A super Municipal Council headed by a mayor who will enjoy a five-year term, with the power to prepare master plans, regulate water supply and levy up to 14 different types of taxes.
These are provisions in the Karnataka Municipalities Bill, 2019, overarching legislation that promises uniformity in the way local bodies function and reforms in the urban development space. The state government, however, is dragging its feet on this.
The Bill has been drafted by the National Law School of India University at the behest of the government, which signed a memorandum of understanding with the premier institute “to codify, consolidate and reform the urban planning and development laws in the state”.
The law school’s Centre for Environmental Law Education, Research and Advocacy (CEERA) has submitted the draft Bill to the government.
“The Bill has submitted about three months ago. This was a two-year project, which is coming to an end now, and we have not heard from the government,” a CEERA member said.
Urban development secretary (Municipalities and Urban Development Authorities) Anjum Parwez told DH that no decision had been made yet on the draft Bill.
According to sources, some in the government have now questioned the very need for a consolidated urban governance law.
It is also said that the government is wary of backlash—political and bureaucratic—since the draft Bill redefines municipal areas—a metropolitan area with over 2.5 million population as ‘Greater City’, a large urban area with a population between 500,000 and 2.5 million as a ‘City’, smaller urban areas with less than 500,000 but more than 50,000 as ‘Towns’ and transitional areas with under 50,000 but over 20,000 as ‘Nagara’.
This will not only change the composition of municipal councils—the number of councillors will range between 10 and 180—leading to an alteration in the political clout of local leaders, but officials and employees will also be moved around, potentially losing key positions they have held. Currently, Karnataka has 280 urban local bodies.
The draft Bill seeks to consolidate eight existing laws, including the Karnataka Municipal Corporations Act under which BBMP functions.
In the Bill, the Municipal Council has been tasked with the preparation of master plans, which currently is done by the designated local planning authority. The master plan for Bengaluru, for instance, is prepared by the Bangalore Development Authority.
The Bill also proposes the formation of a State Municipal Regulatory Commission, State Municipal Vigilance Authority and a State Municipalities Union.