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Local Governance in India During a Pandemic: A Case for Granting Agency to Municipal Governments

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International Handbook of Disaster Research


Municipalities (city governments) in India are deeply embedded within the societies they serve. They are at the forefront of coordinating essential services during a disaster, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, by providing food security to vulnerable populations and setting up quarantine facilities, housing, sanitation, public works maintenance, and so on. This is despite the fact that most municipalities have no power to act autonomously in their functional areas and rely heavily on grants and transfers from state and central governments to perform their routine civic functions. Although the Constitution (Seventy-fourth Amendment) Act, 1992, obligates states to empower municipalities with functions, finances, and functionaries, only a few states have taken steps to empower municipalities through decentralization and devolution of powers. Most state governments treat municipalities as their extension and not as an “institution of self-government” that should be considered an autonomous unit within the federation. This chapter highlights how the current governance structure of cities has proved ineffective in mitigating the impact of disasters like the COVID-19 pandemic. It argues that a lack of agency on the part of municipal governments over their administrative and financial relationships with states has resulted in them being institutionally disempowered and depoliticized. Policy recommendations following this line of thinking will conclude this chapter.

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Correspondence to M. Ehteshamul Bari .

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© 2022 Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd.

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Bari, M.E., Dey, P. (2022). Local Governance in India During a Pandemic: A Case for Granting Agency to Municipal Governments. In: Singh, A. (eds) International Handbook of Disaster Research. Springer, Singapore.

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  • Publisher Name: Springer, Singapore

  • Print ISBN: 978-981-16-8800-3

  • Online ISBN: 978-981-16-8800-3

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