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Annual Survey of India’s City-Systems (ASICS) 2023


The Annual Survey of India’s City-Systems (ASICS) 2023, published by the Janaagraha Centre for Citizenship and Democracy, a non-profit institution, highlights the challenges and constraints faced by the Local Governments in Indian Cities.


GS II: Government Policies and Interventions

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Key Highlights of the ASICS Report
  2. Ways to Enhance Local Governance in Indian Cities

Key Highlights of the ASICS Report

The ASICS Report on the state of urban governance in Indian cities reveals several key findings:

Better Urban Legislations in Eastern and Southern States:

  • Eastern states and southern states have relatively better urban legislations compared to other regions.

Limited Accessibility of Urban Legislations:

  • Urban legislations are not readily available to the public, with only 49% of states/Union Territories (UTs) publishing municipal legislations on their respective websites.

Deficiency in Master Plans:

  • Approximately 39% of India’s capital cities lack an active master plan, which is vital for urban development.

Financial Dependence of Local Governments:

  • Most local governments in Indian cities rely on state governments for financial support, limiting their financial autonomy.
  • Local governments have limited control over financial matters such as taxation, borrowing, and budget approval, requiring state government approval in most cases.
  • Only Assam empowers city governments to collect all key taxes, while others need state approval for borrowing.

Disparities in Financial Control:

  • Disparities exist in financial control across different city categories, including megacities, large cities, medium cities, and small cities.
  • Mayors in megacities are not directly elected and have shorter tenures, while mayors in smaller cities are directly elected but have limited authority over city finances.

Challenges in Staff Appointments:

  • Mayors and city councils have limited authority in appointing and promoting staff, including senior management teams, leading to accountability and administrative challenges.

Lack of Financial Transparency:

  • Indian cities face challenges in financial transparency, with limited dissemination of quarterly and annual financial audited statements, particularly in larger cities.
  • Only 28% of cities disseminate their annual audited financial statements, dropping to 17% for megacities.
  • Budget information is not adequately published, with smaller cities lagging behind in information dissemination.

Vacant Municipal Posts:

  • A significant number of posts in municipal corporations, municipalities, and town panchayats remain vacant, with the vacancy rate increasing in smaller town panchayats.

Global Disparities:

  • When compared to global metropolises like New York, London, and Johannesburg, Indian cities have far fewer city workers per one lakh population and fewer administrative powers.
  • These global cities have greater authority to impose taxes, approve budgets, invest, and borrow without external approval, unlike Indian cities.

Ways to Enhance Local Governance in Indian Cities:

To improve local governance in Indian cities, several steps can be taken:

  • Empower Local Governments: Empower local governments to collect a broader range of taxes independently, reducing their financial dependence on state governments.
  • Streamline Borrowing Approval: Reduce the need for state government approval for borrowing, especially for well-managed municipalities, to enable more efficient financial management.
  • Administrative Autonomy: Devolve administrative powers to local governments, allowing them to make key staff appointments and promotions, including municipal commissioners and senior management teams. This fosters stronger, more accountable organizations.
  • Uniform Public Disclosure Law: Enforce the Public Disclosure Law consistently across all states and union territories. This ensures the regular publication of civic information, such as internal audit reports, annual reports, minutes of meetings, and decision-making processes. Establish online platforms for easy citizen access to this information.
  • Benchmarking with Global Metropolises: Establish a mechanism for benchmarking Indian cities against global metropolises. Identify best practices in urban governance, staffing levels, and financial management. Encourage the adoption of successful strategies from global peers.
  • Citizen Engagement: Promote citizen engagement through public consultations, feedback mechanisms, and participatory budgeting. Create platforms for citizens to voice their concerns and suggestions, ensuring a more responsive government.
  • Digital Governance Tools: Embrace digital governance tools and platforms to streamline administrative processes, improve transparency, and provide online services to citizens. Implement e-governance initiatives to reduce bureaucratic hurdles.

-Source: The Hindu

June 2024