Issues of Governance in Indian Metropolises: The Case of Delhi


City Profile:

Capital and seat of government of India. It is also a municipality and district in Delhi and serves as the seat of Government of Delhi. New Delhi has a population of 249,998 and holds a GDP of As of 2013, the per capita income of Delhi was Rs. 210000, the second highest in India.




Debolina Kundu is an Associate Professor at the National Institute of Urban Affairs in India and has over 20 years of professional experience in the field of development studies. She has been a doctoral fellow with the Indian Council for Social Science Research (ICSSR) and holds a Ph.D. in municipal finance and governance from the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. Kundu has worked as a consultant with LSE, IIDS, UNDP, UNESCAP, KfW Germany, GIZ, Urban Institute, Washington, among others, on issues of urban development, governance and exclusion. She is currently editing a book, Developing National Urban Policies: Ways Forward to Green and Smart Cities with UN-Habitat. She is the editor of the journal Environment and Urbanisation, Asia (SAGE) and has published a large number of articles in books and journals.



India’s 52 metropolises are the economic and commercial engines of the modern nation. These complex entities with multiple municipal and non-municipal institutional arrangements are working essentially as creatures of state governments with very little strategic flexibility. The metropolis of Delhi is no exception, although it enjoys the special status of National Capital Territory (NCT). This is partly because the 74th Constitutional Amendment (CAA) of 1992 failed to visualize the dynamics of emerging large complex urban formations.

With 16 million inhabitants, the NCT is the second most populous metropolis in India. Metropolitan governance in Delhi, like any other metropolis is characterized by fragmentation of responsibility, incomplete devolution of funds, functions and functionaries, parallel existence of parastatals and resident welfare associations, and low recovery of user charges, and property tax. The 74th CAA and the National Urban Renewal Mission attempted to empower the urban local bodies, including metropolises to improve governance and efficiency in civic administration. By contrast, the Smart Cities Mission has mandated special purpose vehicles that redefine the governance and financing of cities, and in the process disengaging metropolises and other big cities from these functions. This paper argues for both a need to comply with the 74th CAA for long-term solutions, as well as better coordination among the municipal and non-municipal entities to achieve effective urban governance.