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Resources, City Spotlights Delhi Municipal Corporation

City Spotlight: Delhi Municipal Corporation, India

The Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), New Delhi Municipal Corporation and Delhi Cantonment together comprise the National Capital Territory of Delhi (NCTD). Situated in the northern part of India, with more than 30 million residents, NCTD is one of the most populous megacities in the world.

The MCD as a local government is the largest of the three governments that make up NCTD and was re-established in 2022 (after it was trifurcated into three smaller municipalities in 2012), with Shelley Oberoi elected and serving as mayor since then. MCD is currently divided into 12 administrative zones, each one consisting of a ward committee responsible for addressing local concerns.

The MCD joined the Strong Cities Network in August 2023 after Mayor Oberoi and city councillors took part in a June 2023 Mayoral Roundtable on Local Efforts to Build Social Harmony and Cohesion and an August 2023 regional workshop hosted by Strong Cities’ South Asia Regional Hub. In September 2023, the MCD facilitated the participation of the larger NCTD in Strong Cities’ Fourth Global Summit in New York City.

What is the local government concerned about?

Delhi faces numerous threats to its social cohesion, stemming from rapid urbanisation and migration, which strain resources and create competition for jobs and housing, exacerbating economic disparities and leading to tensions amongst the city’s various social and ethnic groups. Further, inter-ethnic and inter-religious tensions are exacerbated by hate speech, particularly during election periods, with political parties scapegoating ethnic and/or religious ‘others’ for political gain and to sow division. Deep-seated issues such as caste-based discrimination also persist and further undermine social cohesion, despite the existence of legal frameworks to safeguard against such discrimination. Political fragmentation, inadequate infrastructure, environmental degradation and biased media reporting all contribute to social divisions and alienation, particularly affecting marginalised communities such as Dalits (referring to the lowest of castes in the Indian caste system), religious minorities, members of the LGBTQ+ communities and sex workers.

Delhi has also experienced multiple manifestations of violent extremism. This includes the 2008 Delhi Bombings, in which a series of bomb blasts rocked several locations across the city leaving over 30 people dead and many more injured and the 2011 High Court bombing, which resulted in 11 fatalities and dozens of injuries.

Hate-motivated violence more broadly also remains of significant concern. For example, in 2020 a number of riots took place, which turned violent as tensions grew between groups supporting versus opposing the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which enables an accelerated pathway to Indian citizenship for persecuted minorities who entered India but excludes Muslims in this. The exclusion of Muslims from this Act led to strong opposition to the legislation from India’s Muslim population. The Act also contributed to a spike in anti-Muslim violence, with many shops, houses and mosques burnt and desecrated. These incidents underscore the persistent threat of violent extremism and hate-motivated violence in Delhi, necessitating constant vigilance and proactive measures to safeguard the city and all its residents.

How is the local government responding?

The Ministry of Home Affairs in India has directed city governments to adopt a set of measures to mitigate communal violence and provide protection to affected communities. These so-called ‘Guidelines on Communal Harmony’ include preventive and administrative measures, personnel policies, press/media awareness building, enforcement action and monitoring of cases, relief and rehabilitation.

MCD, along with various law enforcement agencies and civil society organisations, implements a range of measures in line with the Guidelines. These include enforcing existing laws against hate speech, incitement of violence and discrimination, while also striving to enhance legal protections for victims of such crimes, including by introducing new legislation as necessary. These efforts are complemented by law enforcement-led intelligence-gathering and rapid response mechanisms to detect and counter hate crimes and communal violence. Together, the MCD and law enforcement also conduct investigations of and prosecute those they believe to be responsible for spreading hatred or inciting violence.

Beyond a legal and policing approach, MCD addresses these threats by partnering with civil society and launching its own government-led programmes. For example, the city’s Chairperson of the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW), Swati Maliwal, has spearheaded various women’s empowerment projects and campaigns to address violence against women and gender discrimination, including through the launch of a ‘Rape Crisis Cell’, which has received more than 410,000 calls and counselled 60,000 sexual assault survivors. The DCW also advocates for stricter laws and policies at the national level to protect women’s rights.

Further, the Deputy Chief Minister of Delhi has played a pivotal role in implementing education reforms to improve the quality of education in government schools. For example, initiatives such as the ‘Happiness Curriculum‘ and ‘Chunauti’ programme were launched with the aim to foster inclusive learning environments and promote values of tolerance and empathy, building resilience against extremism and hate speech amongst youth.

The MCD additionally supports youth activists with deploying projects and campaigns to promote dialogue and understanding, while also protecting them from the potential backlash their activism carries in Delhi. For example, when a youth activist received threats of rape as a result of her calls for inclusivity, the city government stationed two constables at her residence to provide her security and protection.

The MCD additionally works with or is otherwise involved in a variety of community-based and other organisations to meet its prevention objectives. This includes:

Together, these initiatives represent a concerted effort to address social disparities, empower marginalised groups and foster a sense of solidarity and inclusivity within the diverse fabric of Delhi to mitigate the spread and violent escalations of hate, extremism and polarisation.

What’s next?

The MCD aims to continue addressing gender inequality and gender-based violence through community-based partnerships, seeking to implement policies to advance women’s rights and equality in all sectors of society and investing in particular to improving women’s access to education, healthcare and economic opportunities. Further, MCD seeks to strengthen resilience and improve social cohesion through implementing additional community-based initiatives with a focus on enhancing its investments in disaster preparedness (particularly related to climate change and infrastructure).

Finally, the merge of the North, South and East Delhi Municipal Agencies into the MCD in 2022 resulted in a compilation of each Municipal Agency’s resources. This has, in turn, enabled a more streamlined deployment of such resources. The MCD will leverage this unification of resources to scale its response to political and religious polarisation, including by creating platforms for open dialogue and disseminating messages of peace, tolerance and inclusivity.

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