Yes, you read it right – ‘Kolkata for best quality of life,’ surprising though it may sound. After all, it is common to hear people in India crib about Kolkata and its various problems. Even some Kolkatans are not far behind. However a lot of changes have appeared in recent years which have made the city one of the best in India in many respects. Now here’s one more reason to think so.
A prominent NGO, the Bengaluru-based Janaagraha Centre for Citizenship and Democracy has done a comprehensive study of the quality of life in cities in India – 21 in all – and has come up with a ranking. And, based on the average scores, guess who sits on the top? Why, Kolkata! Thiruvananthapuram, Bhopal and Patna follow, and only after these come another metro city, Delhi. The only other metro city in the top 10 is Mumbai, down at number nine. Therefore, the only metro city in the top three is also Kolkata.
Howrah Bridge, one of the city’s best known landmarks
The survey, called Annual Survey of India’s City-Systems, which has been conducted for the second successive year, bases its ranking on four heads to determine the quality of life in a city: urban planning and design, urban capacities and resources, empowered and legitimate political representation, and transparency, accountability and participation. These four parts cover the various aspects of the, what it calls, ‘city-systems’ and hence are used to determine the quality of life in a city. Across the four parts, a checklist of over seventy main questions covering over a hundred parameters is contained, so the survey can be termed as quite comprehensive.
To maintain balance and authenticity, the responses to the survey questions were sourced from both government and non-government sources, predominantly from the following:
- Municipal Corporation Acts
- State Town and Country Planning Acts or Development Authority Acts
- Expert opinion, specifically on urban planning and design
- Report of the Thirteenth Finance Commission
- Reports of State Finance Commissions
- Websites of municipal corporations
- Reports of multilateral agencies
- Scoring as per Janaagraha Urban G2C Awards 2012
- Press articles, enquiries of personnel from urban local bodies, and other sources from the internet
The survey report
The joint efforts of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation and the state government to restore the past glory of Kolkata and make it a truly great metro city – from beautification to making the city clean and green to improving civic amenities – is yielding results. Funds from the central government for the development of the urban landscape have also been put to proper use. More has been planned for the coming days.
This survey comes close to another one published in December 2013 which
ranked the City of Joy the most progressive city in the country with
respect to public transport. The international study by Arthur D Little,
a Boston-based management consultant, and International Association of
Public Transport (UITP), titled Future of Urban Mobility 2.0,
gave the highest marks to Kolkata, among the six Indian cities
considered. The top rank in the country comes thanks to the array of
transport options available to the citizens – including the age-old tram
system (the only Indian city to have so), the metro railway and the
'intermediate public transport' systems like autorickshaws and taxis.
According to another study by the union Ministry of Urban Development,
people in Kolkata make the best use of public transport – accounting for
54% of all trips made, the highest in the country.
A bird's-eye view of Victoria Memorial and the Maidan; this huge green space gives Kolkata a charm like no other
A good result, but nonetheless with room for improvement
Of course, all is not hunky-dory. According to the survey, Indian cities have an average score in the range of 2.5 to 4 out of 10 against the global benchmarks of 9+, set by London (9.6) and New York (9.3). So there is clearly a lot of room for improvement, but then also, just like the other cities in India.
As the foreward to the survey report says, ‘deep systemic reforms that have a coherent canvas are needed’ to improve the cities in India. Kolkata is well on its way, though, towards implementing many such reforms – through the efforts of various government agencies and private organisations, and also importantly, through the awareness of its people to the need for improvement. After all it is the people who ultimately matter. And Kolkatans have no less a pride and enthusiasm for their city, rather more than that of inhabitants of many other cities of the world.
The City of Joy
Written by Anushtup Haldar for Team M3.tv