Trifurcation report card is here
MCDs TODAY: THE THREE CIVIC AGENCIES GRAPPLE WITH LACK OF FUNDS, EMPLOYEES
The first meeting of the East Delhi Municipal Corporation, which came into existence after trifurcation of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi, on May 17 last year was unique in every sense.
For want of a proper office building, the meeting was held in a tent at Udyog Sadan in Patparganj Industrial Area — still the temporary headquarters of EDMC. With several members outraged by it, pandemonium ruled the meeting. Mayor Annapurna Mishra even alleged she was manhandled by opposition members. The result: a day wasted in verbal duels without conducting any business.
Fortunately, the North and South Delhi Municipal Corporations had the luxury of holding their meetings in an air-conditioned hall. The two corporations, however, have been involved in exchange of words and letters over the ownership of the iconic Civic Centre, the headquarters of the unified MCD. Currently, this facility is being used by both corporations as headquarters. This, despite the fact that both civic agencies are ruled by BJP.
The functioning of the three new corporations for the past one year can be assessed through the prism of these facts. After functioning as a unified civic agency in the capital for over 50 years, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi was trifurcated into North, South and East Delhi Municipal Corporations in April 2012.
The Sheila Dikshit-led government recommended its trifurcation, arguing that decentralisation of power will result in better delivery of civic amenities. While the state government argued it will also bring the corporation closer to people, the opposition and ruling party in the MCD — Bharatiya Janata Party — opposed the move, saying it was a politically motivated decision. The central government, however, amended the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act, 1958 paving the way for trifurcation.
Elections were held for the new civic bodies in April last year, and the incumbent BJP captured all three of them. The new corporations started functioning on May 1 as independent authorities.
While the city government claimed that division of financial resources, staff and properties of MCD into three parts was completed according to established administrative practices, BJP leaders term it to be the only reason for almost everything that went wrong in the functioning of the corporations in the past one year.
“In principal, we never opposed the trifurcation. We were opposed to the haste in which it was being done with an eye on the upcoming municipal elections. The unified MCD was already running short of staff, but three new bodies were created. As a result, three sets of the same departments were created,” says Mira Aggarwal, outgoing mayor of the North Corporation.
“Even one year down the line, the three corporations have a single chief town planner. The state government wants the corporations to clear layout plans of the recently regularised colonies. But later it will put the onus of delay on the corporations,” she adds.
The standing committee chairman of the South Corporation echoes similar problems. “The way trifurcation was done defies all logic. Even a layman would understand that it would lead to three sets of all the departments, including that of mayor, commissioner, standing committee and other ad hoc committees,” says Rajesh Gehlot. BJP leaders allege that the city government is going back on its promise of giving financial aid to meet extra expenses in establishing the required infrastructure.
Performance under scanner
If better delivery of services and bringing them closer to residents are the yardsticks of judging the performance of the three corporations, it is best summarised by a Janakpuri resident.
“I expect the civic bodies to provide basic services like better sanitation management and maintenance of parks, among others. Apart from that, if there is any problem and we approach officials for some work, they should respond in the shortest possible time. On these two counts, I don’t think there has been any difference after the trifurcation,” says Pravesh Singhal, resident of C-1 Block in Janakpuri.
Even as officials complained of non-cooperation by the city government, the performance of the three corporations was under scanner as several projects failed to see the light of the day, some of them which were ideated and launched by the unified MCD.
Apart from property tax collection — the three corporations together collected Rs 1,074 crore as house tax in 2012-13 — which is substantially higher than Rs 776 crore as the previous best, the achievements largely remained confined to grand announcements.
Decision-making even for routine things became complex for all the three civic bodies. For example, students of some 1,700 municipal schools did not get the annual grant of Rs 500 for buying uniform, including sweaters, till January, by when winter is on the wane.
Besides, notebooks were not distributed in any of the schools of the three corporations in the last academic session. Desks for several schools could not be procured.
Several projects like multi-level parkings are in limbo. Two automated multi-level parkings, which were inaugurated before the municipal polls, have not been operationalised to date. Opposition leaders slam the ruling dispensation for ‘shielding their non-performance’ behind trifurcation.
“They claim trifurcation has made things complex. But what made them fail to launch projects that have been in the pipeline even before trifurcation? BJP was ruling the unified MCD as well,” says opposition leader in South Corporation Farhad Suri.
Leader of opposition in North Corporation Mukesh Goel says lack of coordination among corporations is the reason behind several problems. “The three corporations are ruled by the same party. But they have been fighting like cat and mouse over several issues. There is complete lack of coordination among the three establishments, which is reflecting in their performance,” says Goel.
Corporation officials, however, count several achievements over the last one year. “Despite all the limitations, the three corporations created a record in house tax collection. The feat is extraordinary given the fact that it has been achieved despite shortage in staff in the property tax department,” says Gehlot.
Mira Aggarwal says the corporation is all set to start a new medical college, the first by any civic body. “The recruitment process for Hindu Rao Medical College was completed last year. The college is all set to start from the coming academic session. Moreover, we gave the city its first Mahila Haat, which is running successfully,” she says.
Similarly, East Corporation officials say sanitary conditions in east Delhi have seen a sea change. “The total garbage collection in east Delhi was some 1,400 metric tonnes before trifurcation. After trifurcation, it has increased to 2,100 metric tonnes per day,” says Mahak Singh, outgoing chairman of EDMC standing committee.
“To achieve this, we inducted 70 new trucks and auto tippers for garbage collection. The corporation is also introducing electronic monitoring of the garbage collection process by installing GPS-enabled devices on trucks and loaders,” says Singh. “Apart from that, the number of surface parking lots was increased from 14 to 75 in east Delhi in a year. Several other projects have been launched, which will help in increasing the revenue of the corporation.”
But have municipal bodies weakened as an entity?
Even as the corporations are still in the process of settling in their new avatars, a section of the bureaucracy contends that trifurcation has weakened the MCD as an organisation vis-a-vis the city government.
“Before trifurcation, one of the senior-most officers used to be the commissioner of MCD. His seniority and stature helped in settling several issues with other agencies with much ease,” says a corporation official.
“For example, the then commissioner would have direct access to the chief secretary. But with relatively junior officers becoming commissioners after trifurcation, they have to wait for days to get an appointment with the chief secretary. Similar is the case with officers of the rank of additional commissioners,” adds the official.
Room for political manoeuvring
While there has been intense debate on the efficacy and the impact of trifurcation over the functioning of civic bodies, one big positive that suits political parties is the cushion provided to the top leadership of the party in assuaging ‘political ambitions’ of party leaders at the local level.
“It surely helps. Now the city needs three mayors, three standing committee chairpersons and chairpersons of other committees. It provides room for maintaining regional and caste equations within the party by giving representation to different people in one go,” says a BJP leader, who is a member of the state committee.