India urgently needs to enhance the capacity of officials handling the new challenges and opportunities created by booming towns and cities.
Indeed, India’s macro-economic growth and poverty reduction is increasingly tied to how cities work. As the city-based services and industrial sectors begin to enter new national and international markets, demands for the modernization of India’s urban local bodies (ULBs) have increased. At the same time, poverty in India acquires more and more an urban face, increasing the demand for better services to the urban poor. It is imperative that India’s towns and cities become more efficient, inclusive, and sustainable. In that context, these ULBs, which are traditionally staffed by civil servants with generalist educational backgrounds, urgently need to be trained to manage the new challenges and opportunities posed by India’s growing urbanization.
Taking this into consideration, the WBI’s Urban and Local Government Program has been supporting a successful Urban Management Certification Program in India. In partnership with two pioneering institutes, the Hyderabad based Administrative Staff College of India (ASCI), and the Pune based Yashwantrao Academy for Development Administration (YASHADA); ULBs officials have been trained in a broad range of urban management issues, from managing municipal finance and delivering public services and infrastructure efficiently to promoting good urban governance and poverty reduction.
Towns and cities contribute substantially to the economic development of the country. These urban centres also play an important support role in the development of rural hinterland. To keep this economic transformation in line with needs and realities at the grassroot level, it is necessary that the people and their representatives are fully involved in the planning and implementation of the programmes at local level. If democracy in Parliament and State Legislatures is to remain strong and stable, its roots must reach towns and the cities where the people live.
The Constitution of India has made detailed provisions for ensuring protection of democracy in Parliament and in State Legislatures. Hence, democracy in these institutions has survived and flourished. However, the Constitution did not make Local Self Government in urban areas a clear-cut constitutional obligation.
“Local Government, that is to say, the constitution and powers of municipal corporations, improvement trusts, district boards, mining settlement authorities and other local authorities for the purpose of local self-Government or village administration.”
As a consequence of inadequate Constitutional provision for Local Self Government, democracy in municipal governance was not stable. Though the respective municipal acts of the States provided for regular elections to municipal bodies, they were frequently suspended and superseded for indefinite periods of time. Frequent and indefinite suspensions or supersessions eroded the very basis of local self-government and had a negative effect on democracy at the grass root level.