Jharkhand moves towards self-sustainable civic bodies

Jamshedpur | Updated: Jul 31 2006, 05:30am hrs
With the Jharkhand High Courts recent green signal to the state to go ahead with its plan to hold municipal polls, the stage seems set for the much-awaited elections.

That there has been no election to any of the 39 municipalities and notified area committees in the present Jharkhand (erstwhile Bihar) for the last over 25 years should make things clear as to the state of affairs these civic bodies are in.

All the small amendments that are needed for smooth functioning of these bodies have been completed, said RK Srivastava, secretary, urban development.

The government spent around Rs 140 crore (both under Plan and non-Plan expenditure) last year to keep the 39 existing civic bodies alive. The focus, therefore, is to make them self-sustainable at the earliest. It should be clear to everybody that the municipalities have to generate that much resource as is needed to make them self-sustainable while providing all the basic services, and that money has to be paid by the people living in that area, said Srivastava.

Observers say it requires strong political will to impose various levies and taxes to make the urban bodies move towards self-sustainability.

However, as a first step towards correcting the dismal financial situation of these local bodies, the state, for the very first time, has decided to levy a charge on drinking water supply in urban areas.

Nagar Palika On

After 25 years, municipal elections are being held
The govt spent Rs 140 crore last year to keep the 39 existing civic bodies alive
It requires strong political will to impose various taxes to make the urban bodies self-sustainable

The young state is also trying to strengthen and rationalise the administrative structure of its municipal bodies so that they are capable enough to deliver the services that the Act requires them to deliver.

The process of appointing consultants to study problems at individual civic centres and suggest solutions in their fields of expertise is also on.

Lot of things are being done; but it takes time. You cannot see them (the results) overnight, as in the Indira Awaas Yojna, said Srivastava.

Jharkhand is also in the process of drafting a model municipal Act to replace the existing old Bihar-Orissa Municipal Act that is being followed at present.

It is how you operationalise it (the existing old municipal Act), said a senior bureaucrat in the urban development department, adding that while places like Mumbai and Rajkot were collecting octroi, entry tax and several other levies/taxes on the basis of an old Act, Jharkhand today was not even collecting holding tax, water supply charges, etc.

Considering the dismal state of Jharkhands urban local bodies today, experts say an estimated Rs 20,000 crore would be needed to revamp the existing municipal bodies as well to create civic bodies at another 50 new urban agglomerations to make them deliver bare minimum services.

The million dollar question, therefore, is: where would funds of this magnitude come from