Mumbai leads the pack of 21 cities that offer a better quality of life to its citizens, while Thiruvanathapuram follows as a close second. While the maximum city improved its ranking compared to last year, moving up eight places, national capital Delhi slipped from fifth position in 2014 to sixth this year.

The city rankings, surveyed across 18 Indian states, were revealed by the third edition of the Annual Survey of India’s City-Systems (ASICS) survey conducted by Janaagraha Centre for Citizenship and Democracy, reported The Times of India.  

However, the most unfortunate aspect is that all 21 cities had very low scores, ranging between 2-4.2 on a scale of zero to 10, while their international counterparts like London and New York scored 9.4 and 9.7 respectively. 

The survey highlights systemic inadequacies in urban governance and is based on “actual governance”, and not popular perception. It is based on 83 parameters that include urban planning and design, capacities and resources, empowered and legitimate political representation, and transparency, accountability and participation. 

Some of the questions asked in the survey were: How successfully has your city implemented its spatial development plan? Does your city have effective mechanisms to deter plan violations? Does your city encourage participatory planning? Is your city truly democratic? How well does your city address citizen complaints? 

Noting that Indian cities see recurrence of the same problems, the report says

“Band-aid solutions like creating more landfills, filling pot holes, desilting drains ahead of monsoons do not address the root causes, which have made our cities what they are today.”

In fact, one of the few planned cities, Chandigarh, has the dubious distinction of being at the bottom for the second time in a row.

b’Rock garden at Chandigarh / Source: Tripadvisor’

But some cities have made major improvements, such as Hyderabad, which moved up from 17th position to 9th within a year while Kanpur moved up from 14th position in 2014 to 8th this year. 

Janaagraha coordinator Srikanth Viswanath said, “Floods in Mumbai, garbage crisis in Bangalore, and more recently air pollution levels in Delhi and Chennai floods are alarm bells that more of the same solutions i.e. a series of patchwork projects, will not suffice. Root causes need to identified and addressed; the disease needs to be treated and not just the symptoms.”