Mismanaged Municipalities and Dreary Cities

Voting and governance seem like two disconnected functions, auguring a bleak picture for cities.

Indian municipalities face crisis in the form of mismanagement of human resources.  A severe shortage of skilled labor at all levels has resulted in delivery of poor quality infrastructure and services. The mayor of a typical Indian city must learn effective methods of crisis management and good governance. The administrative machinery in majority of city corporations in India has failed to address problems ranging from quality road development, to serious issues like  human trafficking, slum dwellers, destitutes, beggars and child labour in an effective manner. There is an urgent need for reforms in every direction.

Garbage remains stagnant on the streets for number of days and creates an unbearable stench. The open drains running across the city emanate foul smell and cause health hazards to the citizens.  Cleanliness and hygiene are not given due importance by the municipal corporations. The situation of the streets during rainy season is a nightmare for vehicle users. Storm water drains overflow during heavy rains and flood the streets. During monsoons, low-lying areas are flooded causing inconvenience to the public. All these facts reflect the administrative inefficiency and sloth present in the city corporations.

In addition to the above evidently ignored public inconveniences, financial scams seem to occur regularly in the municipal corporations. When the Kataria Committee probed the financial irregularities in BBMP during the period 2007-2015, the report estimated the amount involved in the various scams to be around INR 4,000 Crore. The apparent scam involved a loss of INR 2000 crores for the BBMP (Bangalore). The recent double payment swindle totalling over INR 21.42 crores has clearly exposed the unholy nexus between the officials of BBMP and the vested interests.

The combination of indifferent attitude on the part of citizens and inadequate governance on the part of Municipal Corporation is responsible for sluggishness in various cities. Irregular audits have resulted in lack of accountability. The Comptroller and Auditor General audit for the year 2012-2013 exposed these irregularities. It is also seen that disparity exists in allocation of funds by the city corporations to develop various wards.

Infact, such financial irregularities are particularly marked in case of public amenities. The condition of majority of roads continues to be pathetic. Potholes on the city roads have not been filled. They are a constant source of danger to vehicle users. Road repair works carried throughout the year by the corporation inconveniences the vehicle users. The corporation collects huge amounts from the citizens as property tax every year. It is evident that the tax amount collected is not used effectively for providing better public amenities.

Citizens of the city are partly responsible for the sorry state of affairs. One of the significant reasons may be that a majority of the citizens do not exercise their right to vote. (Only 45 percent of the citizens of Bangalore voted in the local body elections, in 2015). When grievances about apathy, indifference and lack of concern are not addressed properly by a majority of elected representatives, these turn into a series of blame games. Perhaps it is time the citizens make good use of their voting rights, and took charge of their neighbourhoods, as the first step.

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