Delhi Cabinet may approve Swaraj Bill today

The Delhi Cabinet is scheduled to consider the draft Delhi Nagar Swaraj Bill 2014 on Wednesday and pave the way for introducing the proposed legislation in the Assembly to create a new tier of local governance in the city.

The base of Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s ambitious Swaraj Bill is the mohalla sabha – a decision making body representing around 1,000 families in a colony.The Bill proposes to give financial powers to the mohalla sabhas and also the power to recall councillors who at present are elected to the civic agency. 

Sources in the Delhi government said Bill proposes to have a janata fund from which the mohalla sabhas would be free to spend money on roads, pavements, parks and the new proposed fund would replace the existing MLA fund.

“In each of the 272 municipal wards we will create 10 mohalla sabhas that will get powers to decide on how to spend about Rs 1-2 crore for development works at the local level,” said a member of the Bill’s core drafting team.According to draft of the bill while deciding on spending money on a particular project every member of the sabhas will get to vote.

“Local schools, hospitals, sewer, roads and other basic infrastructures will be governed by mohalla sabhas. They will also have the power of opening and shutting of liquor shops in their areas,” said Education Minister Manish Sisodia, adding that land conversion issues will also be decided by the sabhas. Another provision of the draft Bill suggests that the sabhas will make their own rules and its functionaries will enjoy legal protection. 

The police will have to register an FIR if a case is referred by a mohalla sabha. Skeptics question the logic behind introducing a legislation which would interfere with the existing system of development fund allocated to councillors and legislators. “These sabhas may turn into kangaroo courts and residents with differing opinion could end up exchanging blows with each other,” said a municipal councillor. 

If the Swaraj Bill gets cleared by Kejriwal’s cabinet on Wednesday, the government may introduce it with the anti-graft Jan Lokpal Bill in the four-day special Assembly session starting February 13. 

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