At Janaagraha, we have developed a comprehensive framework called REED to guide our policies and practices to bring about change in quality of life and public governance. It is an acronym for four defining aspects of urban governance:
1) Regional perspective to urban issues
No problem can be looked at in isolation and this is true of urbanisation as well. Any city is always a part of a larger region with many interconnections. The rural hinterland surrounding most Indian cities is an important part of the city landscape as well as its economy. It becomes essential to take a regional perspective into account while planning for a city.
For example, when we plan for our city’s transportation we must keep in mind the developments in the sub-urban and regional areas around our city.
2) Empowered citizens and local governments
The roots of democracy in urban India need to be deepened by giving a formal voice to urban citizens in local decision making. A formal platform for citizen participation, called Area Sabha, at a polling booth level is not just desirable but essential for effective urban governance.
Local government bodies should be nurtured to carry out those functions which are currently being done by the State. This can be done through the processes of decentralisation and devolution of State functions as guided by the 74th Amendment of the Constitution. This will empower local bodies to solve problems arising out of their own jurisdiction.
3) Enabled citizens and local governments
Empowering the local governments with necessary functions is necessary but not enough. In order for the municipalities to perform their functions effectively, they need to be enabled with the right kind of resources – suitably qualified and skilled human resources, sufficient financial resources and management support systems like modern technology tools.
As with local governments, citizens also need to be enabled with platforms, skills and tools to participate effectively. Citizens need tools that help them objectively assess the performance of their local governments and their elected representatives in order to take collective action.
4) Direct accountability of the government to the people
Direct accountability can be achieved through certain institutionalised mechanisms: first, by having inclusive and formal platforms of citizen participation such as Area Sabhas, which are essential for citizens to engage with their local governments on an on-going basis and demand accountability; and second, through the Public Disclosure law of the JNNURM which requires Urban Local Bodies to release their financial statements on a quarterly basis.
Here, participatory budgeting is a good tool for prioritisation of issues by city stakeholders based on local needs.