Municipal Governance: SKOCH State of Governance Report 2021

Municipal Governance: SKOCH State of Governance 2021

Municipalities are one of the primary units of ‘local governance’ in India and the first pulse point for testing the state of governance in the country.

14 April, 2022 State of Governance
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Municipal Rankings

Municipal Governance is often referred to as ‘local governance,’ and rightly so, because it is typically the first contact with governance for most citizens in their everyday lives. Several important good governance initiatives have come out of the municipalities in 2021.

The Top 3 spots for Municipal Governance are classified as STARS. The next 3 ranks are recognised as PERFORMERS. The next 3 ranks are recognised as CATCHING UP. The remaining participants are called OTHERS.


The Top 3 high-performing municipalities are categorised as Stars in the SKOCH State of Governance rankings. For 2021, the Star municipalities are Thane in Maharashtra, Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, Bidhannagar in West Bengal, Vapi in Gujarat and Chennai in Tamil Nadu.

The top spot was shared by Thane and Varanasi. The #2 rank is also a tie, between Bidhannagar and Vapi, whilst the #3 spot for the Star municipalities goes to Chennai.

In 2020, Thane was ranked #13 nationally. The other 2021 star municipalities have all marked an impressive improvement from being unranked/ not-participating in 2020 to making the cut for the Top 3 Star spots in 2021.


The next 3 spots after the Star municipalities are categorised as Performers. For 2021, the top spot in the Performers segment goes to Bhubaneswar in Odisha, followed by Jalgaon in Maharashtra. In terms of national ranking for Municipal Governance, both are ranked at #4.

The next tier of the Performers category is a tie for the national municipalities rank of #5 between several cities. The first three of these is Ballari in Karnataka, followed by Baranagar in West Bengal and Calicut in Kerala. The next three municipalities in the Performers segment are Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh, Kakinada in Andhra Pradesh and Punganur also in Andhra Pradesh. Sangli in Maharashtra and Siddipet in Telangana close out the #5 rank for municipalities in 2021.

The final listing in the Performers category goes to Agra, from Uttar Pradesh. Agra is ranked at #6 overall in the Municipal Governance sector.

Of the municipalities ranked as Performers for 2021, only Punganur from Andhra Pradesh, achieved a ranking in the SKOCH State of Governance 2020 report. Punganur was ranked #13 in 2020 and has climbed up to #6 in 2021.


The next 3 ranking slots are categorised as Catching Up. For Municipal Governance in 2021, several contenders have been marked as catching up.

The first three in this segment are Ambala in Haryana, Berhampur in Odisha and Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh. These three municipalities have tied for the #7 spot in the Municipal Governance national rankings. Jabalpur falls two spots from its #5 position in 2020 to #7 in 2021.

Several municipalities tied for the #8 national rank in the 2021 Municipal Governance review. The first five of these are Adityapur in Jharkhand, Aizawl in Mizoram, Anantapuramu in Andhra Pradesh, Aurangabad in Maharashtra and Bengaluru in Karnataka. Of these, Bengaluru has climbed up 5 spots, improving from #13 in 2020 to #8 in 2021.

The next five municipalities that have tied for the #8 Municipal Governance rank are Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh, Bishnupur in West Bengal, Chhindwara in Madhya Pradesh, Chittoor in Andhra Pradesh and Silvassa in Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu. Chhindwara has shown progress, moving up the ranks 4 spots from #12 in 2020 to #8 in 2021. Chittoor has also registered a rise of 5 spots, improving from #13 in 2020 to #8 in 2021.

The next 5 Performer municipalities that are also ranked #8 overall are Dhenkanal in Odisha, East Singhbhum in Jharkhand, Faridabad in Haryana, Jamnagar in Gujarat and Kozhikode in Kerala. While the first four of these Performer municipalities do not have a rank for State of Governance 2020, Kozhikode continues to hold its rank of #8 for two consecutive years from 2020 to 2021.

The next 5 Performer municipalities are Kurnool in Andhra Pradesh, Munikireti in Uttarakhand, Nashik in Maharashtra, New Town Kolkata in West Bengal and Pune in Maharashtra. Munikireti maintains it position as a #8 rank-holder from 2020 to 2021. New Town Kolkata experiences a decline, falling from #3 in 2020 to #8 in 2021. Pune also experiences a significant decline, falling 7 places from the #1 spot in 2020 to #8 in 2021.

