Note:  Associate Fellow, Centre for Resource and Environmental Governance, TERI
Note:  Research Associate, Centre for Resource and Environmental Governance, TERI
Note:  Former Research Associate, Centre for Resource and Environmental Governance, TERI
Abstract: Increasingly, urban local bodies (ULBs) in India are facing challenges in attending to the day-to-day needs of the citizens due to systemic inefficiencies in service provision. ULBs provide basic amenities to citizens and constitute the third tier of governance systems. Hence, it is of utmost importance that they align their services to effectively cater to citizens' needs. Recognizing the requirement to strengthen the ULBs and usher in reforms geared towards efficient service delivery mechanisms, the Government of India (GoI) launched the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) in 2005. The mission is a centrally sponsored scheme, providing financial assistance to ULBs based on their performance related to specific governance-related reforms. This paper deals with one such mandatory governance reform, namely, introduction of e-governance by ULBs in their key services and functions. The paper specifically discusses the effectiveness of e-governance reforms for consumer grievance redressal (CGR). Through a detailed study of the functioning of Information Technology (IT) enabled redressal systems in a few cites of India, this article argues that these IT-enabled redressal systems will remain ineffective in providing resolution of complaints until they are backed by effective municipal governance. Effective governance, in this context, would include accountability of municipal staff, community involvement, transparency, and capacity. The paper offers specific governance-related recommendations that need to be in place to make the IT-enabled systems effective. The paper is organized into four sections. Section 1 provides an overview of the GoI initiatives towards strengthening grievance redressal systems in ULBs, particularly the introduction of IT-enabled CGR system. Section 2 discusses the functioning of CGR systems in cities, while highlighting the gaps that exist. Section 3 contains some of the key features of the redressal system in the electricity sector. Section 4 makes recommendations for an effective IT-enabled CGR system, while drawing from the experience of cities that have already implemented similar systems.