives are added to the country through births alone. A meager Government cannot achieve Maximum Governance.

If indeed the Prime Minister wants to achieve Minimum Government, Maximum Governance, without increasing the size of the higher bureaucracy/ other Government employment, he will have to figure out

  1. How the Government will structure the role of non Government entities in such a manner that a decentralized model of urban local self governance can be created.
  2. How the Government’s General Financial Rules (GFRs) which are a compilation of rules and orders of Government of India to be observed by all Departments and Organisations under the Government and figure out how to involve Resident welfare Associations and other civil society Organisations in the urban governance.
  3. How to reduce direct taxation and promote municipal service providing through non Government entities.

Not everybody wants to participate regularly in the local Governance process. An overwhelming majority of people want to pay their taxes and go about their lives. A small minority, There about 100-150 active community members in any Municipal ward (60K Voters) who are keenly interested in participating in the affairs of their ward. The Government should consider tapping into this energy.

 

To understand this better, take a look at the New Urban Agenda formally adopted on 20th October 2016 at Quito in Ecuador

 

 

Guiding Principles

 

Actions

 

Leave no one behind, ensure urban equity and eradicate poverty

 

Providing equitable access for all, to physical and social infrastructure – Adequate housing and shelter at the center of the agenda – Public spaces as an enabler of socio-economic function of the city • Recognizing and leveraging culture, diversity and safety in cities • Enabling and strengthening participation and enhancing live ability and quality of life
Achieve sustainable and inclusive urban prosperity and opportunities for all

 

Enhancing agglomeration benefits of urbanization and avoiding land speculation, • Fair and equitable employment creation, productivity, competitiveness, diversification and • Innovation through a sustainable economic development
Foster ecological and resilient cities and human settlements

 

Driving sustainable patterns of consumption and production, • Protecting and valuing ecosystems and biodiversity, and • Adapting to and mitigating the impact of climate change while increasing urban systems resilience to physical, economic, and social shocks and stresses

 

 

At first glance, it would be apparent to the reader that the current Governance Mechanism cannot achieve even one of the aforementioned goals.

 

If at all the idea of Minimum Government and Maximum governance has to succeed the Government will have to re-design urban governance.

At this point the Government of India or State Governments are unwilling to change.  Though the 74th Constitutional amendment mandates it for Urban Governance and India is a part of UNCHS- Habitat 2000, and Now that India has been elected President of UN- Habitat, it is time for some quick moves towards ensuring Maximum governance. The Political System as well as the Bureaucracy has been impervious to change insofar as exercising adequate imagination to address the urban crisis. Time is short and the Political Class and the Bureaucracy will be left with declining options.

 

*The ideas on re- imagining urban communities for Good Governance will follow in another article

 

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , ,

URJA Editorial March 2017

The Municipal elections are due soon. Once again, after 5 years the task of electing the 272 municipal councillors will take place. The councillors represent the public of Delhi to the Municipal corporation in local issues such as parks, garbage and solid municipal waste management, internal roads, StreetSide hawking, Primary health care & education, and parking as well as sanction of building plans

The Municipal Corporators form the bed rock of representative democracy in the city and it can be easily said that the status of a municipal ward is significantly impacted by the Municipal councillor. Over the years much has been said about corruption etc., yet at the local level corruption does not seem to matter much. Corruption is very much a daily part of life in India and citizens themselves are participants in it in varying degree thereby making it a less important issue as compared to getting the Municipal Officers to work.

The public is concerned with efficiency and delivery of services and how they can go about their lives and pay their taxes, educate their children, and earn a living without broken roads and footpaths, overflowing garbage, inadequate lighting, dirty parks, the annual scourge of dengue and chikungunya and other such local issues which no political party has been able to resolve and get the officers in the various departments to deliver.

There is no data available with the public that can verify to it if any promises made by all political parties were fulfilled even minimally. However, RWAs have long memories and remember the promises made by parties in their last manifesto.

URJA has written to the election commission more than once that;

‘To begin with, we urge you to consider adding a column where a candidate who contests an election more than once, files an affidavit with the commission declaring the extent to which the promises made by him through his party manifesto in the past were fulfilled and provide ‘sufficient’ and ‘verifiable’ data to the commission to buttress his claim.’

