The present ‘garbage mess’ in East Delhi — not the first and, if the present state of affairs continue, certainly not the last — created by an aggrieved sanitation staff not paid their salaries, has raised the question: Why? Why does it repeatedly happen and who is responsible?
On the face of it, the blame squarely falls on the people who run the three municipal corporations. But facts are not that simple. They are surely responsible for failing to remove the widely held perception of administrative sloth, inefficiency and corruption but the present financial mess is hardly of their making.
The single MCD set up in 1958 was split into three in 2012. There is no doubt that this was purely a political decision since it went against repeated expert committee reports, including the last one chaired by the author. The trifurcation was so haphazard that it left all the deficient areas to east and north corporations, with bulk of the revenue earning going to posh areas of south.
This further compounded the difficult financial problems that the erstwhile corporation was already facing. The situation in east Delhi, where 40% of Delhi’s population is compressed in less than 15% of the area and income is the least, is worst since it was now even deprived of the money transferred to it by the unified corporation from the more prosperous areas in the south.
The Fourth Finance Commission was mandated to remove this anomaly. The recommendations are supposed to compensate the municipalities for the state functions such as primary schools, sanitation, health and so on. They submit reports periodically and these are routinely accepted and implemented.
If the Fourth Finance Commission’s recommendations were accepted, the present mess could possibly have been averted. It mandates that 100% entertainment and property taxes plus 12.5% (against the present 9.5%) of the remaining taxes (including cesses, fees, etc.) of the government be put in a ‘divisible pool’. Half this money would be divided among the three corporations as per population/area, with the remaining half going to deficient areas, which primarily mean east and north corporations. The corporations would also have been entitled to get refunds of the money spent on education.
The ‘divisible pool’ would not just have more money but the 50:50 formula would have meant proportionately higher share of resources for east and north corporations. The present mess could surely have been averted.
The Fourth State Finance Commission recommendations are hanging. Neither the L-G nor the Delhi government has shown any urgency in this regard. The Delhi government may be dragging its feet for political reasons but what about the L-G?
A provision in the Delhi (Distribution of Proceeds of Taxes) Act 2003 gives lieutenant gover the power to increase the percentage from 9.5% to 12.5% to implement the recommendations of the commission. That this has not been done, especially during President’s Rule, is a mystery since it could have helped resolve the financial mess in the corporations to some extent.
Even if the decision is taken now, such situations can be avoided at least in the future.
The writer is former chief secretary of Delhi