India's "smart city" managers have little or no experience in urban affairs, lack technical competencies: Report

Mumbai
By Our Representative
Coming down heavily on the way Indian cities are managed, a new report has said that not only are they bogged with a huge staff vacancy – on an average 35% in the 23 metropolitan centres surveyed – what is worse, those who are responsible for running them, such as municipal commissioners, have little or no experience in urban management.
Pointing out that the “highest vacancy” found in Guwahati, the report, prepared by a Bengaluru-based high-profile NGO, Janaagraha, regrets, “None of the cities has cadre and recruitment rules that contain modern job descriptions covering both technical skills and managerial competencies for each role or position in the municipality.”
Called “The Annual Survey of India’s City-Systems (ASICS) 2017: Shaping India’s urban agenda”, the report, around the time when the Government of India is seeking to push the implementation of its Smart City projects,  states, “Commissioners of cities do not possess adequate domain experience in urban management constraining their ability to deliver strongly”, adding, “On average, commissioners only have 2.7 years of experience in urban management.”
Bengaluru
Worse, the report says, “Medium-sized cities have commissioners with 1.2 years of urban management experience, whereas large and mega cities have commissioners with 2.9 and 4.1 years respectively”, adding, “Commissioners in Ludhiana, Guwahati, Dehradun, Kanpur, Ranchi, Thiruvananthapuram and Chandigarh have less than a year’s experience in urban management.”
According to the report, “While it is true that 15 out of the 23 cities have access to a municipal cadre, the underlying rules are quite weak.” As against “robust and modern HR policies, municipalities lack normative standards for job roles, and clearly defined job descriptions covering both technical skills and managerial competencies.
Pointing out that mayors and councils in India’s cities are “toothless”. The report states, “They don’t have full decision-making authority over critical functions and services such as planning, housing, water, environment, fire and emergency services etc.”
Chennai
“Mayors and councils also cannot hire and fire their own management teams, severely constraining their ability to exact accountability for performance from city officials. They have limited say when it comes to investing or borrowing monies or finalising budgets”, the report says.
The report underlines, “Only four cities assessed can borrow without the sanction of state governments (with a debt-limitation policy), of which one is a medium sized city and three are large cities. Only seven cities can invest without prior state government approval, of which three are large cities and four are mega cities.”
“Only 11 out of 23 have full independence in budget-setting”, the report notes, adding, “Of these 11, one is a medium sized city, six are large cities and four are mega cities. All of the above have resulted in the municipality becoming a glorified service provider, far from a local self-government or a city government.”
The report regrets, “Parastatal agencies like the development authorities (which cover planning), water authorities or boards (that cover water and sewerage), transport corporations (that cover bus transport) report directly to state governments and to different departments/ministers within it.”
Pointing out that lack of transparency is the hallmark of Indian cities, the report says, “We find that 19 of the 23 Indian cities assessed are neither mandated to nor release basic yet important data sets in an open data format.”
Based on its analysis, the report gives Pune highest marks, 5.1 on a scale of 10, followed by Kolkata, Thiruvananthapuram, Bhubaneswar and Surat. Delhi ranks sixth, followed Ahmedabad and Hyderabad, while Bengaluru is ranked worse (3 out of 10). Even Bhopal, Jaipur and Patna rank higher.
However, according the report, out cities are “improving at a snail’s pace”, and their score between 3.0 and 5.1 is comparable with London and New York, which score 8.8, Johannesburg 7.6.

Comments

Uma Sheth said…
Not at all surprising. The babus only collect pay, which is from our money--with few exceptions--and the politicians who know even less, bully the ones who like to do something. A commissioner in Maharashtra might be suspended because he filed a FIR against a MLC for defaulting on loan payment without permission of the government!!!!