Sunday, December 21, 2008

Urban Transport

Urban transport system faces the challenges at the rapid urbanisation process happning in Indian context. Various committees and recommendations are in the air to improve the system. Rather than looking at an uniform solution in every cities, we need to study the various elements influencing the transport system in these cities. Urban transport system needs to be looked at with an utmost care. 

Under the national action plan on climate change being prepared by the urban development ministry, the mission on sustainable habitat has made  several recommendations in order to check the growth of private vehicles in Indian cities and boost public transport. The goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles which, the mission warns, could increase by 580 per cent by 2035. But while the motive behind the proposal is laudable, pushing public transport as an alternative to private transport will be difficult when there is abysmally poor public transport in most Indian cities. 

Sure, the sheer volume of new vehicles being added to roads every day needs to be checked. The growth of registered vehicles has been four times the rate of growth of the population in Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Bangalore and Chennai. Oil consumption by vehicles is slated to increase by 600 per cent in the same period. That's why the government's proposals concentrate on making it more expensive for people to own and drive cars. To that end, the plan seeks to impose a congestion charge on vehicles for entry into busy areas. There is also a proposal to make the parking fee reflect the cost of land, while bringing in differential parking rates. 

But before penalising people for turning to private vehicles, the government must provide a clean, efficient and well-connected public transport system, which would include local trains, the metro and buses. Most of the ideas proposed by the mission are hardly revolutionary, though some, such as the one requiring prospective car buyers to demonstrate ownership of a parking spot before purchase, appear unenforceable. Indeed, measures like congestion tax and differential parking charges have been implemented with some success in cities such as London and Singapore. However, both those cities had well-developed and efficient public transport systems in place before they charged people for driving cars to get to work. 

The recommendations are typical of urban planning in this country, which has tended to be myopic. As it is, these measures will disrupt public life far more than they will solve traffic blues. If implemented now, these measures will only force people to spend more on purchasing and running a private vehicle. It is unlikely to discourage people from buying cars. Until public transport systems in cities are improved, it is unlikely that there will be a slowdown in the growth of private vehicles. Vehicular emissions are a cause for concern in the fight against climate change. But the government cannot seriously begin to reduce emissions without first putting the infrastructure in place to make it possible for people to give up their cars.

Centre for Public Policy Research

Invites internship in the following categories under ‘Reinventing Cochin’ Project initiated by the Centre

Eligibility: Graduate students to retired civil servants

Duration: Two weeks to two months

Time:  commitment of 30 working hours to 150 working hours.

Selection: based on the interview


Selected areas of research for internship in Reinventing Cochin project


Decentralization - Financial:

  • Autonomy of financial resources
  • Can local government decide on the use of local resources ?
  • Predictability of inter-governmental transfer
  • Principles of financial devolution
  • Level of adoption of the budget
  • Sources of local government funding ((taxes,user charges, borrowing, central government, international aid)
  • Can local government raise resources from capital markets without approval of from higher levels of government?
  • Percent of funds devolved from higher levels of government

Decentralization - Political:

  • Dismissal of mayors, councilors and officials
  • Progress of deciding political agenda
  • Legislation on de-centralisation (yes/no)
  • Number of gender equity oriented initiatives undertaken by local organisation or institutions
  • Percentage of elected and nominated members by sex/ethnic group
  • Control by higher level of government
  • Access to government positions by all groups

Local government:

  • Process of selecting mayor
  • Regulatory framework that governs promotion of civil servants
  • Career prospects of civil servants
  • Pay scale of civil servants
  • Tacit knowledge about the power structure

Planning and predictability:

  • Openness of procedures for contracts/tenders for municipal services
  • Appointments by higher government
  • Annual budgeting
  • Percent recurrent resources for Pvt Sector/CBO
  • who supplies and regulates various services
  • independent decisions, regulation/taxes, auditing, removal from office
  • Sources of income
  • Transparency of local taxation
  • Consistency/regularity of local mayor election


  • Percentage of population served
  • Access of public to stages of policy cycle ( planning, budgeting, monitoring, etc) delegation of public service
  • Integration of planning and budgeting
  • No of public hearings and participants from different income/ethnic groups
  • Are data collected and used by gender and district
  • Existence of conflict mediation at local level (budgeted)


