Tag Archives: Governance

Addressing Urban Poverty and Reformed Urban Governance- Delhi (28 March, 2014)

The Political Strength of urban population can’t be ignored. Urban voter’s percentage is  significantly high. According to Google India Survey 94% of urban voters would vote in 2014  Lok Sabha elections. In the upcoming Lok Sabha election 2014 urban poor will play a decisive role in shaping the destiny of any political party contesting in their constituency. According to the reports of Planning Commission of India, cities contribute about 63% of country’s GDP and  ironically one-third of population of an average city lives in slums. PRIA’s study (released on  15th October, 2013) also finds out that economic contribution of urban poor to GDPs of cities is  much higher than the usual perceptions. It is strange that in most cities though the voting  percentages of the urban poor sections is higher than the middle and the upper-middle classes,  unfortunately their issues and problems largely remain politically and administratively neglected.

In the light of upcoming Lok Sabha Election – 2014, Society for Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA) and Forum for Informal Urban Poor Workers (FIUPW) have collectively made an attempt to highlight the key issues of the urban informal workforce and raise some critical demands for their betterment in the form of an election manifesto. This is a sincere effort to put forth and highlight the community needs for the consideration of political parties with a request to include them in their respective election manifestos. All the recommendations in this document have been made after multilevel in-depth discussions and in close collaboration with the representatives and groups of informal workers.

In light of the above, PRIA and FIUPW is organizing ‘Urban Poverty and Reformed Urban Governance – National Campaign’ at ‘The Speaker Hall, Constitution Club of India’, New Delhi, on 28thMarch, 2013. The objective of the National Campaign is to present the manifesto to Political Parties contesting the Lok Sabha Election – 2014 and discuss their responses. Find the programme of the event below and the manifesto can be downloaded at: Manifesto
Programme Design 28th March (2)

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Governance of Electoral Democracy

by Dr. Rajesh Tandon, President PRIA

Global expansion of democracy has come to be associated with the ‘right to vote’ to elect the representatives who form the government every 4 or 5 years. Many countries around the world are now electoral democracies, though not necessarily substantive democracies.

India is the largest democracy in the world today, with nearly 800 million plus voters. The forthcoming parliamentary elections next month are thus making for an engaged ‘demos’ as they cast their votes. There are several important institutions involved in electoral democratic exercise, and the governance of such elections calls for an integrated view of the whole.

The Election Commission of India (ECI) is, of course, at the centre of this enormous exercise. It prepares authentic electoral rolls, ensures that electronic voting machines (EVMs) are functioning to ensure secrecy of each ballot cast. Most importantly, it has to ensure that conduct of elections is free and fair, implying that no coercion or undue influence has been exercised. Preventing fear of Naxal violence and criminal actions are its contemporary challenges; it is dealing with them by conducting elections in 3-5 phases in certain provinces (thereby spreading voting over a 5 week long period).

The second key institution is the political party; in India, there is a multiplicity of them, and some new entrants like AAP. Most political parties are ‘family businesses’, themselves lacking any democratic accountability. Political parties ‘select’ candidates on numerous considerations of winnability, thereby making anti-corruption slogans somewhat meaningless. More importantly, there is no law that makes political party functioning transparent and accountable in India; their funds are not even audited; they have rejected any suggestion that they are covered under ‘Right To Information’ Act.

Then there are candidates who contest elections. In India, a large number of candidates (mostly independents) contest in most constituencies. The candidates have to mobilise their own resources, volunteers and campaigns. They have to keep their expenses within limits, and reveal their assets and criminal records at the time of filing nominations. Most of them ‘hide’ more than what they reveal; spend more than is allowed; and appeal to parochial identities (of caste, religion, linguistic and ethnicity) of voters. Recent debates are on quality of candidates and the nature of parties they represent—do candidates really matter?

Media has now become  a major stakeholder in electoral democracy. Many newspapers provide reviews of performance of parliamentarians. Some promote voter registration and voting, especially for the young first-timers.  Most electronic media is conducting, releasing and propagating various types of opinion polls, almost on a weekly basis. Media advertisements make a huge impact, apparently, on winnability. Media management is key to electoral results?

Finally, there is the citizen—the voter. Casting vote is key citizenship responsibility in democracy. Voters act as ‘blocks’, not just individual choice-makers. Blocks of votes are based on class, locality, caste, religion, language, region, ethnicity, gender, etc. etc. Voters act in the absence of information, as well as with overdose of information. Voters read newspaper analysis, watch television debates, engage in informal discussions at tea-shops and bus-stands, offices and homes. They participate in opinion and exit polls, but they vote as well. Indian voters accept every gift that comes by; then they exercise their right to vote on their own.

In the final analysis, governance of electoral democracy is about informed and active citizenship. Exercising the right to vote is but a small part of being a citizen of democracy.

– See more at: http://www.pria.org/index.php/blogs/pria-blog

Courses on Urban Planning and Governance – PRIA

Established in 2005, PRIA International Academy, an initiative in education and lifelong learning is the academic wing of PRIA, conducts educational programmes of human and social development. Courses are designed for mid career development professionals who want to build their knowledge; adult learners who have an interest in development issues; and fresh graduates searching for a career in the development sector.

Each of the courses offer:

  • Cutting edge theory
  • Practical insights
  • Field-based experiences
  • Global perspectives

The Academy is offering 3 courses in April 2014 namely:

Appreciation Programmes (10 weeks duration)

Participatory Integrated District Planning in Local Government

IDP: http://www.pria.org/academy/index.php/educational-programmes/appreciation-courses/integrated-district-planning

Participatory Social Audit: A Tool for Social Accountability

Social Audit: http://www.pria.org/academy/index.php/educational-programmes/appreciation-courses/social-audit

Certificate Programmes (6 months duration)

International Perspectives in Citizenship, Democracy and Accountability

IPCDA: http://www.pria.org/academy/index.php/educational-programmes/certificate-courses/international-perspectives-in-citizenship-democracy-and-accountability

Registration closes on 23rd April, Enroll Now!!!

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Urbanising India and Lacking Behind Governance!

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!!

Confucius said In a country well governed poverty…

Confucius said – In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of!

What do you think? What is the relation between ‘Governance’ and ‘Urban Poverty’?

Write in your comments/ experiences below! Be the ‘Voice’ on Poverty!