[I wrote this article for ‘The Broad Mind – Views from the Takshashila community’. Reproducing it here on my blog. Here is the link to the original article: http://broadmind.nationalinterest.in/2012/12/18/wanted-a-city-chief-executive/ ]
The Central and State Governments have a clear, well defined Chief Executive function. However, the picture gets a little unclear when we get down to our cities and towns.
Large cities have a Municipal Commissioner (part of the State Government), elected Corporators and a Mayor. The execution power rests with the Commissioner, who is not a direct people’s representative. The Mayor is (in most cases) a figure head, appointed from the among the Corporators. Corporators have limited power/budgets. The elected body can yield some influence via the Standing Committee, but doesn’t really have too much powers in direct execution. Long term planning activity is also led by the Commissioner.
In the bigger cities and metro areas – the structure can be even more complicated with additional state agencies such as metropolitan authorities, etc. (e.g. MMRDA in Mumbai).
I am not a constitution or law expert, but wondering if it makes sense to alter/simplify this structure – and have a single elected, accountable chief executive for the city? This model is fairly common in many democracies around the world. Look at how Michael Bloomberg is the clear Chief Executive of New York City.
A city chief executive will depend on the State (and Central) Governments for some funds and other help – but will have complete planning and execution control over the city affairs. This chief will also be directly accountable towards the city electorate.
I wonder why India went with the current dual structure of Commissioner/Mayor? I am sure there were good reasons for that…but is it time we revisited this again?
It is impressive to see the world’s biggest democracy participate in the complex electoral process. For all the inefficiencies,red-tape and corruption that the Indian Government Bureaucracy is riddled with, the Election Process seems (in comparison) to be refreshingly better and different. The statistics for the process themselves are mind-boggling. Millions of voters (even for a state election…), thousands of polling stations, thousands of candidates … and yet, the whole machinery seems to perform with near clock work precision. Yes, there are a few irregularities, but statistically, they are much smaller than any other process of a similar magnitude.
Just watching those part-time workers (many of them school teachers) systematically process voters at the polling booths make one wonder…if only you could see this efficiency at any other government office! Clearly, full-time government workers don’t even come close.
Maybe we should get the Election Commission to run some other Government Departments! At least for a few days. We might just be pleasantly surprised to see how quickly applications get processed, permits getting approved, refunds getting sorted out, licenses getting issued, etc.
Why does the Election Process run so much better? I wonder why. Maybe it’s because this is one process where the politicians stay away (Literally – they are supposed to be a few hundred feet away from the polling stations during the voting process)
Some years back, Election Commissioner Seshan showed how he could use the ‘real’ power of this office, provided to it by the constitution. That was probably an important event, and even today plays a role in shaping the role of the Election Commission.
Wonder what your thoughts are on this topic.