Grey Areas in Pink City

The Hindu, August 23, 2013

The civic maturity of any city is manifested most visibly in its residents’ quality of life and their access to basic urban amenities.

According to the UN-HABITAT’s State of The World’s Cities 2012-13, Jaipur will be the 10th most populated Indian city by 2025. The city’s annual average growth rate is 5.3 per cent, twice the national rate of urban growth. During a span of 10 years (2001-2011), Jaipur witnessed an increase in population from 2.3 million to 3.1 million.

Further, the Union Urban Development Ministry ranks Jaipur 230th on a list of 423 Class-I cities in terms of sanitation conditions. While the challenges faced by the Jaipur Municipal Corporation (JMC) are monumental, the existing state of civic amenities in the city raises concerns about whether the JMC is prepared to meet these challenges.

The Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS), a non-profit outfit working in the areas of consumer rights and urban governance, recently undertook an initiative ‘My City’, in partnership with The Asia Foundation, and came up with some interesting numbers on the Pink City’s urban life.

The study found, among other things, that 52 per cent residents of Jaipur were forced to dump their garbage in the open while 34 per cent faced insufficient water supply.

“The initiative was taken to improve the services of the Jaipur Municipal Corporation by emphasising the importance of local government and strengthen the roots of local self-governance by taking power to the people in the spirit of 74th constitutional amendment,” says George Cherian, director of CUTS.

After surveying eight municipal wards of the city, CUTS came up with a ‘Citizen’s Report Card’ and a ‘Public Service Index’, both offering valuable insights in how the city residents rate the amenities provided to them by local bodies.

According to the Citizen’s Report Card, only one per cent people were satisfied with the condition of roads in their areas while a staggering 29 per cent of the surveyed population continued to live in areas with no road connectivity.

Thirty-six per cent respondents complained of poor or no road lights, while only 21 per cent had a park in their neighbourhood. About three-fourth of the people surveyed admitted to facing constant problems with stray animals while over half of them grappled with vehicle parking problems every day.

Resident Welfare Committees (RWCs), which have emerged as crucial platforms for the advocacy of resident rights, were found to be active only in 30 per cent areas. The importance of RWCs can be gauged from the fact that wherever these were active, 80 per cent respondents claimed to have benefitted from these.

The Public Service Index evaluated all eight wards on certain key indicators such as roads, sewerage, solid waste disposal, water supply and other amenities like parks and playgrounds, and ranked them accordingly.

Mr. Cherian points out three reasons for the continued poor delivery of urban services — negligible devolution of power to the urban local bodies, poor participation of citizens and absence of ward committees.

Manish Parik, Deputy Mayor, JMC, says administrative inefficiency is a major hindrance in the proper delivery of services by the corporation. “Provisions mandated by the 74th constitutional amendments are constantly violated by administrative authorities,” he rues.

Even former bureaucrats agree that the city’s infrastructure is crumbling under massive pressure from an ever growing population. “Urbanisation is required for development, but in Jaipur’s case rapid growth has caused huge problems as the city’s economic base is weak. It is unfortunate that the common man and the taxpayer feel that their monetary contributions in the form of taxes fail to bring about any visible results,” says M.L. Mehta, former Chief Secretary of Rajasthan.

Jaipur’s rapid growth and over-population has already taken a toll on its residents’ access to basic urban amenities, finds a new study

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