ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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A Step towards Democratic Urban Governance

Directly Elected Mayors

The introduction of directly elected mayors has the potential to completely change not only the landscape of urban local body governance, but also the nature of citizens’ participation in the management of their cities. The benefits of the directly elected mayoral system and its influence on the dynamics of the existing political system are explored.

About 34% of India’s population is now living in urban areas (UN World Urbanization Prospect, 2018 report). Though the number of mega-sized urban clusters (with population > 50 lakh) has remained constant, the number of smaller urban clusters has been increasing rapidly over the years (Figure 1). These urban centres are now more “happening places” with greater investments and increased opportunities leading to sizeable migration from rural areas. However, such fast transformation has come with a myriad of problems of unplanned and unregulated expansion of urban boundaries, and mounting pressure on infrastructure and community resources resulting in poorer quality of life in these urban centres.

Among the many possible reforms, an efficient and inclusive institutional structure has the potential of changing the worsening conditions of urban centres. In India, municipalities and municipal corporations were created to manage day- to-day and future needs of the city centres; however, over a period of time, the municipal institutions lost the credibility to deliver services in an efficient manner (Nallathiga 2008). Although the 74th Constitutional Amendment Act, 1992, had recommended sweeping changes concerning the autonomy of the urban local bodies (ULBs), the promotion of decentralisation of power, and formation of appropriate structures and functions, unfortunately, it failed to see its real implementation at the field level. Local self-government is a state subject and states too were found lacking in taking proactive actions. Issues such as functional devolution to ULBs, strengthening their fiscal health and their comprehensive empowerment as a vibrant democratic unit of self-government are indeed central to the governance of cities (Jha 2018). The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD 2000) listed solidarity (shared values and priorities of its community) and subsidiarity (local autonomy, decentralisation and keeping government close to the people) as the two basic underlying principles to make the metropolitan government more competitive and efficient.

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Updated On : 22nd Nov, 2019


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