Issue: October 2016
Cover Story
Textiles’ – the word brings up images of beautiful drapes – cotton, silk, chiffon, lace. Whether it is the material draped on the figurine of the lady...
  Tapping Sustainable Energy Alternatives
  The second lead article, which is also focus article, is written by Shri N Bhadran Nair. Citing a report of the World Health Organisation, the author has advocated for tapping sustainable energy alternatives
  Financing Renewables in India
  The third article is written by Shri P C Maithani, Adviser, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy. He has focussed on renewable energy resources
  Steps to Achieve India’s Solar Potential
  The special article is written by Sumant Sinha, Chairman and Managing Director of ReNew Power. He opines that India must also honour its global commitments on curbing greenhouse gas emissions
  From 74th CAA to SMART cities
Bhanu Joshi
October 01, 2014 | Bhanu Joshi  , Smart cities

From 2001 to 2011, Indias urban population increased by 9 million. According to 2011 Census, 31per cent of India is urbanised, the first time since independence where the absolute population growth of urban is higher than the rural. The pace of Indias urbanisation, though argued by many scholars as slow, is bound to increase the stress on our already overstretched cities.

The previous government through Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission (JnNURM) aimed at the reforms-linked financing as an incentive for urban development of cities at two levels; one to start a city development plan (CDP) and the second was to encourage the implementation of the 74th Constitutional Amendment (74th CAA). While JnNURM brought the urban conundrum to the development discourse of the country, it also proved that mere sanction of money to the states by not strengthening the ULB didnt yield much in the long run. As a new government takes over, the questions of what the urban strategy is going to be is still open to interpretation.

The new political dispensation through various communications has highlighted the idea of SMART cities. Whether existing cities will be made SMART, or new SMART cities will be created is yet to be known. It is however, pertinent to ask, can the superstructure of a world class city be based only on data, smartness, big highways, high rises with no thought being given to the fundamentals of governance of our cities? Indias experience with smart cities has largely been that of Greenfield cities like the knowledge cities of Mohali Knowledge Hub, technology cities such as HITEC city (near Hyderabad), eco-cities like Lavasa and IT hubs.

Experiences of urbanisation in these cities along with a relook at the 74th CAA is essential to the narrative on new urbanisation strategy. As the Census 2011 reveals, growth will happen in existing urban areas along with smaller cities, which in the last decade has grown at a rather impressive speed. These urban areas will have to function within the ambits of a strong governance framework as enshrined within the 74th CAA albeit with its limitations which need more elaboration.

This article argues that the urbanisation strategy for the next decade is contingent on reforms within the local governments. That the bypassing of local governments, in particular the 74th CAA because of the urgency to respond to challenges of urbanisation, which validate shortcuts to urban laws and regulations to speed up urbanisation will leave the urban areas further distressed. However, the 74th CAA itself is not a panacea for all problems. The Act itself needs review and the subsequent sections point out the structural and functional deficits within the 74th CAA. It then discusses the concept of the SMART cities providing examples of such experiments throughout the country before summarising the moot points of the article.

Structural Domain: Who Owns the City?

Fragmentation in the political authority of a city exists throughout the country. This questions the role of a Mayor/Chairperson in the local governance setup as envisioned by the Indian Constitution many a makers of which rose from being Chairpersons and Mayors of local governments. Stalwarts like Jawaharlal Nehru and C. Rajagopalachari headed Allahabad and Salem Municipality respectively while CR Das as Mayor of Calcutta and Sardar Vallabhai Patel as President of Ahmedabad City brought about immense character to the local politics while spearheading service delivery in urban areas. Even then corporations and municipalities in the country continue to be marginal stakeholders in domains of urban planning and development of the city. Mayors, in particular, are by and large, ceremonial.

Article 243- R of the 74th CAA provides that the legislature of a state may, by law, provide the manner of election of the Chairperson of a municipality. The Chairpersons role and functions, however, have not been clearly defined. While there is no reference to the Mayor of a big city in the Constitution, Chairperson is clearly a generic term, and should be deemed to include the Mayor. The Mayor/Chairperson's position is at deficit on many grounds. First, is the structural deficit regarding election and tenure of the Mayor/Chairperson in urban areas. While the term of the corporation is a fixed five year, the tenure and mode of election of Mayors/Chairpersons in India varies. Table 1 provides the term and mode of election of Mayors in some select states in India. Taking Indias four biggest cities as examples, we find disparities all through. Chennais Mayor is directly elected for five years while all other cities viz. Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Bengaluru have indirect mayoral elections. The tenure of Kolkatas mayor is five years, while Bengaluru and Delhi elect Mayors for one year. Mumbai has a term of two and a half years for its Mayor.