So far, the election commission has not acted on our request but we shall continue to push for this.

We also have data* through RTI which shows us clearly that the questions raised by Municipal councillors in the house were very often not about the local grievances recorded by the Municipal corporations

The RWAs must make it a point to be more aware of facts and data and should duly bring it up with the councillors as well as candidates

The practice of carrying forward LAD funds from one year to the next and adding cumulatively has been used to deprive citizens of tax payer’s money allocated for regular use. We hope the voter will question this practice

The sudden spate of internal road work, multi Gym and park development that is taking place close to elections begs the question. What were the officers in the Govt. departments doing for the whole year? Why were citizens and voters deprived of these facilities throughout the year? How is the coming monsoon going to different for mosquito breeding? How can we ensure Government officers do their job?

At this point, most RWA as well as citizens are left wondering; what are permanently commissioned officers in pensionable jobs doing in their offices?

 

* Source- Praja.org

Tagged , , , ,

URJA Editorial February 2017

Focus on Implementing Policies rather than creating new ones

The Master Plan, MPD 2021 for Delhi projects a population of 23 Million (2.3 Crores) inhabitants by 2021. The World Health organisation(WHO) estimates Delhi having already reached a population of 25 Million. This is more than a 100% increase or more than double the population of Delhi in 1990.

As per 2011 Census of Government. Of India, Delhi Population stood at 17 Million (1.7 Crores) in 2011

The Area of Delhi is static at 1483Sq. Km.

The Population density, one of the highest in the world is at about 12,000 /Sq. Km

With East Delhi reaching 30,000/Sq. Km

These are humungous figures whichever source one chooses to believe and are straining the public services on roads, public land, health services, air and water quality, waste disposal, and education to their current limits. We have been unable to shore up municipal revenue, unable to deal with mismanagement of parking, footpaths, road hawking, encroachment on public land and other such challenges of the urban crisis in Delhi.

The Master plan for Delhi and many other policies made by the authorities such as Transit Oriented Development, Parking Management & Pricing policies created by UTTIPEC exist and it is not for us to quibble with them unnecessarily as these are policies made after much deliberation between experts, political executive and officers and are aligned with international best practices as well.

 However, it is evident that the optimum implementation and delivery of these policies has failed. The government does not have the wherewithal, even if it has the intention, to deliver

There is a lack of seriousness and reticence in implementing policies which are in place. The absence of the Government of Delhi from implementation and enforcement is creating serious problems for the city. Failure of implementation is being read as failure of policy itself

  1. The general belief of an inefficient bureaucracy is getting increasingly solidified
  2. The writ of the ‘State’ is being eroded leading to public indiscipline
  3. A natural disaster in Delhi can have terrifying implications

The problem is serious and ignoring such issues have implications of a ‘tipping point’ phenomenon where unbeknownst to us a series of consequences suddenly manifest at the same time leading to an unmanageable situation. We urge the GNCTD as well as the Central Government. to be mindful of this.

URJA has for long advocated a process driven Structured Consultation Mechanism which includes the Local Elected Representative, The Civic Authorities & The RWA. While it is true that local politicians do separately and privately consult their party workers, and a few RWA, there is no process for a structured consultation mechanism. We also advocate training for citizens as well as school going children in disaster response as well as training & protocol to help accident victims

The word ‘consultation’ need not scare the elected representatives and the government. We are clear that the ‘decision’ must be taken by those statutorily empowered or obliged to. Administrative decisions must be taken, only by the Government.  However, a structured process of communication and conversation is a very important tool in keeping a transparent & official record of community inputs. A well-structured and recordable consultation and participation process allows for a sense of community responsibility and ownership of civic works, and reduces resistance that often stems from an inbuilt suspicion of the officialdom & political class. The recent agitation by the traders of Connaught Place on the Vehicle Free Plan of NDMC could easily have been avoided had the Council followed a proper & transparent consultation.

This is not some newfangled idea. Structured and recordable consultative processes are practiced in Europe and the United States as well as African countries. These models are available and have worked for long. The 74th Constitutional amendment also speaks of them in its letter and spirit. For some reason our Governments have kept Delhi’s citizen away from the benefits and ease of governance that naturally follows from such mechanisms.

