Sunday, April 11, 2010

74th Constitutional Amendment (Nagarpalika Act 1992)

This afternoon, I went to a soapbox session called "Politics of the 74th Amendment" at Cubbon Park.

People involved with CIVIC Bangalore (esp. Vishwanath Srikantaiah) spoke and answered our queries.

Here's the amendment in brief:

1. As the name suggests its the 74th Amendment to the Indian Constitution. It introduces various provisions of Article 243 for Urban civic governannce. It was passed by the Parliament in December 1992.

Summary: "Statutory provisions for Local Administrative bodies as third level of administration in urban areas such as towns and cities".

2. The 73rd Amendment is more popular and has been better implemented. It concerns the Rural bodies. You know it as the Panchayati Raj Act.

3. Karnataka Municipal Corporations (Amendment) Act 1994 is the Conformity Legislation passed in Karnataka. All state governments have passed such Conformity legislation to bring the provisions of the 74th Amendment into force.

4. This amendment annexed the 12th Schedule to the Constitution which lists the 18 functions of the municipalities.

What do all this mean?

1. The third tier of governance, the local bodies, are given constitutional validity and permenance. Until then, local bodies existed according to the whims of the state governments. [well, they still are in many ways :-)]

2. There have to be State Election Commissions, State Finance Commissions and District Planning Committees so that Municipal bodies (corporations, zilla panchayats, municipalities, taluk panchayats, gram panchayats) can be properly elected, allocated funds and plan.

3. Metropolitan Planning Committees (MPC) to be established for metros of 1 million and more. Bangalore MPC has NOT been established.

4. Ward Committees to be established. Kerala and the city of Kolkata have reasonably well functionings ward committees. In Karnataka, Bangalore has dysfunctional ward committees, while other cities do not even have them.

Ward Committees in Bangalore:

In Bangalore there are 30 Ward Committees. Each has 3-4 Councillors, 5 nominated members from members of the public, who are familiar with civic administration and 2 nominated members from NGOs/CBOs. ARO - Assistant Revenue Officer is the secretary to this Committee.

Note: since the elections have just been completed, there are no ward committees at present. State government has to constitute them within a month of the new BBMP assuming office.

Ward Committees are there, whats the problem with the current setup?

1. There are 198 Wards now, so 30 ward Committees mean one committee for more than 2 lakh people! Village Panchayats typically have few thousand people.

2. Ward Committee members other than Councillors are nominated and can out vote elected members! Why would elected Councillors come to such meetings?

3. Nominated members turned out to be political appointees with no apparent interest in civic welfare.

4. Ward committees do not have much financial powers. In anycase they are dysfunctional. No bureaucrat will feel answerable to them.

CIVIC recommendations:

City level:

1. Metropolitan Planning Committee shud be established for Bangalore. They shud replace or work with ABIDe, BATF etc.

2. All the parastatal bodies in Bangalore like BDA, BMRDA, BWSSB should report to the BBMP and not the State Government.

Ward level:

1. one ward committee per ward.

2. direct election of ward committee members.

3. indirect election of ward councillor from among the ward committee members.

4. there shud be a secretary (from the city officials) appointed for each ward committee instead of the ARO acting as one.

5. officials of the municipality working within a ward shud be ex-officio members of the ward committees. they shud be answerable to the ward committee.

6. ward committee shud meet every month at the ward office and this should be announced to the public.

7. 'ward sabha' should be held every 3 months where all citizens can interact with the ward committee members. ward Councillor shud precide over this meeting.

8. ward committee shud be provided complete control over local resources (parks, lakes, roads) and decisions pertaining to them.

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