Delhi has been facing an unprecedented civic crisis for the past 10 days, however, city’s Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has decided to acquire an ostrich-like attitude towards the problem. Sitting in Bengaluru, ostensibly getting himself treated for an unnamed ailment, he has not desisted from adding fuel to the fire. Away from the stinking city, he has blamed Municipal Corporations of mal-governance and demanded a CBI inquiry into its functioning. Why demand an inquiry when he as the head of the government can just order one. We would welcome it, as it would call the bluff of the AAP government once for all.
But knowing Mr. Kejriwal’s track record, he would never do it as he knows that the Delhi government has defaulted on its financial commitments and that too not inadvertently but by design. Going by the financial estimates presented by the Delhi Government for 2012-13, the Fourth Delhi Finance Commission report on the financial health of three municipal corporations has clearly stated that the Delhi Government has enough funds to finance the municipalities and support them. I quote from the report, “In the absence of transparency regarding grants received by the Delhi Government from the Centre, duly assigned for municipal corporations under Right to Education, Sarv Siksha Abhiyan, Mid Day meal etc, it has been assumed that the 100 per cent of the eligible expenditure for providing education by municipal corporations/NDMC should be met by grants in aid from GNCTD.”
When the finance commission is clear that the funds have to be provided to the civic bodies by way of grants-in-aid, why should the corporations take the funds as a loan from the government. We are not seeking charity but out rightful share in government grants.
Contrary to the picture sought to be drawn by the Chief Minister, it is not the corporations but the Delhi Government which is misusing the funds meant for the civic bodies.
The finance commission report mentions that the Delhi Government was standing in between, the Centre that the civic bodies in the matter of release of Central grants as “instead of being passed on to the municipalities were being subsumed as a part of the general revenues of the Delhi Government.” The report demands that “the system of devolution of funds from the GNCTD (Government of National Captial Territory of Delhi) should be more transparent and all the details should be provided to municipalities regarding how the amount has been arrived at by the accounts, before releasing the amount to the municipalities.”
People also need to understand why the municipal bodies should not accept loans from the government for payment of salaries. The finance commission report says that “the Government while giving loans to the municipalities should follow the statutory provisions regulating the powers of the municipalities to borrow funds from the Consolidated Fund of the Capital. The transfer payments should not be allowed to be used for making payment of salaries and wages of any kind.”
It’s time to recall that the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) was divided into three municipal bodies viz. North MCD, South MCD and East MCD in 2012. This trifurcation was done by the Congress governments at the Centre and in the state in the name of decentralising governance and bringing efficiency. However, as the repeated finance commission reports have pointed out, to bring this desired efficiency, hand holding of the municipal bodies by the state governments was necessary.
This was not done by the Sheila Dikshit government in the initial years and the situation has worsened under the present AAP government, which is perpetually in poll mode. The Chief Minister wants to dissolve the MCDs and hold elections, will that solve the problem? Or add the expense of untimely polls on the funds-starved municipal bodies? Mr. Kejriwal has to come out of the mindset where he treats the MCDs as his government’s adversaries.
The corporations are autonomous bodies within Delhi Government, through the Directorate of Civic Bodies. The Delhi Government cannot escape this responsibility of keeping it in good financial health, and for the sake of people of Delhi, they must work in tandem with the MCDs.
(The writer is Leader of House, MCD, South and General Secretary, Delhi BJP. The views are strictly personal.)