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… And Gorakhpur follows the suit

Vaishali Nandan
President, Society for Planning & Research in Sustainable Management (PRISM)
Gorakhpur 273006
Email: [email protected]

Gorakhpur strives for E-Governance through GIS that will increase transparency and accountability and reduce complacency in the system.

Urban planning in India has its roots in the Mohenjodaro and Harappa civilizations. The ruins of these ancient civilisations are ample proof of the sophisticated planning and management in that era. British, in India, were pioneers of the current system of Urban Management and till date virtually the same system is followed with minor amendments.

With the advent of information technology and modern day pressures on land, the fundamentals of public service delivery, demand, a new system more in sync with the problems of this age. Electronic Governance (EG), which started off with the computerisation of back office operations, has now gone beyond this basic feature. It has redefined the fundamentals of work and speed and intends to bring about a major change in how the Government operates not only in urban India but globally as well.

GIS has the potential to link data visually on a common denominator, analyse it and make predictions for the future. Maps are essential in Urban Planning and EG through GIS has the potential to revolutionise city governance. While initiatives have been emanating from various directions in EG and GIS, they are often at cross-purposes, losing their relevance in their repetitiveness.

All urban planning work encompasses the city at the macro-scale and the household at the micro-scale. Thus a map showing all households, roads, lanes and by-lanes of an urban area would be an essential starting point for a GIS. Once the base map is digitised, all relevant information at the household, mohalla, ward and city levels can be fed into the map or corresponding databases for analysis and predictions. Use of remote sensing imageries and/or aerial photogrammetry will simplify updating the base map and aim for greater real world accuracy.

The Census Bureau, Government of India, collects data right up to the household level. Since 1991, it has been dividing households’ in urban areas into groups of 125 each, mapping them and collecting data. It completed its second such exercise during the 2001 census. This data in digital format promises to provide all urban local bodies and many government departments with a ready database for planning purposes, but there is a need to go about this process in a systematic manner.

It is the prerogative of the city administration to take an initiative and have the base map prepared. As is evident from Figure 1, it will be the biggest beneficiary from such an exercise. The Urban Local Body (ULB) should be given the responsibility for preparation of this map, since it is the first department to receive notification of additions of property. This system will have to be either online or connected by Wide Area Network (WAN), so that updates on the original map are timely available to other departments.

Fig. 1: Model for Urban Planning and E-Governanc

It is at this stage that choosing appropriate software and hardware for GIS assumes utmost importance. A software that allows cross-linking of data, visual representation of data by a click on the map, building topology and tin modeling should be used. If due to monetary constraints such software is not affordable, then software that allows free conversion across various GIS platforms should be used.

Once the ULB has prepared the base map and attached the Census records to each property, the map is ready for use. Other departments can attach their data in the form of layers over this base map. A list of such departments and their usage is given below:

The Urban Local Body (ULB)

  • Property tax base of the ULB will increase whenever a new property is added to the base map. It can maintain a record of billing, arrears and even crosscheck-assessed value of properties.
  • Water Supply – Accurate calculations of water supplied (lpcd) to each section of the city can be made. The pipeline network, its dia, type, incidence of breakage, tube wells, overhead tanks and their supply can be mapped. Gradually, sensors can be installed at each bend in the main pipeline, so that location of leakages can be pin pointed for facilitating instant repairs and monitoring water quality.
  • Sewerage – It’s outflow, treatment, breakages can be mapped and monitoring done, as above.
  • Solid waste – Amount generated; optimum distance for carts, trolleys and trucks can be calculated. The distance to dumping sites can be optimised.
  • Roads – Quality and type can1 be shown as a layer on the map. A visual record of repairs can also be maintained.
  • Street Lights – Working or not working and their quality can be shown via maps. Sensors can even be attached to each lamppost for facilitating repairs and replacements.
  • Health – Incidence of malaria and other diseases can be mapped making it faster to pin point the origin of a disease. Number of births and deaths can be mapped; number of hospital beds/person calculated so that more can be established, where needed.
  • Municipal Education – The number of children/school can be calculated and new education centers established where they are required the most.

Revenue Department
This department maintains land records. If these records are clubbed with the property map of the ULB, it will give the exact location and size of properties. The valuation of plots will be easy and appropriate stamp duty can be collected at the time of sale of property.

Urban Development Authority
If the information from the Revenue Department and the Census Departments are layered with that of the ULB’s, it will provide the Urban Development Authority valuable information on Urban sprawl. The direction of city growth, where the development authority should plan its colonies and if need be where the unauthorised Malin Bastis can be rehabilitated.

Fire Department
Problem areas in the city can be easily identified, if the type and quality of construction of houses is mapped.

Food & Civil Supplies Department
It can maintain an accurate account of which house has what type of ration card.

Police Department
This department can maintain a record of FIR’s lodged, lost and found valuables/ persons/ dead bodies per area, visually.

