must become PowerWielders
MCH elections round the corner, many people are wondering
what all this fuss is about. Roads will only receive periodic
make-up, garbage will not be cleared and streets will not
have lights. We will continue to wait endlessly at MCH office
for simple services or shell out a bribe and people will be
figuring out ways to avoid taxes for services they do not
receive. The Mayor and Council have no real powers. So what
can we the citizens do?
us insist on a link between our tax money and civic amenities.
We can no longer trust MCH to spend our money wisely. It has
thousands of employees who are not discharging their duties
to our satisfaction. A vast bureaucracy, unending hierarchies
and lack of accountability allow them to get away doing so
little. Fortunately, the Constitution provides us an answer.
243 S, incorporated through the 74th Amendment, makes it mandatory
to have 'wards committees', consisting of one or more wards
in municipalities having a population of three lakhs or more.
The State Legislature may, by law, make provision with respect
to the composition, manner of election etc. But the councilors
representing the wards shall be members, and one of them shall
be the chairperson.
hate to pay taxes when they do not know where their tax money
is going. One way of making municipal services effective is
to make the ward committee a genuine instrument of accountability.
Suppose a committee is constituted for every ward (about 40,000
population), this committee becomes directly responsible for
all local civic services like garbage clearance, street lighting,
and road maintenance and controls the employees delivering
these services. The ward committee (WC) will also be responsible
for collecting property taxes to provide services and pay
salaries. The WC can retain all the taxes collected if it
is located in a poor neighborhood and 50% to 75% if in a wealthy
area, with the balance going to MCH. All decisions are made
locally, and people know where their money is going. Employees
are accountable at the ward level, and services will improve
dramatically. Essentially, those who need the services control
years ago the industrial estates in AP were given authority
to raise taxes, control local services, pay employees, and
retain 70% of taxes and pay 30% to the Municipality. Things
improved. We need such empowered committees. And if the residents
of any ward chose not to participate, they suffer. In a democracy
the ultimate responsibility lies with the citizen.
The MCH law of 1995 provides for constitution of one WC for
ten wards or more. The WC has only responsibilities and no
powers or funds. This will not do. All of us should insist
on ward-wise committees with powers, funds and control over
staff. Stake-holders must become power-wielders. Only then
can local government be meaningful.