BBMP should abide by the 74th Amendment

It is more than a month since the new BBMP council was formed and time for the corporators to get into action. But there are portents that MLAs are not yet keen on giving up the power they have got used to wielding in BBMP’s affairs.  That standing committees have not been formed as per the law is further evidence of this.  Signs of MLAs bypassing even the Mayor and taking decisions have come to the fore. Individual councillors too have declared after their victory that they would work under the ‘guidance’ of their MLAs.

All this is totally against the idea of the urban local body, the third tier of government, being an institution of self-governance, as envisaged in the 74th Constitutional Amendment (CA). A tendency has been visible among power-wielders at high levels to brand the revolutionary 74th CA as ‘philosophy’ and ‘theory’ which has no relation to ground realities. Thus there is very little talk yet about forming the constitutionally mandated Metropolitan Planning Committee to enable elected representatives from the local bodies to make their own plans for Bangalore. Nor is there any sign yet of the decentralised ward committees which should have been formed within one month of the formation of the council, as per the 74th CA.

Proximity

But citizens have a great stake in the ward committees as these are the only available legal and institutionalised mechanisms for demanding proximity, transparency, accountability and citizen participation. However, the current rules allow ward committees to be formed only for a group of 3-4 wards and that too with members nominated by the state government. The state government had sufficient time during the interregnum of three years when there was no council to bring in new legislation to correct these anomalies. One hopes that this will be done at least now and that the new rules will mandate ‘one ward committee per ward’ whose members are ‘directly elected’ so that these bodies are democratised and legitimised.

In fact, the very first conditionality under the Centre’s Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) is that there should be effective implementation of the 74th CA. Another conditionality, the Community Participation Law, in fact calls for the convening of neighbourhood or area sabhas, an assemblage of all the electors of a few contiguous polling booth areas, to elect an area sabha representative to sit on the ward committee.

Apart from the above, attention needs to be given to change the development paradigm at the ward level. It has become customary to measure so-called ‘development’ in terms of the fly-overs and expressways built without any indicators or outcomes to say how this constitutes development. A shift towards social infrastructure and human development is imperative in line with the expanded functions assigned to local bodies by the 74th CA, such as slum upgradation and urban poverty alleviation.

Before ward committees can address these issues, there is a need to collect ward-level base-line data to serve as the basis for a performance management system to measure genuine development. The directorate of municipal administration (DMA) in Karnataka has already made a beginning in this direction by developing data collection templates, setting targets and evolving 65 indicators for measuring service delivery effectiveness of usual municipal functions such as water supply and sewerage, solid waste management, property tax, etc.

It is necessary to go beyond this to bring about the necessary focus on social development as well. A ward social infrastructure index needs to be created based on the number and status of schools, hospitals, anganwadis, workers’ facilitation centres, etc. Data is also needed to create a ward human development index based on life expectancy, literacy and income levels. Further statistics required are on the BPL population, the homeless and slum-dwellers, IMR, MMR, malnourishment and nutrition status, SC/STs, children in and out of school, numbers of wage-employed, self-employed and unemployed persons, eligibility lists for old-age, widow, physically-challenged pensions, etc.

Asha Kiran Mahiti of the DMA has taken a major step in this direction by mapping 3,400 notified and non-notified slums all over Karnataka and has the socio-economic data-base of each and every one of the six lakh slum households across Karnataka. Based on this, it needs to generate the social indicators, evolve plans and set targets for improvement in each of them and measure and audit outcomes periodically. Involving citizens in each of these processes through ward committees and neighbourhood area sabhas is imperative, if inclusive growth and not mere GDP growth is to happen.
(The writer is executive trustee of CIVIC Bangalore)

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