The long-standing debate whether a city such as Mumbai needs to be governed by an efficient mayor on the lines of most global cities has now been endorsed by a central panel. The panel was set up by the ministry of urban development to study the state of urban infrastructure services in our cities.
The high-powered expert committee chaired by Isher Judge Ahluwalia made a presentation recommending “a unified command under an empowered and accountable mayor” for big cities before chief minister Prithviraj Chavan and a host of senior officials and ministers on Tuesday.
This report has already been presented to the Centre. The panel also strongly recommended the merging of the ministries of housing and urban development at the centre as well as the state to streamline functioning of the various urban infrastructure services.
It has also called for a new improved Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) with a duration of 20 years and a funding of 0.25% of GDP annually (Rs39.2 lakh crore).
Ahluwalia called for an executive mayor instead of existing figurehead for better management of cities.
In this system, the mayor would function like a chief minister of the city with a council under his/her command and all services from city policing, infrastructure, civic amenities under the corporation.
City-based organisations and activists have been lobbying for an executive mayor or a CEO to run the city. The state government, however, is unlikely to accept this recommendation.
“In Mumbai, we have experimented with mayor in council during the Sena regime and it did not work. The state is unlikely to take this issue up. It’s not feasible in current political set up,’’ said a senior government official, who attended this presentation at government guest house, Sahyadri.
Chavan said, “A renewed JNNURM as recommended by the panel is the need of the hour and will help to transform the face of Maharashtra
(46% urbanisation). The recommendation of merging the ministries of housing and UDD is also significant.’’
In terms of municipal reforms, the panel has recommended that the octroi should be abolished in favour of a rational user charge regime. This will be a huge challenge for the state as octroi is one of biggest revenue earners for corporations.
Other important suggestions include setting up of a municipal service regulator to revise user charges and unlocking value of land by charging betterment charges, impact fees and development charges.
This would lead to citizens would have to end by paying money for better services and infrastructure such as a new flyover, transit corridor, among other things.