In a recent article on Terraurban, you read the debate of Urban and Rural Poverty at Urban poverty: its challenges and characteristics. With decentralisation celebrating a ‘two decade anniversary’, another interesting perspective is seen in this article on Mint: Panchayati raj: Failing the urbanization test, citing example of how inadequate are the present day municipalities and corporations, that a village under the Panchayati Raj system dreads being its upgradation to a small town and thereby being under the jurisdiction of the nagar panchayat or a municipality.
Reasons given are that corporations lead to a forego of participation and autonomy of the community, corporations are difficult to deal with, corruption and bribes are synonyms with corporations, panchayat leader is more empowered to take uplifting activities and projects in the community and panchayati raj system gives a direct interface with its people that completely lack in the urban setup. Municipal corporations/municipalities/ nagar panchayats find themselves ill-equipped to deal with the pressures of urbanisation that comes with economic growth. They find that the main weakness of the decentralised urban bodies is that we don’t work on the ‘mayor system’.
As quoted in the article, a resident of a newly formed ‘nagar panchayat’ is quick to say: “It was better when we were part of the panchayat than the corporation,” Raja complains. “We had direct access to the centre of power who got things done. Now, our taxes are doubled and when we take our complaints to the councillor, he says he has no power to do anything.”
And on the other hand, one of the people’s representative- a councillor is also quoted saying: “People want quick solutions to their problems. In a corporation ward, to lay drainage, I have to get clearances from six people before this gets to the mayor for his approval,” he says. As a panchayat president—for three terms between 1996 and 2011—“I could sanction projects. I had the autonomy to make my own decisions. Development was faster. Depending on the funds available we would concentrate on one thing and execute it”
Reality of the situation is that India is urbanising and the governance has to catch up!!