Critical concerns confronting the urban local bodies of Uttarakhand
The most fundamental tenet of democracy remains the right of people to elect their own Government. In India right from the pre-independence times, there were rudimentary attempts to establish local Governance structures in villages and small urban conglomerates. The purpose was to create a responsive, transparent, accountable and participatory local Governance system. In 1882, the then viceroy of India, Lord Ripon, who is known as the father of local self-Government, passed a resolution of local self-government which laid the foundations of democratic forms of municipal governance in India at that time. Subsequently, through the Government Acts in 1909, 1919 and 1935, local Governments were brought under the purview of the State or provincial Government and specific powers were allocated to them. The importance and scope of functioning of the urban local bodies have only expanded in the decades following their inception across India, to contemporary times where most critical aspects of city administration are being overseen by the urban local bodies.
The unexpected rise in the sheer number of census towns as discovered in the 2011 census shows the burgeoning rate of increase in urban population vis a vis its rural counterpart. With a steady rise in Indian urban populace, the municipal, planning and administrative burdens of the urban local bodies have also shot up considerably.
By 2011 itself, there were close to 4000 urban local bodies in India. This shows the pressing need to broaden the spectrum of functions and improve the resource base of the urban local bodies. The 74th constitutional amendment in India was formulated in 1993. This constitutional amendment gave constitutional status to the municipalities and distinctly armed them with newer obligatory and discretionary functions. The twelfth schedule added to the constitution by the 74th amendment Act redefines the powers, authority, and responsibilities of municipalities with a view to make their working more transparent. The States were required to implement these new structural and functional changes incorporated by the twelve schedules within one year. This schedule defined 18 new functions in the working domain of the urban local bodies.
However, despite more than two decades passing since facilitation of this constitutionally intended empowerment, a uniform working pattern among the municipal bodies has failed to emerge all over the country.
The revised municipal functional model has been inadequately implemented in many of the States.
In the State of Uttarakhand, which took birth on November 9, 2000, the effective working of urban local bodies has been plagued by several constraints. Most of the critical functions earmarked for the urban local bodies as formulated by the 12th constitutional schedule have not been transferred to these bodies so far.
The predominant roles of the local bodies continue to be the collection and disposal of waste along with fixing as well as maintenance of street lighting. Issues indispensable for urban facilitation and development like water distribution, maintaining an efficient sewerage system, primary education, health, firefighting and sanctioning of maps for construction activities still remain in the hands of other departments.
There is almost always a lack of coordination and synchronized planning among urban local bodies and the other departments concerned which results in the faulty implementation of schemes. The elected board members and staff of urban local bodies have not been allocated enough technical town planning important public work functions. There is a serious shortage of staff and one branch ends up taking care of the functions of the other section. Filling with vacant posts by the Government is a slow and tedious process.
Despite enthusiastic distribution of computers for modernization of work process, neither do many employees know how to use them efficiently nor is sufficient technical training being organized at routine intervals for them.
There is also reticence among senior employees to attend the available training programmes which renders it a wasteful exercise.
The solid waste management rules drafted in 2000 and modified from time to time, to be implemented by the urban local bodies have been implemented rather haphazardly in the State. The proper channels of waste segregation, transportation, collection, and disposal are still not efficiently organized.
Further, the local bodies also require sufficient amounts of funds for executing their functions. The primary finance earning sources for them are internal and external revenue sources.
While the main internal sources remain various taxes and non-taxes levied by urban local bodies, the income received through these is rather meager.
Hence the urban local bodies are more dependent on the central and state governments for external financial support to run themselves. Their revenues are much lesser than the actual receipts which keep them from pumping enough money into infrastructural development schemes.
The urban local Government which is regarded as the third tier of Indian democracy is yet to function maturely in Uttarakhand. It is pertinent that the urban local bodies be made in charge of all the duties that have been earmarked for them to undertake. Weak management and policy implementation have resulted in huge proportions of urban resident communities remaining uncovered by basic municipal amenities.
Institutional reforms for the local bodies like capacity building measures, introduction and implementation of the double entry accounting system, mobilization of resources, rationalization, broadening and increasing the tax base should be expedited for a smoother and effective working of municipal bodies.
In the wake of rapidly growing urban towns in various regions across Uttarakhand, it becomes nonnegotiable that urban local bodies here be better empowered for ensuring a better quality of life for its people. read more post…
(The author is a retired civil servant)
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