The previous government through Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission (JnNURM) aimed at the reforms-linked financing as an incentive for urban development of cities at two levels; one to start a city development plan (CDP) and the second was to encourage the implementation of the 74th Constitutional Amendment (74th CAA). While JnNURM brought the urban conundrum to the development discourse of the country, it also proved that mere sanction of money to the states by not strengthening the ULB didn’t yield much in the long run. As a new government takes over, the questions of what the urban strategy is going to be is still open to interpretation.
The new political dispensation through various communications has highlighted the idea of ‘SMART’ cities. Whether existing cities will be made SMART, or new SMART cities will be created is yet to be known. It is however, pertinent to ask, can the superstructure of a world class city be based only on data, smartness, big highways, high rises with no thought being given to the fundamentals of governance of our cities? India’s experience with smart cities has largely been that of ‘Greenfield’ cities like the knowledge cities of Mohali Knowledge Hub, technology cities such as HITEC city (near Hyderabad), eco-cities like Lavasa and IT hubs.
Experiences of urbanisation in these cities along with a relook at the 74th CAA is essential to the narrative on new urbanisation strategy. As the Census 2011 reveals, growth will happen in existing urban areas along with smaller cities, which in the last decade has grown at a rather impressive speed. These urban areas will have to function within the ambits of a strong governance framework as enshrined within the 74th CAA albeit with its limitations which need more elaboration.
This article argues that the urbanisation strategy for the next decade is contingent on reforms within the local governments. That the bypassing of local governments, in particular the 74th CAA because of the urgency to respond to challenges of urbanisation, which validate shortcuts to urban laws and regulations to speed up urbanisation will leave the urban areas further distressed. However, the 74th CAA itself is not a panacea for all problems. The Act itself needs review and the subsequent sections point out the structural and functional deficits within the 74th CAA. It then discusses the concept of the SMART cities providing examples of such experiments throughout the country before summarising the moot points of the article.
Article 243- R of the 74th CAA provides that the legislature of a state may, by law, provide the manner of election of the Chairperson of a municipality. The Chairperson’s role and functions, however, have not been clearly defined. While there is no reference to the Mayor of a big city in the Constitution, ‘Chairperson’ is clearly a generic term, and should be deemed to include the Mayor. The Mayor/Chairperson’s position is at deficit on many grounds. First, is the structural deficit regarding election and tenure of the Mayor/Chairperson in urban areas. While the term of the corporation is a fixed five year, the tenure and mode of election of Mayors/Chairpersons in India varies. Table 1 provides the term and mode of election of Mayors in some select states in India. Taking India’s four biggest cities as examples, we find disparities all through. Chennai’s Mayor is directly elected for five years while all other cities viz. Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Bengaluru have indirect mayoral elections. The tenure of Kolkata’s mayor is five years, while Bengaluru and Delhi elect Mayors for one year. Mumbai has a term of two and a half years for its Mayor.
|S. No||State||Mode of Election||Term|
|4||Gujarat||Indirect||Two and a half year|
|5||Himachal Pradesh*||Indirect||Two and a half year|
|7||Maharashtra||Indirect||Two and a half year|
|15||West Bengal||Indirect||Five years|
|16||Andhra Pradesh||Indirect||Five years|
|20||Madhya Pradesh||Direct||Five years|
|22||Tamil Nadu||Direct||Five years|
|23||Uttar Pradesh||Direct||Five years|
*Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh amended the Acts to make way for direct election of mayor with 5 year terms. This was however amended to go back to the previous status of election.
A related structural issue is that of the reservation and delimitation of urban local bodies. The Lok Sabha and the State Assemblies have a provision for reservation for the Schedule Castes (SCs) and Schedule Tribes (STs) as mandated by Article 330 and 332 (Part XVI) of the Constitution. This reservation and delimitation of the state and national assemblies is done by the Delimitation Commission of India (last appointed in 2002 which used Census 2001 numbers). While the delimitation and reservation for the national and state assemblies is clear, the local bodies have to make vertical reservation for SC, STs and Backward Classes (BCs) and horizontal reservation for women. This becomes complex for three reasons; one that while Census gives us the authoritative numbers for SC/ST population, these figures aren’t available for determining the BCs population. Various states hence employ different methods to determine the size of the BCs population (In Hyderabad for example, an oral survey was carried out to determine the size of the backward classes). The second related problem is reservations for women within the existing fragmented reservation matrix where wards and Mayor/Chairman’s position is to be reserved for women and then within women for SCs, STs and BCs is frequently litigated due to the cumbersome and opaque process of preparation of this roster. The third problem is that of delimitation in the urban local bodies which in some states like Maharashtra and Gujarat is done by the State Election Commission (SEC),, while in other states like Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, is left at the discretion of the State Government. On all these grounds, there has been immense litigation and resultant delay in polls. For instance, the elections to the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagar Palike (BBMP) were delayed for three years and the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) for almost five years because the state governments didn’t provide the SEC with updated roster of delimited boundaries along with the reservation rosters.
Given the vacuum within which the functional domain operates, it is no surprise that the development authorities in India have taken the role of de-facto planning and implementing agency in India. As a study undertaken by the Centre for Policy Research (CPR) showed, that the planning and zoning of urban land, execution of large public purpose projects have been kept out of the purview of the local bodies and within the domain of unelected development authorities which is usually headed by the Chief Minister of the State. Given the same domain within which both, the Development Authorities and the Municipalities operate, friction amongst the two is bound to arise. Though studies have been few, in a paper assessing the relationship between Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (MMRDA) and the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM), authors notice that “MCGM and MMRDA, where they are expected to cooperate fail to do so. Given the extent of interdependencies, one would expect the two organisations to coordinate their functioning for the benefit of the citizens. Instead, political rivalries between the ruling parties at the state and local level play out and pose a hindrance to cooperation.” While understanding the reality of capacities and finances of the municipalities in India, it is pragmatic to allow for a development authority to work on the large regional perspective but this should be in consonance and not exclusion with the elected representatives of the urban local bodies.
In the Census 2011, Gujarat tops with 26 Industrial Townships in India which have been notified in various parts of the State. The industrial townships were built around the rationale to avoid issues of multiple taxation on industries such as “Tax & Octroi of Panchayats and Service charges of Corporation”. Envisioned to be a forum for local self-government of industrialists, the entire management of these cities is by a board of industrialists having their assets in the area along with nominated members of the government who are appointed in executive capacities. Until 2009, the Board of these industrial establishments had the Sarpanches of the Panchayats as members but were subsequently excluded through an amendment. This contagion of exclusion of elected representatives in industrial townships is not just restricted to Gujarat. Maharashtra through an amendment in May 2008 conferred several planning and regulation under the Maharashtra Regional Town Planning Act (MRTP) to the special planning authorities.
Similarly, the Andhra Pradesh Industrial Investment Corporation (APIIC) of the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh state has several Industrial Area Local Authorities (IALA) which are exercising similar policies of taxation and area management. These industrial townships make use of the proviso contained in Article 243Q which states that a “municipality may not be constituted in an urban area if it is specified as an industrial township where municipal services are provided by an industrial establishment”. This exception to the 74th CAA has been made use of as an escape route by not only the state governments but has been sanctified by the Union Government. The Commerce Ministry itself has encouraged state government to take advantage of the Proviso to Article 243Q and exempt SEZ from the purview of municipal bodies . It is hence important that the smart cities do not model them around the exceptions of 74th CAA but are modelled to strengthen the 74th CAA.