Electricity Board
The Electricity Board can keep an account of the wattage supplied and used per household; bills issued and arrears, if any.

Road Transport Office
The R.T.O. can maintain a record of registered vehicles and driving licenses issued per household.

Telecom Department The Telecom Department can keep a visual record of telephone connections/house, the number of STD/ISD connections, bills and arrears.

Postal Department
The Postal Department can map the beat of the Postman.

The administration can prepare for disasters like floods and cyclones by superimposing a contour map on the base map and making a model in GIS. It will give an accurate description of the areas and population that needs evacuation during such a calamity.

Efforts in the direction of EG & Urban Planning are being made in different parts of the country. One such attempt is being made jointly by the Society for Planning & Research in Sustainable Management (PRISM) and The Gorakhpur Municipal Corporation (GMC), for the city of Gorakhpur, U.P. Given below is the case study of Gorakhpur and its efforts towards EG in Urban Planning through GIS.

Case Study: The Gorakhpur Geographical Information System
The Gorakhpur Municipal Corporation (GMC), which is responsible for the provision of basic amenities and city governance, serves an area of 147 sq. km. It has a fully functional computerised billing system for properties, including yearly record of payments and arrears, since 1988; even the staff pay roll was on the computer. But there was a total lack of visual representation of data. The only map possessed by the Municipal Corporation depicted ward boundaries for the city. As a consequence the Corporation employees faced innumerable problems when they went on the field or the matter of settling a property dispute arose, forcing them to refer to a Revenue map dating back to 1913.

The last blanket assessment of properties within the limits of the Gorakhpur Municipal Corporation was done in 1984. Since then the city has grown to almost twice that size, with a proportionate increase in the number of properties. But many of these properties are unaccounted for, even in the older areas of the city making reassessment of properties an essential need for the accuracy of this study.

Keeping in view the larger goal of Urban Planning & EG, the GMC tool the initiative for making a property map for the city on GIS. Even though GMC had divided the city into 8 Circles for its convenience, the 60 Census Wards of 1991 were taken as the starting point for this study. As per the computer records, the total properties falling under the purview of GMC were 67,155 (on 30-06-2000).

In order to minimise the disturbance that would be caused by devising a new system, the computerised property records of GMC were adapted into the project. According to this, all assessed properties lying within the purview of the Corporation have a record on the computer that has been coded in the form of a 10-digit number ( Fig. 2).

The database of the Municipal Corporation is on FoxPro. But it does not include any information pertaining to assessment of a property and the employees of the Municipal Corporation have to rely on the judgment of the Tax Inspectors and the clerical staff for assessment of properties. The only method of crosschecking this information is either to look up the ledgers or to visit the site, a task that is extremely tedious. Added to this is the problem of property number allocation, which many a times is done by the clerical staff without even visiting the site, making it extremely difficult for the tax inspectors to locate the properties once they go on the field. Some other problems that highlight the need of a Geographical Information System are:

  • Property numbers are not in sequence
  • Incorrect demands are printed or there is wrong entry of property numbers
  • Properties that have been demolished or do not exist anymore continue to be billed.
  • There is no visual link between the location of a property and its corresponding data, rendering all forms of visual analysis impossible.

The Study Area
The project is divided into two phases. The pilot phase of the project has been completed and it covered two wards namely, the Civil Lines Wards I & II (ward no. 45 & 48). This area comprised the three Mohallas of Civil Lines, Bilandpur & Kalepur, together housing a total of 1,073 properties, as per the computer records of the Municipal Corporation (on 30-06-2000). The second phase of the project will aim to cover the entire city.

The study area was duly representative of the older and newer parts of the city, the Civil Lines mohalla representing the former and Bilandpur mohalla representative of the latter. While Kalepur, is a mixed set of both the old and the new. Bilandpur Mohalla had a very high percentage of new properties because of its proximity to the city center as well as accessibility to reclaimable low cost land along the National Highway.

The Objective
The objective of the project was to organise and map the property tax structure of the corporation, using GIS as a tool.

The methodology adopted in order to fulfill the above objective commenced with a rapid inventory of the available information. A questionnaire was prepared in Hindi (the local language) and included all the information necessary for assessing a property according to the current practices followed by the Municipal Corporation as well as information that would be needed under the Property Tax Self-Assessment scheme to be adopted shortly by all the Municipal Corporations within the state of U.P.

