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Bengaluru at near bottom in city governance ranking

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From scoring zero on 10 on two parameters and over five on just one, Bengaluru's governance ranking in the Annual Survey of India City-Systems (ASICS) 2015 reflects poor performance. In a list of 21 cities, Bengaluru figures at number 12. The ranking though is an improvement over 2014's performance (18).

The annual study conducted by the Janaagraha Centre for Citizenship and Democracy has given average scores of 2-4.2 to all cities, as against the global benchmarks of London and New York, which have scored 9.4 and 9.7, respectively.

India's IT capital, which has worse rankings compared to cities like Patna (11), Lucknow (10), Kanpur (9), Bhopal (5) and Pune (4), is behind many other cities in "making optimum use of IT," scoring less than four out of 10 on that count.

"It's not surprising to see Bengaluru in the double-digit bracket. With several unresolved issues plaguing citizens, it's only natural that the ranking is low. There needs to be a focussed effort on solving issues pertaining to transport, garbage infrastructure and so on," said urban expert V Ravichandar.

- - - According to the study, 10 agencies collectively responsible for Bengaluru's governance have received 53,762 complaints from citizens -- with traffic police and BBMP accounting for 48,140 of them (see table). Bengaluru scored a meagre 3.9 when it came to addressing public complaints. "A robust mechanism for citizens to air their grievances and seek redressal is a necessary component of a healthy urban democracy," the study points.

For the full text of the report (emphasis added by me) in the ToI, click here.

The following excerpts from the ToI editorial on the subject (for the full text, click here), bring out some important points:

Indian cities perform poorly because our urban governance interventions largely focus on symptoms like potholed roads, lack of 24×7 water or power and not the underlying systemic problems like flawed “legislations, policies, processes and practices that lie at the root of these issues“. - - - Most cities give elected representatives only a peripheral role in urban governance, have weak finances and don’t have evaluation mechanisms for their municipal plans - - - In Jaipur, a mayor or a councillor draws a lower salary than clerks, drivers, peons or sweepers. Cities are India’s future. It is time to fix their systemic problems with long-term vision and by devolving more powers to them.

In fact, the B S Patil committee on BBMP restructuring, of which Mr Ravichandar was a member, had made excellent recommendations (check here), which had addressed many of these issues too. Unfortunately, it doesn't appear to have drawn the attention of the powers that be.

Now, traffic police heading the complaints list is perhaps explained by the fact that most senior officials in the department have been accessible over social media from long, and they have been fairly responsive too. As compared to that, very few of the other department officials are on social media, and even the ones who are there, are hardly responsive.

Bengaluru, the home of Janaagraha, has perehaps the most vibrant Civil Society, whose effective engagement can make for the difference. It's a pity that the powers that be can't see that, leaving us at the bottom of the list in matters of governance.

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