Table 1: Term & Mode of Election of Mayors
S. No State Mode of Election Term 
1 Assam Indirect One year
2 Chandigarh Indirect One year
3 Delhi Indirect One year
4 Gujarat Indirect Two and a half year
5 Himachal Pradesh* Indirect Two and a half year
6 Karnataka Indirect One year
7 Maharashtra Indirect Two and a half year
8 Kerala Indirect Five years
9 Odisha Indirect Five Years
10 Punjab Indirect Five years
11 Sikkim Indirect Five years
12 Goa Indirect Five years
13 Haryana Indirect Five Years
14 Uttarakhand Direct  Five years
15 West Bengal Indirect Five years
16 Andhra Pradesh Indirect Five years
17 Bihar Indirect Five years
18 Chhattisgarh Direct Five years
19 Jharkhand Direct Five years
20 Madhya Pradesh Direct  Five years
21 Rajasthan* Indirect Five years
22 Tamil Nadu Direct Five years
23 Uttar Pradesh Direct  Five years

Source : Respective State Municipal Acts, compiled by Author.

*Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh amended the Acts to make way for direct election of mayor with 5 year terms. This was however amended to go back to the previous status of election.

Since the enactment of the 74th CAA, states in India have moved between direct and indirect election of Mayors. Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh alternated between direct and indirect election with every new political dispensation. Latest to join this group are Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh where the two states got directly elected Mayors around 2010 and have now replaced this system with the old system of indirect election of Mayors. Tenure is one of the problems of our cities as the Janaagraha report suggest that large cities like Delhi with a staff strength of 140,000 and Mumbai with an annual budget of around Rs. 30,000 crores, have Mayors with a term of one year and 2.5 years respectively. These need for a secured term head of the city is clearly a requirement. Additionally, most states in India rest the executive authority of the local governments on the Commissioner who is a state appointee with the local body having very little authority over the functioning of the Commissioner. Thus, the 74th CAA and its implementation, both, challenge the metamorphosis of the urban change. The duality of power centres thus gives rise to an understanding where the elected are considered in lacking of technical expertise and skills and the officials are considered an example of the oft used bureaucratic inertia.

A related structural issue is that of the reservation and delimitation of urban local bodies. The Lok Sabha and the State Assemblies have a provision for reservation for the Schedule Castes (SCs) and Schedule Tribes (STs) as mandated by Article 330 and 332 (Part XVI) of the Constitution. This reservation and delimitation of the state and national assemblies is done by the Delimitation Commission of India (last appointed in 2002 which used Census 2001 numbers). While the delimitation and reservation for the national and state assemblies is clear, the local bodies have to make vertical reservation for SC, STs and Backward Classes (BCs) and horizontal reservation for women. This becomes complex for three reasons; one that while Census gives us the authoritative numbers for SC/ST population, these figures arent available for determining the BCs population. Various states hence employ different methods to determine the size of the BCs population (In Hyderabad for example, an oral survey was carried out to determine the size of the backward classes). The second related problem is reservations for women within the existing fragmented reservation matrix where wards and Mayor/Chairmans position is to be reserved for women and then within women for SCs, STs and BCs is frequently litigated due to the cumbersome and opaque process of preparation of this roster. The third problem is that of delimitation in the urban local bodies which in some states like Maharashtra and Gujarat is done by the State Election Commission (SEC),, while in other states like Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, is left at the discretion of the State Government. On all these grounds, there has been immense litigation and resultant delay in polls. For instance, the elections to the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagar Palike (BBMP) were delayed for three years and the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) for almost five years because the state governments didnt provide the SEC with updated roster of delimited boundaries along with the reservation rosters.

Functional and Financial Domain: Who Plans For the City?

The 12th Schedule of the 74th CAA, defined the functional domain to be allocated to the urban local bodies in India. These functions of the municipalities range from broad statements like planning for economic and social development, slum improvement and up gradation to very specific items like fire services, regulation of slaughter houses and tanneries. The first problem inherent in the Schedule is that it doesnt distinguish between different levels of municipalities. Effectively, the municipal functions as described in the 12th Schedule for a big municipal corporation like Ahmedabad and Lucknow is the same as for a transitional or smaller municipalities of Angul in Odisha and Solan in Himachal Pradesh. Secondly, most items mentioned in the 12th Schedule like urban planning, regulation of land use, planning for economic and social development, slum improvement, poverty alleviation, water supply, roads and bridges already form a part of the State list in Schedule 7. Constitution only enables State Legislatures to assign functions by law but it is only up to the states to assign or not to assign functions to the ULB. Most state governments have encroached into the domain of the purview of the local governments and on conflict, the Courts havent been clear about the functional domain of the urban local bodies as well. In a 2004 case, the courts held that It is for the State legislature to decide by expressing its will through legislation.... In pronouncing the constitutional validity of a statute, the Court is not concerned with the wisdom or imprudence, the justness or otherwise of the law. If that which is passed into law is within the scope of power, the law must be upheld.