URJA hopes that the time and the atmosphere is right for our Lt. Governor and our Chief Minister to take note and act on this.

Tagged , , ,

URJA Editorial January 2017

We wish you a very happy & prosperous new year.
Many older citizen’s reminiscence with nostalgia the glorious days of the full UT of Delhi. Unfortunately, such memories serve no useful purpose. Delhi is a mixed bag that can either become a fine example of how National Capital territory ought to be Governed or it can slide into become becoming an example of how a city can be destroyed.
We are inclined however, to see the glass as half full. At the level of local neighbourhoods, Resident Welfare Associations(RWA), Market Trader Associations(MTA), Citizens’ collectives and several other community groups start the day with much enthusiasm.

There is something about voluntary groups that has a unique energy.
We observe that political change at the helm of Urban administration in big cities has not had much impact in changing the quality of Governance and most citizens have reluctantly come to accept the fact that the enforcement of the rule of law, effective implementation of policies and rules are somewhat alien to our model of Governance and officials will leave people to their own devices till a crisis erupts. The role of the RWA and community groups therefore becomes paramount in such a situation.
Resident welfare Associations remain the most effective and viable bridge between residents and the political representative/ the bureaucracy. For the last decade URJA and our RWA network has demanded laws to regulate as well as empower the RWA to ensure better delivery of services and redressing grievances.
URJA has connected experts and welfare associations and bought them together to address the disconnect between expert formulations and the reality at the electoral booth level. This has been a very useful experience. Our programmes on connecting premier research organisations and think tanks with RWA and local Politicians across Delhi has helped us understand the fault lines and imagine solutions. Urban Planning, Traffic Management, Air Pollution, water harvesting and recycling, Solar Power and Data analysis are disciplines where we have assisted as well as connected institutions with the RWA and Citizens Collectives.
URJA has been asking for a process of a structured, recordable, and regular consultation mechanism to streamline last mile governance. The Ward Committee comprising of the RWA, MTA, Political representatives and officers is an effective first step that should be taken in this direction. Ward committee in each Municipal ward is a sure shot way of immediate transparency and accountability in local administration. The Political class is wary of such initiatives but we are convinced that this must be done and political parties in Delhi must come around and accept it
The National Capital Territory of Delhi has a new Lt Governor. He comes with a lot of administrative experience and knowledge of Delhi. It is hoped that the New Lt. governor as well as the incumbent Chief Minister will work together to tackle urgent and impending issues. URJA will extend its cooperation wherever needed through our members spread across the 272 Municipal wards in Delhi.
We urge the residents of Delhi to involve themselves more proactively in the health of their neighbourhood. If you have a complaint with civic services immediately complain in writing to the concerned department. This is very important. Do involve yourself with your RWA and other social groups to help tackle problems of parking inside colonies, step out and chat with your neighbour, prevent burning of waste and push for segregating and composting, Help and support the young with sports and free play in neighbourhood parks, support community solar power projects and refrain from patronizing illegal commercial enterprises.
For those who want to extend themselves for their neighbourhood there is never a dull moment.
May 2017 bring you Joy.

Tagged , , , ,

Governance in Delhi requires an urban lexicon

The other day I was struck by a news item about a Member of Parliament in Delhi suggesting that Resident Welfare Association (RWA) can work with him through a RWA ‘chaupal’

Why use the word chaupal, which means a meeting place in a village. Delhi is not a village.  It’s not the M.P in question alone, other urban organisations too opt for such expressions; often using words like panchayat for meetings or gatherings which are purely urban community affairs. Take the word mohalla sabha – which has come to be the phrase being used for meetings held by MLAs in their constituencies, it suffers from similar deficiencies owing to the impression they create.

Examine the verbiage in an FIR used by the Police. The Persian words, Moharrir, insdaad jarayam, deeda danishta, aarinda, translated as the following: records in charge, prevention of crime, knowingly, reporting person respectively, make an FIR seem like a parchment from a medieval Iranian alley. Surprisingly, the Police training school still instructs the common beat constable in these words. There is no other way he could have acquired this vocabulary. I tried to find Persian – English translations for the 130 odd words the police use in their FIRs only to find the mystery deepen.  I have learnt that a lawyer has now filed a PIL questioning the use of such words in the high court of Delhi.

