The new Municipal Act proposed to be legislated by Telangana, replacing the antiquated 1965 Act, should provide constitutional recognition to Resident Welfare Associations (RWA)s according them quasi-Urban Local Body (ULB) status, RWAs have suggested to the state government.
Further, the new legislation should be predicated on a technology-assisted governance model based on trust and confidence for better service delivery by Urban Local Bodies (ULB) including the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC), they stressed participating in an interaction with senior officials of the Municipal Administration Department here earlier this week.
The interaction with RWAs and civil society representative was initiated by Principal Secretary, MA&UD Dept., Mr. Arvind Kumar, as part of the series of consultations he has been holding with various sections in the backdrop of the proposed enactment of a new Municipal Act to replace the 1965 Act.
Apart from the senior official and his department colleagues, the meeting was attended by Sri G Satyanarayana, Chairman, COWAM – Confederation of Welfare Associations of Mehdipatnam and its General Secretary Shankar Narayana, B T Srinivasan, General Secretary, U-FERWAS and its Executive Vice Presidents Major Shiva Kiran, KHS Sarma and Ashwin Kumar, Shanthinagar Club and Welfare Association Executive Committee member V. Prabhakar Rai, Civil Engineer & Rain Water Harvesting Specialist Rajasekhar Reddy among others.
Trust & Verify Model
Suggesting a significant shift from the current practice of according building permissions only after an inspection, the representatives held that implementing a “trust and verify model”, wherein the inspection follows an in-principle approval immediately on application followed by an inspection later, would speed up the process and mitigate avoidable time and cost overruns.
The assumption is that citizens can be trusted to furnish the correct information with all the documentary proof online for machine checking.
Further the team suggested enacting and implementing a land-titling law apart from leveraging technologies like blockchain and machine assisted verification for land titles and deeds.
At present ownership rights to property are proved through title deeds — a chain of documents that provide evidence of the transfer of title from one person to another over the years, all the way to the current owners.
Even if registered, the documents provide only limited assurances on the title, as transfers can be challenged either by family members claiming title through inheritance.
Therefore, formulate a land-titling law in Telangana similar to Rajasthan’s Urban Land (Certification of Titles) Bill, 2016 to issue ownership certificates to state residents living in urban areas.
Blockchain for Secure Transactions
The team also suggested the implementation of Blockchain technologies for secure digital ledgers of transactions for a transparent, secure and assured system to establish property transactions.
Further in a move to curb corruption, the team also suggested engaging third party organizations for site inspections and issue of Occupancy Certificate by the town planning department. This will help establish clear accountability on the private companies which carry out the inspections to curb illegal constructions.
Elaborating on a series of reforms in the GHMC Town Planning section, the members called for flexibility for modification of building permission applications before they are granted even if submitted.
It is also desirable that data of the Land Registration Authority (revenue) is linked with the Town Planning Authority to enable a smoother process for encumbrance certificates. Likewise, the HMDA and GHMC databases should be linked up to provide land usage certificates more smoothly.
The RWA representatives also proposed a study tour to look at how different ULBs in other states like Rajasthan and Maharashtra are functioning and understand the reform programmes undertaken by them. The suggestion was immediately taken up by the Principal Secretary it be taken up along with Chief City Planner, GHMC Mr S Devendar Reddy, who was also participating in the meeting.