Bangalore: Janaagraha Centre for Citizenship and Democracy, a Bangalore-based non-profit organization, along with Brown University’s Brown-India Initiative will develop and publish a citizenship index to measure citizens’ involvement in Indian cities.
The Janaagraha-Brown Citizenship Index, the first of its kind in the country, will be first developed for Bangalore and published by the end of this year. A similar exercise will follow in cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and Pune.
The index will investigate urban Indians’ civic and political engagement with the state and within their own communities. The survey will be conducted through a questionnaire, currently being finalized, and will cover a sample size of nearly 2,500 citizens in each city.
“As India reaches its urban tipping point, the issue of citizenship is very pertinent and studying it would give us a first-mover’s advantage,” said professor Ashutosh Varshney, director, Brown-India Initiative. “While it is extremely important to vote, that is not a sufficiently comprehensive way to judge democracy.”
The citizenship index is Brown-India Initiative’s flagship project.
Varshney said that the index will be developed and measured based on three parameters—voting, “civicness” and exclusion. While measuring “civicness” may entail comparison of civic standards between two cities, exclusion would look at a citizen’s background and its impact on the per interaction with others.
Based on these three parameters, for each city a measurable score will be reached that could be used for comparison with other cities. It would also map how each city changes over time. The score will help determine which city has higher citizen participation.
In 2011, three Indian cities— Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata— had more than 10 million people while 53 cities had more than one million people, compared with 1951, when only five cities had more than 1 million people.
By 2031, six cities are projected to cross the population threshold of 10 million, according to a statement issued by Brown-India Initiative and Janaagraha Centre for Citizenship and Democracy. “Depending on what measures are used, India’s population, 32% urban in 2011, could well be 50% urban by 2030,” said the statement.
On signing the memorandum of understanding (MoU) on Friday with Brown-India Initiative, Janaagraha co-founder Ramesh Ramanathan said that in a democracy the role of citizens and their obligations to each other and to the state need to be assessed. “Over time, we believe the Janaagraha-Brown Citizenship Index will become an important cornerstone in determining the true health of democratic governance in our cities,” said Ramanathan.
Ramanathan and Janaagraha co-founder Swati Ramanathan have been thinking of an initiative on these lines for the past three years and discussions with Brown began in the middle of last year.
Swati Ramanathan said Janaagraha’s interest in the exercise was evident because it focuses on improving the quality of a citizen’s life. While any responsible government should offer to improve infrastructure, the quality of citizenship is important and a goal in itself and not just a means to reach an end.
Many countries conduct similar exercises to measure citizens’ involvement, said O.P. Mathur, distinguished professor of urban economics at the National Institute for Urban Affairs.