Given the vacuum within which the functional domain operates, it is no surprise that the development authorities in India have taken the role of de-facto planning and implementing agency in India. As a study undertaken by the Centre for Policy Research (CPR) showed, that the planning and zoning of urban land, execution of large public purpose projects have been kept out of the purview of the local bodies and within the domain of unelected development authorities which is usually headed by the Chief Minister of the State. Given the same domain within which both, the Development Authorities and the Municipalities operate, friction amongst the two is bound to arise. Though studies have been few, in a paper assessing the relationship between Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (MMRDA) and the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM), authors notice that MCGM and MMRDA, where they are expected to cooperate fail to do so. Given the extent of interdependencies, one would expect the two organisations to coordinate their functioning for the benefit of the citizens. Instead, political rivalries between the ruling parties at the state and local level play out and pose a hindrance to cooperation. While understanding the reality of capacities and finances of the municipalities in India, it is pragmatic to allow for a development authority to work on the large regional perspective but this should be in consonance and not exclusion with the elected representatives of the urban local bodies.

Understanding the SMART Cities

Post-independence, there was a thinking of developing cities across the country that would spur growth and also be a model for urbanisation. The three planned capital cities of Bhubaneshwar, Chandigarh and Gandhinagar were heralded as smart for their generation. In addition to these cities, were the large public investments made in building exclusive industrial townships. Even after years of being setup, these cities are still struggling to be million plus while smaller cities around these planned settlements have burgeoned. SMART cities, special investment regions, SEZs and Industrial Townships are becoming the official parlance of addressing the urbanisation issue in India. The examples of cities being developed along the DMIC, examples from Gujarats smart cities like the Dholera city and then the functioning of many private cities has given rise to the concept of private management of the city being somehow better than the democratically managed cities. There is limited acceptance of the fact that the established or underway SMART cities havent been the model for urbanisation or democratic participation.

In the Census 2011, Gujarat tops with 26 Industrial Townships in India which have been notified in various parts of the State. The industrial townships were built around the rationale to avoid issues of multiple taxation on industries such as Tax & Octroi of Panchayats and Service charges of Corporation. Envisioned to be a forum for local self-government of industrialists, the entire management of these cities is by a board of industrialists having their assets in the area along with nominated members of the government who are appointed in executive capacities. Until 2009, the Board of these industrial establishments had the Sarpanches of the Panchayats as members but were subsequently excluded through an amendment. This contagion of exclusion of elected representatives in industrial townships is not just restricted to Gujarat. Maharashtra through an amendment in May 2008 conferred several planning and regulation under the Maharashtra Regional Town Planning Act (MRTP) to the special planning authorities.

Similarly, the Andhra Pradesh Industrial Investment Corporation (APIIC) of the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh state has several Industrial Area Local Authorities (IALA) which are exercising similar policies of taxation and area management. These industrial townships make use of the proviso contained in Article 243Q which states that a municipality may not be constituted in an urban area if it is specified as an industrial township where municipal services are provided by an industrial establishment. This exception to the 74th CAA has been made use of as an escape route by not only the state governments but has been sanctified by the Union Government. The Commerce Ministry itself has encouraged state government to take advantage of the Proviso to Article 243Q and exempt SEZ from the purview of municipal bodies . It is hence important that the smart cities do not model them around the exceptions of 74th CAA but are modelled to strengthen the 74th CAA.


The almost decade old JnNURM initiated in 2005 was an attempt to transform the local-state relations by incentivising decentralisation but as states continued to exercise considerable power over local bodies, the empowerment of the local bodies remained an aspiration. Its outcome notwithstanding, the mission did start an important narrative on the political economy of urban development in India. The lessons of empowering the local governments which will then facilitate better city growth shouldnt be avoided in the attractive promise of the smart city. While smart cities might seem the integration of planning and technology as the most modern way to negotiate the challenges of urbanisation and a way out for the everyday urban struggles of traffic, slums and breakdown of infrastructure, not acknowledging some of the fundamental deficit of local city governance and bypassing the 74th CAA risks further exacerbating the urban dilemma.

Bhanu Joshi ( ) is a researcher in the urban initiative at the Delhi based think tank, Centre for Policy Research. He tweets @beejoshi




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