Center and state politics is constantly under the scanner for it’s policies and their execution in media. From actual corruption to mere whiff of misappropriation gets highlighted instantly. However, what the common public suffers the most is at the hands of municipal corporations.
At least in cities, large amount of public funds and day-to-day governance is completely at the mercy of these municipal corporators, who are largely unaccountable post elections since municipality level scrutiny is way too granular for the media. So at most, when you hear of them is either on 4th page of the daily newspaper, or in national media when something drastically wrong happens.
Rest of the time, the municipal corporations is the area of democracy which thrives in corruption completely under the radar. It’s a gray-zone where local strongmen try to polish their political bases, and make a lot of money in the process. In addition to the much frowned upon education tour junkets that you hear of in national media these days, this job is a vacation indeed; while the public suffers in silence.
This is an anomaly in the system - everybody needs to be accountable, especially when they’re handling public funds. Yes, a system of accountability has been largely absent in our humongous democracy. But it still works organically because round-the-clock media coverage, overly shrill opposition, a narrative of perpetual cynicism in the system does that job. Public representative has the need to be accountable in some form, to some extent - you can’t be entirely shameless and walk by. Not in this age of social media powered media.
This self-operating system which works on the “fear of being watched” completely breaks down in case of municipal corporations. Nobody is watching them, nobody is assessing their performance, a page 4 news item about yearly water logging, ever clogged drains, broken roads, breeding mosquitoes doesn’t budge anyone. It’s so bad, that municipalities are expected to be inefficient.
Unless, something drastic or tragic happens, nobody bats an eye-lid. Some road accident due to a broken road, some dead kid due to an open pit, some rape due to dark street, some 2000 people dead due to dengue on a yearly basis, some super expensive vacation junket … and then you should see these corporators come up with most shameless defenses.
The problem is not with corrupt inefficient good-for-nothing corporators. The problem is with the system which has entirely over-looked accountability in this arm of governance. And, ironically it impacts the lives of the common man the most.
The question is why elect?A job which should go in the hands of professionals doesn’t need elected representatives. A country whose democracy is ridden with politics whose foundation is caste, religion and political compulsions, a job which is so close to the ground needs to be in the hands of experts, whose performance can be assessed more often and outside an election.
Now, we’re talking about smart cities - can we achieve these objectives, without streamlining the municipal corporations? Why not privatize here? Why not do this experiment with the new smart cities? We don’t need municipal corporations, we need disruptive start-ups which can transform city management. A system which is more accountable for performance in real time, and which can be replaced easily, if needed, and you don’t have to wait for the elections.
Written by Ishaan Mohan Bagga
Follow him on twitter @IshaanMohan