Firstly, the new municipal Act should reflect further devolution of functions, functionaries and funds to the urban local self-governing bodies, as envisaged in the 74th Constitutional Amendment, which is not completed. Secondly, it is to provide more venues for increased direct participation of the urban citizen in the governance.
Only 40% of the urban population participates in the election of their local representatives for various reasons, which cannot be adjudged as a deficit in their democratic spirit. Hence, they need a supplementary channel of representation of their competences and interests through their non-political institutions or associations, which are democratic and voluntary, and which represent the best of the urban life.
- The GHMC needs an Upper Council, like the state legislative council, composed of the delegates of all the professional bodies, tax-payers associations, and other civil society organisations, the resident welfare associations, as well as the cream of the city in the domains of games and sports, art, films, literature and culture. At present, GHMC is functioning like a departmental unit, rather than a living community of self-governing urbane citizens.
- The selection should be made by the commissioner on a clearly laid-out technical criteria, under the supervision of the State Election Commission. Its functions would be advisory, recommendatory and evaluative to ensure that the city development goes in harmony with human development.
- The Upper Council may elect a Vice-Chairpeson to preside over by the sessions regularly, while the Mayor or the Deputy Mayor remains the ex-officio chairman for a term non co-terminous with the Municipal Council.
- The term Mayor has no historical reference in Indian context and in order to de-ceremonialise the post, s/he should be called the chairperson of the council.
- The chairperson elected by the Zonal Council of the Wards Committee of the corportors shall be called deputy Mayor.
- The members of the Ward Committee of the civil society, including the representatives of the Area Sabhas shall be selected by the Commissioner, three months before the municipal elections, under the supervision of the State Election Commission.
- The WC members should elect a vice-chairman to preside over the meetings, while the Corporator remains the ex-officio chairperson.
- The term of the WC need not be co-terminous with that of the Corporator.
- The Commissioner should be particularly vigilant and ensure efficient and democratic functioning of the Area Sabhas and the WC, which proved unsatisfactory so far.
Delays and Corruption:
- For all works undertaken in the ward, the contractor or the Inspector of the Finished Works should obtain the endorsement of the local resident welfare association concerned.
- There should be social audit or Third Party evaluation for all infrastructure projects such as roads, fly-overs, electric installations, reservoirs, etc., as well as for social welfare activities. Members of the Upper Council, if established can perform this task. (Explanation: The present relations of the GHMC departments with the contractors are arbitrary and bureaucratic, resulting in poor quality of performance, a poor image of the private sector. The initial offer of bids are expected to be artificially low, hoping to make up through revised estimates, and later, there are permanent delays in payments. It is an open secret that the public has to obligatorily pay bribes and fixed commissions to the municipal staff and the contractors are obliged to pay commissions at the field level to the political leaders. In view of the low quality of the works, GHMC is spending considerable amounts in repairs and other emergency actions.)
- There should be a vigilance officer who receives also complaints from the public, ensures the proper functioning of the Citizens Charter, compliance with the RTI Act.
- The Enforcement wings need to be strengthened, with more protection and power to perform their duties without fear or favour. The demolition squad and those who try to clear the encroachments of tanks, roads and footpaths are assaulted and humiliated often with impunity, so far.
- There should be a simplification of the present archaic and vexatious rules in departments dealing with Health & Sanitation, Engineering and Planning, etc. on ‘trust and verify’ model, rather than ‘first, prove your innocence’ approach.
- For all works and plans to be approved, it should be necessary to have the attestation of the engineers and architects, who should also be held responsible for eventual infractions. Panels of them are to be recognised and announced in the Website.
- Tribunals envisaged in the previous Act regarding any disputes between the citizens and the municipality have to be set up.
- Where works and projects can be undertaken by the resident welfare associations in their own areas, they should be allowed to do so with the technical assistance of the Corporation.
- Practically, we observe that the municipal staff from the street sweepers to the All-India cadre, one-third of their time is devoted to other than municipal work, such as preparation of electoral rolls, election duties, census, surveys, state visits, ceremonies and celebrations. Hence, when required, the Commissioner and the Mayor must be able to recruit temporary staff from the market on contract-basis to meet their requirements in manpower, without having to take the permission of the MA&UD.
- GHMC should revise and update their Citizens’ Charter regularly in consultation with the consumers of their services, and exhibit them widely. Deficiency in the delivery of quality services in time should entail penalties and punishment, expeditiously by administrative tribunals without having to go to the Courts. Public Information Officers, under the RTI Act should also be well-trained to be more effective, as the State Information Commission has already termed GHMC as not very cooperative.
- Planning for Greater Hyderabad
- An evaluation of the follow up given to the following reports and conclusions drawn is necessary before a eighth Master Plan is finalised by HMDA;
- City Development Strategy Hyderabad: Strategic Action Plan and City Assistance Programme facilitated by the Administrative Staff College of India in 2003.
- Action Plan for Tariff & Transportation Management in Hyderabad Metropolitan Area in
- Research Reports on Hyderabad as a Megacity of Tomorrow & its Sustainable Development presented by Humbolt University, Berlin, 2007, etc.
- A Metropolitan Planning Committee which is envisaged in the Hyderabad Metropolitan Region in 2007 is to be constituted.
- As recommended by the Thirteenth Finance Commission, a Property Tax Board is to be constituted, and it should help GHMC to improve its own income resources. At present, GHMC is heavily dependent upon delayed government grants.
- It has to set up an independent and transparent procedure for assessment and valuation on the basis of less than 8 categories for property assessment. The periodicity of assessment is also to be announced.
- The Estates Officer has, so far no full control over the municipal assets.
- The GHMC and HMDA have to assume the administrative and financial responsibility for the supply of services like water, sewerage and electricity.
- When a lay-out is approved, the public space indicated for parks, playgrounds, etc. should be, immediately geo-tagged, demarcated by green fencing. Later, its custody should be handed over to the resident welfare associations for their maintenance under contract, or to private firms which come forward.
(The above proposals have been forwarded to the new Telangana Government on 24th April, 2019. Some of these recommendations can be valid for other states also.)
By Dr Rao V.B.J. Chelikani