Worrying slip in B'luru rankings

At a time when Bengaluru is attracting global attention, it is a matter of serious concern that in terms of managing its affairs and improving liveability for the citizens, the city is regressing rather than showing improvement. In the third Annual Survey of India’s City-Systems (ASICS) conducted by Janagraha Centre for Citizenship and Democracy, covering 21 big and medium cities, Bengaluru has slipped four places from 12th to 16th ranking in 2016, compared to the previous year. Thiruvananthapuram retained the first place while Pune emerged second and Kolkata took the third place. The drop in the ranking of Bengaluru is said to be on account of improvement in the scores of smaller cities such as Bhubaneswar, Ahmedabad, Raipur and Ranchi. The survey, for whatever reason, “does not focus on dysfunctional aspects of Indian cities” such as 24/7 water supply, overstretched infrastructure and slum settlements, but only highlights the flawed systems, processes, policies and legislations.The cities were ranked on a scale of 0-10 and the average score of Indian cities was found to be between 2.1 and 4.4 as against the global benchmark of two international cities, London at 9.3 and New York at 9.8.

Aggrieved cities can justly complain that the survey is more like comparing apples and oranges as it does not take into consideration wide disparity in the sizes of population and levels of development. How can the challenges facing Thiruvananthapuram with a population of seven lakh, which is ranked first, be compared with Bengaluru, which is spread over 850 sq km with a population of more than one crore? And is it right to place less developed cities like Kanpur, Patna or Lucknow on a higher pedestal than Bengaluru or Mumbai? But, the real focus of the survey is on issues of governance, urban planning, resourcing, accountability and people’s participation, which are generally poor in Indian cities and more so in the metros.

Just a month ago, Bengaluru had a reason to cheer as it had beaten Shanghai and the Silicon Valley of the US to emerge as the world’s most dynamic city in terms of a number of ingredients such as use of technology, innovation, GDP growth, real estate development, hosting of corporate headquarters and so on. But, as the ASICS survey points out, there are “deep systemic flaws” in urban governance across Indian cities as the city corporations struggle to provide decent levels of civic amenities, safety, cleanliness, commute and clean air to nearly 400 million people. They are run by bureaucrats with limited powers and short tenures and with plans being mostly on paper. These growing cities cannot improve unless there is political will to implement provisions of the 74th amendment to the
Constitution and to introduce transparency at all levels.

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