Civic bodies seek to go beyond cleaning drains

The tussle for autonomy in the capital seems unending, be it between the city government and the Centre or municipal agencies and the Delhi government.

The municipal corporations have been demanding departments such as sewer, water, roads, transport and electricity back from the city government as these are their core functions. Bringing these departments under the them will help in development of the city, say elected members of civic agencies.

“We never wanted the Municipal Corporation of Delhi to be trifurcated. The trifurcation was the city government’s move to weaken our authority,” says Subhash Arya, leader of the House in South Delhi Municipal Corporation.

Till 1993, the fire department and Delhi Transport Corporation were under the unified corporation, the MCD. The electricity department was taken over by Delhi government in 1998 while the control of sewer and water went to the city government in 2000. The last in the list are the 60-feet roads that the city government took over in 2013.

“In almost every state across the country, water and electricity are under the control of its municipal corporation,” Arya adds. “Even in London, water, electricity, sewer and transport come under a local body. What do we have? Only sanitation and education.”
The councillor narrates an incident when a man called him on Friday evening, saying his basement was flooded with sewer water. But the leader couldn’t help him as the department that deals with such situations didn’t come under the municipal corporation.

“What are we supposed to do? The government should think that a common man ends up calling councillors if such a situation arises,” he adds.

Former Delhi minister Kiran Walia says the Congress government tried to reduce multiplicity as much as possible by taking over these departments, bringing uniformity across the city. “We were even trying to take sanitation under the control of the Delhi government to reduce the outbreak of diseases,” she adds.

The most common issue that a civic agency has with the city government is of funds. Earlier, the corporation was a single body, so getting funds were relatively easy but now there are three civic agencies, say officials of the North Delhi Municipal Corporation.

“Now the government has made it mandatory for all the corporations to send a collated progress report on their projects, then only funds will be released to them,” an official says. “Every civic agency has its own priorities and pace with which it works. So it has become the greatest hindrance in getting funds.”

At present, all the three corporations are under the Bharatiya Janata Party. But after the entry of Aam Aadmi Party, there may be a scenario where the three corporations will be ruled by three different parties – AAP, BJP and Congress.

The BJP tries to keep the rate of taxes as same as possible in all the three corporations, says the East Corporation spokesperson. “But if these civic agencies are controlled by different parties then there will be a lot of disparity across Delhi. Some areas will become very cheap to live and others will be too costly,” adds the Director (Press and Information) of East Delhi Municipal Corporation.

Councillors of East Corporation say there may arise a situation where different corporations will start taking toll from people entering their limits. “If the corporations are under different parties then it can be a distant reality,” says a councillor.

But the New Delhi Municipal Council, which covers New Delhi area, remains untouched by these clashes as it comes under the Centre via the New Delhi Municipal Council Act, 1994. “New Delhi is the capital of India. It can’t come under any province or state,” says an NDMC official.

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