Why Ease of Living Index rankings fail to inspire confidence

Pune is the best city to live in India, while Delhi is among the worst cities in terms of economic prospects, according to the Ease of Living Index rankings published recently by the union ministry of housing and urban affairs. In terms of safety and security, Bengaluru is among the worst, the Ease of Living report suggests. How much do these rankings reflect the reality of urban life in India? A Mint analysis of the rankings suggests that there are good reasons to be skeptical.

The index has been developed to allow city managers to get a grip on the city’s baseline and compare its performance across key indicators. The first edition of index released in January 2018 had ranked 111 Indian cities and was topped by Pune.

The index covers 116 cities that are smart city contenders, capital cities, and cities with population of 1 million plus.

The index captures the quality of life based on the data collected from the urban local bodies on four parameters, which were further broken down into 15 categories.

The four parameters include institutional (governance), social (identity, education, health, security), economic (economy, employment) and physical factors (waste water and solid waste management, pollution, housing/ inclusiveness, mixed land use, power and water supply, transport, public open spaces).

Institutional and social parameters carry 25 points each, physical factors have a weightage of 45 points and economic factors five points totalling to a 100 mark scale on which cities were evaluated.

AMRUT is the new avatar of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM).

It adopts a project approach to ensure basic infrastructure services relating to water supply, sewerage, storm-water drains, transportation and development of green spaces and parks with special provision for meeting the needs of children.

Under this mission, 10% of the budget allocation will be given to states and union territories as incentive based on the achievement of reforms during the previous year.

AMRUT will be implemented in 500 locations with a population of one lakh and above. It would cover some cities situated on stems of main rivers, a few state capitals and important cities located in hilly areas, islands and tourist areas.

Under this mission, states get the flexibility of designing schemes based on the needs of identified cities and in their execution and monitoring. States will only submit state annual action Plans to the centre for broad concurrence based on which funds will be released. But, in a significant departure from JNNURM, the central government will not appraise individual projects.

Central assistance will be to the extent of 50% of project cost for cities and towns with a population of up to 10 lakhs and one-third of the project cost for those with a population of above 10 lakhs.

Under the mission, states will transfer funds to urban local bodies within 7 days of transfer by central government and no diversion of funds to be made failing which penal interest would be charged besides taking other adverse action by the centre.

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