Delhi’s ambitions to become a world-class metropolis are hampered by a lack of government accountability and inadequate systems to support its growing population of 14m, according to the city-state’s first human development report.
The city’s per capital income is 2.5 times greater than India’s national average and over the past decade Delhi has emerged as one of the richest states in the country due to improved economic performance.
But the relative affluence of the world’s 10th most populous city masks stark inequities such as homelessness; inadequate education; lack of basic power, water and healthcare; and a higher ratio of boys than girls due to sex-selective abortion.
Delhi’s multiple, overlapping authorities also contribute to its deficiencies, officials admitted at the release last week of the Delhi human development report commissioned by local, state and national government and the United Nations Development Programme.
“The enormous multipli-city of authorities brings about the absence of accountability and slows down the process of decision-taking,” said Sheila Dikshit, chief minister of Delhi.
“For the whole country, Delhi has to become a world-class city,” said Ms Dikshit. “But how is it that minimal things are not even there?”
Delhi’s problems are especially urgent in light of projected growth that sees the city’s population reaching 22m by 2015. About 8 per cent of Delhi’s population, or 1.15m, live below the poverty line, compared with the national average of 26 per cent.
But the city’s low levels of poverty “fail to capture the unsatisfactory living conditions of a large proportion of slum dwellers and the poor,” the report revealed.
Delhi follows Mumbai in attracting the largest number of migrants. Close to 2.2m migrants from neighbouring states entered Delhi between 1991 and 2001, compared with 1.64m between 1981 and 1991.
Housing shortages in Delhi have risen exponentially with an estimated 45 per cent of the city’s population living in slums, including squatter settlements and unauthorised colonies. There are 50,000-100,000 homeless in Delhi, of whom nearly 50 per cent are children.
Delhi’s residents lack basic amenities and the city faces an unparalleled water crisis. Nearly a quarter of Delhi’s houses had no access to piped water in 2001. Twenty-seven per cent of households receive water for less than three hours a day and 55 per cent for only three to six hours.
Women and girls in Delhi face strong biases, as starkly reflected in an alarming fall in the ratio of girls to boys born in Delhi.
In 2000 there were only 820 female births for every 1,000 male births. The discrepancy is attributable to sex-selective abortion and female foeticide “that are reported to be widely practiced in Delhi.”