Subsequently a base map was prepared for the study area. The only maps available for the city of Gorakhpur are the 1972 Survey of India Map at the 1:20,000 scale and the 1913 Revenue map on the 1:6,490 scale. These were subsequently scanned, enlarged and the first level map digitised in MapInfo. Remote Sensing imageries in the 5.8m and 1m resolution could not be used because of lack of funds. Each property in the area was notionally marked on the base map and given a number, either from the existing computer records or a new number in case of an un-assessed property. A fresh property survey was conducted on the basis of the questionnaire prepared and the data collected was fed into MS Excel sheets. The manual property map was crosschecked and necessary corrections made at the time of the survey. Subsequently, this map was digitised and the data sheets from the survey; and information on property billing and arrears obtained from the GMC were attached to the maps. House Plans, which are passed by the Gorakhpur Development Authority before the construction of a house, were scanned and attached to an MS Access database, along with the house sketches made by the surveyors in order that comparisons between the existing situation and approved plans could be made. The final analysis and reassessment of properties was done in the form of tables and maps.

Properties in the Civil Lines Wards I & II have a mixed land use of residential and commercial. The computer records of GMC listed 1,073 properties but the survey located 1,366 properties. Of the computer records of the GMC, 3% (41) properties were no longer existent on the ground and 21% (284) properties were not listed and therefore un-assessed. The maximum number of un-assessed properties was in the newer Bilandpur Mohalla, accounting for 156 (11%) of the total records. But the un-assessed properties in the older Civil Lines Mohalla were no less, 98 (7%) of the total records.

According to the current Annual Rental Value (12% House Tax, 12% Water Tax, 3% Sewer Tax and 0% Conservancy Tax), 72% property owners in Bilandpur and 66% in Kalepur have property tax arrears pending towards the Corporation and maximum cases were in the range of Rs. 1-3000 (on 30-06-2000). Properties within each Mohalla were further divided on the basis of land use, type of construction, year of construction, year of stay, location of property, availability of basic amenities, covered area and carpet area. Attempts were made to derive the per sq. ft. Annual Rental Value from the available data but further work on reassessment remains pending because of unavailability of comprehensive data on the carpet area of each property. Till such time that the Gorakhpur Municipal Corporation sends out a directive to the property owners asking them to submit information on the carpet area, a comprehensive reassessment of properties cannot be attempted. A task possible only when reassessment is done for the entire city in the second Phase.

Financial Benefits
Financial Benefits projected for the Municipal Corporation have been calculated on the basis of two options – as per the total number of wards and as per the total number of properties.

The Gorakhpur Municipal Corporation levies a total of 27% taxes on the population residing within its limits and all calculations have been made in accordance.

Option I : According to Wards
As shown in Table 1, if benefits accruing from the un-assessed properties within the 2 wards studied in the Pilot phase are postulated at Rs. 5.37 lacs then the benefits accruing from the 60 wards within the Corporation limits can be estimated at Rs. 1.6 crores. Even if only 75% of this value is taken into account, it still amounts to an enormous figure of Rs.1.2 crores.

Option II : According to Properties
Financial benefits if calculated on the basis of the total number of un-assessed properties within the city (20% of total properties), excluding an estimated 2% non-existent records and taking an average ARV of Rs.2,000 as the datum value. The benefits accruing towards the Municipal Corporation will amount to Rs. 1.5 lacs for the study area and Rs. 70 lacs for the entire city.

Increase in ARV
Once a fresh survey of the entire city is conducted, it is assumed that a minimum of 25% of the properties in the current records of the Corporation will need to be reassessed and that the increase in their ARV will be a minimum of Rs. 500. This will benefit the Municipal Corporation by a further Rs. 82 lacs.

Gross Financial Benefits from the Project
Thus it is proposed that the Gorakhpur Municipal Corporation will benefit by Rs. 2 crores if the first option is added to the increase in ARV or by Rs. 1.5 crores if the second option is considered with the increase in ARV. The initial investment will be returned to it in almost the same time period it will take to prepare the base and property maps for the city.

Table 1: Financial Justification According to Wards
Head Mohalla Civillines Bilandpur Kalepur Total
Average ARV 15,652 2,158 3,983 21,794
No. of Unassesed HH 98 156 30 284
Expected ARV (Rs) 1,533,958 336,794 119,490 1,990,243
House Tax (12% ARV) 184,075 40,415 14,338 238,829
Water Tax (12% ARV) 184,075 40,415 14,338 238,829
Sewer Tax (3% ARV) 46,018 10,103 3,584 59,707
Estimated Property (Taxes p.a.) 414,168 90,934 32,262 537,365
Source: Society for PRISM
Note: Conservancy Tax (0% ARV)

Once the map for the entire city is prepared the house-to-house digital records available with the Census Department will be attached to each property, using the property numbers as a common factor. The Revenue records will also be clubbed in a similar fashion. The other departments, which have been listed in Figure 1, will be natural beneficiaries of this database. They will only have to attach their data to the base map, in the form of layers, as stated earlier in the model, and a tool for planning will be ready at the click of a button. If all or most of the stated departments join hands in a combined effort towards E-Governance through GIS, things will become faster; cost less; there will be an increase in the transparency and accountability within these departments and it will also be a step forward in the elimination of red-tapism, bureaucracy and corruption.