India’s patterns of urban growth came under sharp focus during the Covid-19 pandemic. Many highlighted the poor quality of urban services as contributors to the spread of the same. The pandemic laid bare many pre-existing deficiencies in urban governance that have continued to plague India’s urban areas.
As India continues to grow and urbanize, the municipal bodies that govern our cities are increasing in relevance. There is a huge diversity of municipal bodies in India—from nagar panchayats or town panchayats at the lowest level to municipalities and municipal corporations. In addition, we have specialised bodies like the DDA in Delhi and the MMRDA in Mumbai responsible for urban planning and development.
Cities also have specialized bodies for water and sewerage, transport, and electricity services. The composition, lines of responsibility and accountability, and the manner of appointment and selection varies for each type of body. In most cases, both the state and the local governments have complementary or overlapping powers with respect to such services. And, few municipal bodies are completely financially autonomous of state governments and completely responsible to the residents of the municipality.
Given this institutional structure for urban governance, how do we achieve better outcomes in terms of service delivery? Do we need to change how these institutions are designed and their composition and powers? Or are there other solutions that we should explore? In this episode of Interpreting India, Matthew Glasser joins Anirudh Burman to answer these questions.
Matthew Glasser is currently the director for municipal law and finance at the Centre for Urban Law and Finance in Africa. Prior to this, he has been the lead urban specialist for the World Bank and has also worked extensively in India and the United States. He has authored a World Bank report titled “Institutional Models for Governance of Urban Services”.
Anirudh Burman is an associate research director and fellow at Carnegie India. He works on key issues relating to public institutions, public administration, the administrative and regulatory state, and state capacity.
Institutional Models for Governance of Urban Services: Volume 1—Synthesis Report December 2021 by Matthew Glasser
Understanding Institutions and Accountability Mechanisms in Urban Governance by Anirudh Burman
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