Thursday, 5 October 2006

Community Participation Law proposed in Andhra Pradesh to solve civic problems

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Oct 5: Garbage not cleared in your area? Are the roads bad? Is the municipal water contaminated? Are the streetlights out of order? You need not run from pillar to post to get these basic civic amenities done. Very soon, you can get these things done effectively thanks to the proposed "community participation law".
All State governments in the country are duty bound to implement reforms in their municipalities and municipal corporations providing for effective participation of the local people in the functioning of urban local bodies.
People can also seek information from their municipalities or corporation on issues like audit of funds. The States should also come out with legislation to provide for "area sabhas" on the lines of "grama sabhas".
There will also be ward committees each with 10 local citizens as their members. The urban bodies cannot take works without consulting the area sabha and the ward committees. At present in a large city like Hyderabad, a corporator has to look after the civic needs of about 50,000 people. If the ward committees and area sabha are formed, there will be a public representative for say 2000 to 3000 people.
The Central government has made it mandatory on the part of the State governments to implement reforms in towns and cities if they want to seek Central assistance for urban infrastructure. At stake is about Rs 50,000 crore and the State that takes up the reforms first will get the lion's share of this Central assistance. Besides the community participation law, the governments should enact municipality disclosure law which authorises people to virtually peep into the accounts of their civic body.
"The model community participation law aims at institutionalising citizen participation. Every polling station or two at the most will have an area sabha with an area sabha representative, who will be elected through ballot by local voters. The objective is to establish three tiered structure - council, ward committee and area sabha in all urban local bodies. Devolution of funds, functions and powers will be carried forward to these levels," municipal administration and urban development principal secretary SP Singh said.
To claim Central funds every State should take up "mandatory reforms" like implementation of decentralisation measures as envisaged in Constitution 74th amendment Act, 1992 and enactment of municipality disclosure law and community participation law.
If the Centre has its say, municipal corporations will get the power to control fire services.
A ward committee will be constituted for each ward in a municipality. The committee will have the local councillor as its ex-officio chairperson. Nor more than 10 persons representing local citizens will be nominated by the municipality. The committee has the power to produce ward plans, prepare ward budget and ensure optimal collection of revenue sources.
There will also be ward finance committees with financial powers. This simply means local residents will have more powers and role to play in the functioning of their civic bodies.

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