The Next Step in Political Engagement

Over the last 7-8 years thanks to the explosion in penetration of smartphones, social media and reducing cost of data, political engagement has shot up manyfold. Today, voter awareness has increased substantially and voters are perhaps able to make nuanced choices. Case in point being the elections in Telangana, MP, Rajasthan, CG and Odisha where the voters made distinctively different choices between the Assembly and Lok Sabha elections. In their own wisdom, majority of voters decided to Trust one party much more in the Lok Sabha election than in the Assembly election. In a simplistic way, it has always been about Trust. Today perhaps the voter has more information to trust or not trust a political leader.

Have things really Changed?

YouTube video

This video is just symbolic of the state of affairs across the country. Many of our cities offer poor quality of life with appalling governance standards. Yet ironically, city voters have not been able to demand the same level of governance standards of local municipalities as they have been able from their State Governments and the National Government. Simplistically put, Municipal budget has a huge impact on our day to day life and yet the coverage and interest in the Municipal budget is next to zero. Some stats

All the Delhi Municipal Budgets add upto Rs 22000 crores

Mumbai Municipal Budget is Rs 30000 crores

Bangalore Municipal Budget is about Rs 12000 crores

Hyderabad Municipal Budget is about Rs 11500 crores

Chennai is nearly 6000 crores

Kolkata is nearly 4000 crores

The top 6 cities are likely to spend about Rs 85000 crores in 2019-20

These 6 cities made up for about 45 million people (2011 census). There are 40 other cities (may be more) with million population. Even with 25% per capita income, that would be a budget of Rs 25000 crores. Taking the total to 110000 crores.

You can find about 40 Municipal Budgets here

According to RBI, in 2018-19, all the State Governments together spent about Rs 110000 crores on urban development. The Centre spends another close to Rs 50000 crores.

The other source of funding for all the cities is the debt that bodies like development authorities (DDA, MMRDA, BDA etc) raise to fund infra expansion in the city (Metro projects for example). These are taken back from the citizens through higher fares (a kind of hidden tax).

If we combine all the spending, it is likely that some 3 lakh crores is spent in 45 cities in the country with most cities providing sub-standard quality of life. We can all be excited about NREGA and Rural Toilets but if we live in some of the worst cities in the world (quality of life), all our political engagement adds to nothing.

It is perhaps time to increase our engagement at the local levels.