And finally, the last segment has 7 municipalities that close out the #8 rank as well as the Catching Up category of municipalities that have performed well in 2021. These are Rajnandgaon in Chhattisgarh, Sambalpur in Odisha, Sattenpalli in Andhra Pradesh, Siliguri in West Bengal, Srinagar in Jammu & Kashmir, Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala and Vita in Maharashtra.


The high-ranking municipalities that have done well for the year are categorised as Stars, Performers and Catching. Beyond these rankings, all other municipalities are listed as Others. It is worth noting that important work is being done across other municipalities as well and the SKOCH State of Governance research welcomes participants from all over the country. Municipalities that have not been able to make the cut for the Stars, Performers and Catching Up segments are classified as Others.

State Rankings In Municipal Governance


Within the Municipal Governance sector, the top five best-performing states are classified as Star states. Many of the well-known heavy-hitters have secured the coveted top 5 ranking in the Municipal Governance sector.

The #1 spot in Municipal Governance goes to Maharashtra, and the state has managed to lead the pack for three years in a row now.

The 2nd spot is taken by Uttar Pradesh, which moves from being unranked in the sector in 2020 to being one of the highest performers in 2021.

West Bengal is ranked #3, climbing up 1 spot from #4 in 2020.

Gujarat is ranked #4 in 2021, making an improvement of 5 spots from #9 in 2020.

And finally, closing out the Top 5 is Odisha, going from being unranked for the sector in 2020 to being #5 in 2021.


After the Star states, the next 5 well-performing states in the Municipal Governance sector have been catalogued as Performers. The ranks between #6 and #10 in the sector are shared by 7 states for 2021.

The #6 spot is shared by Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Kerala has made an improvement of 1 position, moving up from #7 in 2020. Tamil Nadu was not ranked for Municipal Governance in 2020 and shows significant improvement by making the Top 10 in 2021.

Karnataka has placed #7 overall in the Municipal Governance sector. The state was marked #11 for the same in 2020 and has moved up four positions in the rankings.

The #8 spot is a tie between Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Andhra Pradesh has fallen 5 spots from #3 in 2020 to #8 in 2021. Telangana on the other hand has climbed up the ladder 2 places, from #10 in 2020.

Madhya Pradesh has experienced a decline of 7 spots, falling from #2 in 2020 to #9 in 2021.

Haryana has maintained its position as the #10 state in the Municipal Governance sector.


The next 5 states are classified as Catching Up states. For 2021, 5 states have tied for the #11 spot. These are Chhattisgarh, Daman and Diu (UT), Jammu & Kashmir (UT), Jharkhand and Mizoram. While the other states in this segment have shown a significant improvement from being unranked over the last three years in this sector, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand fell from #5 and #10 respectively in 2019 to being unranked in 2020 but have managed to make the cut as Catching Up states in 2021. 


The states that do not receive a ranking in the Star, Performer or Catching Up segments are classified as Others.

Shift In Priorities At Municipal Level: SKOCH State of Governance 2021

The Covid-19 pandemic impacted governance in a myriad of ways at every level over the last few years. While the changes between 2019 and 2020 were most drastic, with governance shifting into high-gear in the war against Covid-19, the trends between 2020 and 2021 have been subtler. Some key concerns continue to remain in focus whilst other sectors are scaled back, for instance, while the Response to Covid dominated every aspect of governance in 2020, it has declined at the Municipalities level from 2020 to 2021.

Sectors With Increased Focus

The sectors that have grown at the Municipal level in 2021 include Education, Environment and Sustainability, Water and projects classified under Others.

Education: Education rises up from accounting for 0.8% of the total projects in 2020 to 3.4% of the projects in 2021.

Environment and Sustainability: The last few years have seen a paradigm shift of sorts across industries, governance sectors, administration and socioeconomic priorities: the focus on Environment and Sustainability has become a driving principle behind many political, socioeconomic, industrial and personal endeavours. Environment and Sustainability projects made up 5.7% of the Municipal Governance projects for 2020 and 10.2% of the projects for 2021.