  • Existing participatory processes
  • Group equity in participatory planning and decision making
  • Equal access to education and information
  • Existence or not of information on differential situation and needs of women and men
  • Legal entitlement to different assets to all categories of people
  • Self determination of groups in relation to resource management
  • Civil freedoms - press, association, justice
  • Social group and watch dog for programme implementation
  • Number of CBO’s and specific organisations  addressing gender issues
  • Access to basic needs


  • Consumer satisfaction ( survey/complaints)
  • Capacity for delivery of services ( including spatial coverage)
  • Income/expenditure of local govt/capita
  • Legislated local government functions
  • Targets, programme, financial
  • Economic development ( city Product)
  • Environmental quality

Freedom, justice, fairness and equity ( concentrated on equity first):

  • Equity in tax system
  • Incorporation of excluded groups in the consultation process
  • Resource allocation to services benefiting the poor/ the rich
  • Access to basic services for disadvantaged groups Eg spatial distribution of services
  • Quintile distribution of city product
  • Ratio of price of water in formal informal settlements
  • Existence of public hearings
  • Existence of local media
  • Resource allocation towards formal/informal  settlement
  • Rental; to income ratio in formal and informal settlement

Accountability and transparency:

  • Fairness in enforcing laws
  • Clarity of procedures and regulations and responsibilities
  • Existence of sanction, performance standards and disclosure laws
  • Codes of conduct for professional associations

Forward Looking:

  • Social development plan
  • Vision/mission statements
  • Forward/strategic Plans
  • Communication strategy
  • Gender perspective
  • Revenue growth ( total and own)
  • Funds known in advance
  • Setting budgets/targets
  • Existence of planning department


  • Role of  key groups in planning , decision making, implementation, monitoring and evaluation
  • Freedom of media and existence of local media
  • Percentage of people voting by sex and social groups
  • Process of public discussion on key issues
  • Use of referendum on key issues
  • Right of establishing association

Private sector:

  • Extent of civil society organization ( monitoring )
  • Predictability of enforcement
  • Integrity of auditing and monitoring
  • Existence of enabling city legislative environment
  • Predictability of institutional change
  • Credibility of rules
  • Existence of an official admin structure


  • Percentage of unsafe city areas-crime rates (murder, rape)
  • Police corruption- feeling of safety
  • Efficiency
  • Per capita revenue
  • Cost of various services
  • Percentage economic Growth
  • Recycling/re-treatment/sustainability
  • Percentage on salaries
  • Employees per delivery service
  • General administration share
  • Number of local government employees/ 1000 population

Civil society:

  • Resource requirements to organised groups
  • Status of local leadership ( formal, informal, legitimate, non legitimate, respected, non respected, independent
  • Existence of emergency laws against public meetings, tradition of public action
  • No of NGO’s
  • No of procedures need e to register NGO’s

Planning and management:

  • Functional responsibilities for service provision (sewerage, water, education, health, social services, green space etc)
  • Possibility that the mayor is good!!!!

Top 12 Urban Governance issues/indicators: 

1. Consumer satisfaction (survey/complaints) 
2. Openness of procedures for contracts/tenders for municipal services 
3. Equity in tax system 
4. Sources of local government funding ((taxes,user charges, borrowing, central government, international aid) 
5. Percentage of population served by services 
6. Access of public to stages of policy cycle 
7. Fairness in enforcing laws 
8. Incorporation of excluded groups in the consultation process 
9. Clarity of procedures and regulations and responsibilities 
10. Existing participatory processes 
11. Freedom of media and existence of local media 
12. Autonomy of financial resources


Selected candidates will be given training and quality benchmarked articles will be published in reinventing cochin website and also in the local dailies.


Interested candidates can forward your resume to


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Beginning of the road

For the last four years, I was aware of the concept of " Reinventing Cochin" what I call the pet topic of the Team CPPR. Now, my thoughts are revolving around the domain of urban governance and Cochin Corporation.By the 74th amendment act, we implemented decentralization in urban areas. The concept of Grama sabha was a manna from heaven for the rural India.But, what about the urban areas????
When I explored the possibility of an internship related to Cochin, in connection with urban governance I came to know about the Area Sabha, which is already in air by a vibrant civil society in India. Can we fill the gap between Corporation and the common people with the help of this idea?

There is an observation that, if we consider the possibility of a facilitator role in bridging the gap between the authority and the public what is the role of lay man????
How are the representative motives of the political parties represent the human needs including basic needs?
Why the inert mindset of the urban middle class is prevalent in recent elections?
Why the so called new generation negating the impact of public life in the society?
These are some questions which I have in my mind, at present.
I will come up with new insights in the following days