Shirking responsibility

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.)
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