Water: Water continues to be a primary administrative prerogative across levels of governance. At the Municipalities level, Water projects accounted for 5.7% of the total shortlisted Municipal Governance projects in 2020 and this number has grown to 10.2% in 2021. Water projects appear to be following the same trajectory as the Environment and Sustainability niche.

Sectors With Continued Focus

Certain sectors have maintained an even pace, rising and falling by only a few percentage points over the years for the most part. These trends are indicative of a stable approach to the specific niches at the Municipal level. For 2021, the sectors we see neither sharp rises nor declines in are Health, Technology and Municipal Administration. All three of these projects have registered an improvement between 2020 and 2021 but the change is not significant at this stage.

Health: Heath marks a slight increase, from 1.6% of ranked Municipal projects in 2020 to 1.7% in 2021.

Technology: Technology across different walks of life has become one of the most discussed issues in recent years. From technology as e-Governance for good governance to technological transformations across industry, economy, political structures, etc., the sector at both macro and micro levels continues to hold sway. Technology has marked a small increase from 3.3% of the Municipal Governance projects in 2020 to 5.1% of the projects in 2021.

General Administration: Overall good governance continues to a priority across the administrative landscape of the country. General Administration projects at the Municipal level have grown from 6.5% of ranked projects in 2020 to 8.5% in 2021. It is worth noting that this is a sharp decline from 2019, when the niche accounted for 17.1% of the ranked projects.

Sectors With Less Focus

Some sub-sectors are defined by a decline in ranked projects over the years. These trends can indicate a change in priorities, either in terms of an absolute fall in focus or relative shift in focus vis-à-vis other niches that have taken the centerstage in a given year. As such, these trends help evaluate governance imperatives and prerogatives against immediate contexts and long-term interests.

The sub-sectors where there has been a decrease in focus at the Municipal level include e-Governance, Housing, Response to COVID and Sanitation.

e-Governance: The e-Governance niche falls from 9.8% of the ranked municipal projects in 2020 to 6.8% of the total projects. This development is in line with several trends observed between 2020 and 2021 as the world adapts to living with the Covid-19 virus and some of the urgency in specific sectors is scaled back. Even as we continue to move towards fully realising the potential of the Digital India dream, it stands to reason that as the physical, in-person processes and places are once again opening up and ‘going back to normal,’ e-Governance is not currently the top priority of administrations.

Housing: Housing projects experience a steep decline in 2021, falling to 0% from 9.8% of the municipal projects ranked in 2020.

Response to COVID: Even though Response to COVID continues to account for a big chunk of the projects shortlisted in Municipal Governance in 2021, the overall focus has decreased a fair bit and understandably so. In 2020, the lion’s share of all governance efforts was completely focused on trying to grapple with an unpredictable, unknowable enemy. As the world adapts to the virus, so do governance initiatives. Even though the pandemic continues to impact every aspect of life, it is fair to say that it perhaps no longer dominates. As such, it comes as no surprise that the Response to COVID municipal projects fall from 23.6% in 2020 to 16.9% in 2021.

Sanitation: Much like the Response to COVID niche, Sanitation too has been impacted by the change in approach to the pandemic situation. As we shift from a state of firefighting against a strange and terrifying enemy to learning to live in this new normal, certain niches are moving from a war-footing to a more long-term stance. In 2020, many Sanitation projects were focused on aspects of sanitation, health and hygiene that would help control and prevent the spread of the virus and boost immunity through better standards of sanitation. Sanitation still continues to be an important aspect of good governance, but there is a change in the kind, intensity and number of projects being rolled out. Sanitation made up a whopping 29.3% of the municipal projects ranked for 2020 but is now at 18.6% of the projects for 2021.

Shift In Priorities of Smart Cities

Sectors With Increased Focus

The areas that registered an increase in governance priorities at the municipal level in Smart Cities are Education, Health, Response to COVID and Technology. It is worth noting that none of these growth patterns mark a significant increase in terms of year-on-year comparison but they do count as an improvement and as such, are classified as good governance trends.

Education: The Education niche had no contribution to the total ranked Smart City municipal projects in 2020 but this has changed for 2021. The niche now accounts for 3.6% of the ranked projects for Smart Cities for 2021.

Health: From no projects ranked for 2020 to 3.6% of the ranked projects in 2021, the sub-sector has definitely marked an improvement.