A FIR (First Information report) should be intelligible, relevant and contextual for the citizen. We are a country of diverse languages and it is very important that the language used for basic urban governance, assists in the complete understanding of a situation rather than impede.

The other terms to junk are Camp, and Junta durbar

It is unthinkable that the Capital of one of the largest economies in the world organizes property tax camps or police grievance camps. The idea that a Government department needs to compensate for its lack of accessibility by categorizing the citizen as a refugee or a prisoner of war or some variant of a destitute is inappropriate in what is meant to be a genuine outreach programme. Using the word durbar for handling public grievances in a republic is avoidable

Once again it is not something the department does deliberately. It is a colonial term that we continue to use. These terms inadvertently reinforce how the leadership and the Government view the voter. Worse, this communication ensues, back and forth thereby solidifying an idea that is both unworkable and unwelcome in a modern city

Delhi is burgeoning with migrants who have left their villages because the politics there dissuades modernization. This city is brimming with a young population that is not looking for a chaupal or panchayat. It wants to be a part of something different from what a mohalla signifies and it certainly does not want the urban marketplace to look like a village haat. It wants a responsive police which registers her complaint in an intelligible format.

Delhi may be classified as urban but it is not urbane. Delhi is a megalopolis and there is a need to evoke a sense of urban usage of space, time and mobility which is recognizably different from a village or small town.

We require a fresh prototype for dealing with the load on civic infrastructure. The use of an urban dictionary for identifying public spaces, mobility, architecture, and social communication can be a beginning. There is a need to contemporize and consciously work towards change, rather than expect a purely organic evolution which will not serve the ends of modern governance.

Cities, unlike villages, have to develop models that can allow strangers to go about their business depending upon systems that do not require a friend. Rural verbiage seeks to suggest an altogether different construct that is unviable for a sustainable city.

Generation after generation we are only acting out of what has become a habit in our cities, to somehow romanticize urban governance by using simplistic rural terms.

I absolutely support the idea of RWA interacting with the elected representatives. As a matter of fact the erstwhile undivided Municipal Corporation of Delhi had initiated a scheme called Resident ward committee (R.W.C). The scheme failed precisely because of the rural mindset of the Municipal councilors who see themselves as feudal gram pradhans and the Municipal ward as a village.

Delhi has many villages which influence its politics. The demographics have changed with migrants renting houses and population within urban villages and unauthorized colonies has grown manifold. Delhi’s politics has been & will continue to be deeply influenced by this voter. It is therefore even more important that communication related to governance depicts modernity & equality by helping to foster an atmosphere that promotes thinking for the future. Rural terminology, I’m afraid, will not help at all.

This is all the more important because, the idea that Delhi can be a collection of chaupals, mohallas, panchayats locally, but collectively metamorphose into a modern city, is romantic but irrational.

If urban dwellers were so taken up by rural imagery they would migrate to a village.

I am not speaking about exclusively using Hindi or English or Urdu; I know that language can be easily politicized and a gullible public totally misled into questioning the motives of policy makers instead of questioning the urban disarray the citizen lives in. It would be intelligent that urban civic vocabulary relies on common parlance.

It is not my view that these chaupals or panchayats, mohalla sabha, or haats should be given English names, or the Persian names turned into pure Hindi or Sanskrit.  I would suggest nomenclature that reflects an urban character to effectively communicate what is relevant and useful insofar as government schemes and public work is concerned. Private projects can be named after sub Saharan Africa or Luxembourg

As an example the mohalla sabhas in Delhi could preferably have been called   nagrik sabha. The first evokes a sense of medieval insularity the latter perhaps signifies something more urban. Instead of RWA Chaupal it could be a RWA Baithak or RWA Committee or RWA Samiti

I am not making the point that that only changing the language helps. However, in the development and expression of ideas, language and imagery play a vital role. It is of strategic importance for us to draft new words through which we can communicate effectively among ourselves towards building a modern city.

Ashutosh Dikshit- August 2015

 

Tagged , , , , , ,