With great power comes great responsibility. If the draft Delhi Nagar Swaraj Bill 2014, a legislation aimed at the decentralisation of power, which is likely to be tabled in the forthcoming session of the Delhi assembly, is anything to go by then the mohalla sabhas will have immense power and little accountability.
The 2,700 mohalla sabhas will receive funds from the government and will have powers to get any information from a state government official or municipal body. It can direct and authorise any expenditure and impose penalties or give rewards to government officials who come under the mohalla sabha.
But these sweeping powers come with no responsibility because one of the clauses states that no suit, prosecution or other legal proceeding can be undertaken against ward sewaks, mohalla sewaks, mohalla sabha representatives and their employees. This blanket legal protection to the members of mohalla sabhas is against AAP’s commitment to transparency and accountability in public governance.
Moreover, besides changing the paradigm of the existing governance system, the creation of such institutions will also lead to conflict of interests. The clause that the police shall register an FIR if referred to them by a mohalla sabha is in conflict with the Delhi Police which is under the Union home ministry.
In urban areas that have mixed populations, arriving at decisions after seeking permission from the residents can be difficult. It is time AAP realised that democracy is not the same as majority rule. It is no one’s case that we should not move from a representative democracy to a participatory one.
However, at a time when a multiplicity of agencies is blamed for the inordinate delays in decision-making especially in metropolises like Delhi, what we need is streamlining of the existing system and making it accountable rather than creating more parallel systems.