Technology: Smart City projects have grown from 3.1% in 2020 to 7.1% in 2021.

Response to COVID: The rise from 21.9% of total projects in 2020 to 25% in 2021 is a somber reminder that even as the world has turned the corner on the pandemic, 2021 and the Second Wave were one of the worst periods in modern history.

Sectors With Continued Focus

Two sectors continued to receive a stable amount of focus between 2020 and 2021 in the Smart Cities. These are e-Governance and Environment and Sustainability.

e-Governance: e-Governance projects accounted for 12.5% of the total ranked Municipal Governance Smart City projects in 2020 and this number rose slightly to 14.3% in 2021.

Environment and Sustainability: There has been a small increase in sub-sector in the Smart Cities, from 6.3% of the ranked projects in 2020 to 7.1% in 2021.

Sectors With Less Focus

The governance areas that have declined in the Smart Cities are General Administration, Housing, Sanitation and Water.

General Administration: The amount of General Administration projects fell from 12.5% of the total in 2020 to 7.1% in 2021.

Housing: One of the steepest declines observed in the governance priorities of Smart Cities is in the Housing niche, from 9.4% in 2020 to 0% in 2021.

Water: Another noteworthy downward trend is that in terms of Water projects, falling from 3.1% in 2020 to 0% in 2021.

Sanitation: Sanitation projects have also registered a sharp nosedive in Smart Cities, from 18.8% in 2020 to 7.1% in 2021.

Smart Cities vs. Other Cities

Focus Areas in Smart Cities

The evaluation of municipal projects in Smart Cities in 2021 shows there was an emphasis on projects dedicated to Response to COVID and e-Governance.

Response to COVID: The biggest priority of the Smart Cities in the Municipal Governance niche continued to be Response to COVID projects. Even though we have observed that governance has adapted to playing the long-game against the virus now, it bears mentioning that in 2021, especially during the Second Wave of the pandemic, many ULBs and SPVs were integral in the battle against Covid-19. Many specialised niche projects have been launched all over the country that did not directly tackle the healthcare crisis itself but sought to supplement administrative effort and improve good governance in the face of an unprecedented challenge. Response to COVID projects accounted for 25% of the total ranked municipal projects for Smart Cities in 2021.

e-Governance: e-Governance projects rose from 12.5% of the total in 2020 to 14.3% in 2021.

Focus Areas in Other Cities

The priority areas for other cities in 2021 are Environment and Sustainability, General Administration, Sanitation and Water.

Environment and Sustainability: This niche is the third-highest contributor to ranked municipal projects for the Other Cities category. It grows from 5.5% in 2020 to 12.9% in 2021.

General Administration: General Administration has grown from 4.4% of the ranked projects in 2020 to 9.7% in 2021.

Sanitation: Even though the Municipal Sanitation projects have fallen from 33% of the total ranked projects in 2020 to 29% in 2021, it still continues to be a key governance priority all over the country in the Other Cities category.

Water: Water has risen significantly as a good governance priority from 6.6% in 2020 to 19.4% in 2021.

Equal Focus

There are some governance sub-sectors at the municipal level where there isn’t a drastic difference in priorities between the Smart Cities and other cities. These are House, General Administration and Education. In these cases, the focus on these niches -understood in terms of their contributions to the overall ranked projects in terms of percentage- is more or less in a similar range. The difference between Smart Cities and other cities in these niches is negligible.

Housing: In terms of both Smart Cities and other cities, there was a sharp decline in focus given to municipal-level Housing projects from 2020 to 2021. For both, the sub-sector accounted for 0% of the ranked projects in 2021, falling from 9.4% for Smart Cities and 9.9% for other cities in 2020 respectively.

General Administration: General Administration municipal projects fell from 12.5% in 2020 to 7.1% in 2021 for the Smart Cities. While an improvement trend was observed in the case of other cities, rising from 4.4% in 2020 to 9.7% in 2021, the annual comparison between Smart Cities and other cities for 2021 showed a similar level of focus.

Education: Education rose from 0% of the ranked municipal projects for Smart Cities in 2020 to 3.6% in 2021. In the case of other cities, the niche grew from 1.1% in 2020 to 3.2% in 2021.

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