Cut cities free

India’s urban nightmare can be ended with legislative changes and capacity building
Times of India – US secretary of state John Kerry is unlikely to forget his visit to New Delhi in a hurry. Not once but twice his meticulously planned trip was derailed by routine monsoon showers, leading him to humorously quip [2, 3] to his IIT Delhi (Indian Institute of Technology Delhi) audience, “I don’t know if you came here in boats.”

It is almost 25 years since the 74th constitutional amendment mandated setting up of municipalities as institutions of self-government. But the spirit underpinning the amendment has been ignored by states even as they ask for decentralization and more powers from the Center. Thus India’s economic dynamos Chennai [2, 3], Mumbai [2, 3, 4], Delhi [2, 3, 4], Bengaluru [2] and Hyderabad [2, 3] have all been crippled by poor or non-existent urban infrastructure.

Urban governance reforms must be based on the principle of accountability. It is time to narrow accountability to a single office such as an elected mayor, as successful cities across the world do. The mayor should be the executive head of a city, equipped with sufficient legal powers and financial resources to get things done.

Unless both Centre and states can find the political will to carry out urban governance reforms, talk about smart cities or Swachh Bharat [2] will remain just idle chatter. more> http://goo.gl/xR9bDt

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