The figures speak for themselves. From a two-storeyed building Town Hall that served a population of 16.7 lakh in 1958 to the 28-floor Civic Centre that provides civic services to 15 million people today, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi has grown vertically and horizontally in the last 54 years. Literally.
When it came into existence in 1958, the MCD started functioning from Town Hall — a landmark heritage building in Chandni Chowk built by the British in 1866. It continued there till 2011 when it shifted to the swanky Civic Centre, the tallest building in Delhi.
The past five decades have witnessed sea changes in the functioning of the agency. Major shifts happened when many vital services such as transport, water, fire and electricity were taken away from it. The huge surge in population was one the reasons the services were decentralised.
The same reason is being cited today for the next biggest change that brought the current BJP-led MCD face to face with the Delhi government and created ripples in the otherwise staid political environment of Delhi — splitting the agency into three smaller corporations to "ensure better governance and bring it closer to the people".With 33 departments such as engineering, sanitation, horticulture among others under it, the civic agency, the world’s second largest — Tokyo is the first — provides a gamut of services to Delhiites.
The big size had its drawbacks too. As new responsibilities were added from time to time, it became more and more difficult for the public to approach the civic agency.
For instance, the municipal commissioner had a Herculean task clearing all policy decisions and daily files pertaining to the civic agency. The result: delays and reducing public interface.
In 2011, after 53 years, the seat of power shifted to the 28-storeyed Civic Centre — a move that brought most services under one roof. This was not a geographical shift but a shift in the work culture as well as it adopted e-governance.
One major change happened in 2007 when the number of wards was increased from 134 to 272 to improve local governance and to bring councillors closer to the public.
But this change proved inadequate as the growing population clubbed with the inability of MCD to provide essential services on time saw mounting political pressure on it, leading to the division of the corporation into smaller units.
Though the demand to split the civic agency was being made over the past decade, it gained momentum in the last two years, with the Delhi chief minister blaming the multiplicity of authority for the delay in most projects.
For the first time, municipal elections for three corporations in the new set-up — north, south and east — will be held in the city. Another historic step is that 50% of the seats will be reserved for women candidates.
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