The post of a mayor in any municipal corporation serves a dual purpose — of being the face of the citizens to the outside world and upholding the dignity of the city. This is more decorative in nature, which includes receiving state or foreign dignitaries when they visit the city, during which the mayor holds a reception and speaks on behalf of the citizens.
But the other more important function of the mayor is of presiding over the deliberations in the general body of the municipal corporation. Here he/she has a more crucial role to play in the formation or implementation of civic policies and being a watchdog when it comes to important decisions. However, the mayor rarely exercises these powers. By and large, the mayor obeys the party to which he belongs.
It has been observed that the mayors in the recent past have seldom been people of integrity. More often than not they have left the office without making a dent in the governance process.
Gone are the days when the likes of VN Chandavarkar, KF Nariman, JM Mehta, Dr E Moses and SK Patil adorned this high-profile seat in the corporation. It is of utmost importance that only those corporators be appointed to the mayor’s post who are upright, are clean and have strong sense of right and wrong.
The mayor’s role can be amended so that he can take up several issues.
For instance, the mayor could have penal powers to prosecute or bar any corporator who indulges in indiscipline, misbehaviour or corruption. The mayor could also ensure that the Right to Information Act 2005 is implemented in every department of the corporation. A mayor’s active role will help turn Mumbai into a well-governed city.
(GR Vora is a civic and an RTI activist.)
Democracy is the best system of governance for any society, but without accountability such a system is ineffective and inefficient. Necessary ammendments must be made for the system to be effective.
For instance, the mayor’s role needs to be revised. He is an elected member of the house but at the same time he has no executive powers. People’s desires of having efficient civic services do not reflect in the governance of the municipal corporation, simply because the mayor has a ceremonial, ornamental portfolio.
All the executive powers are vested with the civil servants who often ignore the citizens’ welfare and development of the metropolis.
The mayor should, therefore, function like a CEO of the civic organisation. The mayor also is in close contact on a daily basis with the taxpaying citizens and hence can understand their problems and solve them with powers vested in him.
But empowerment of the mayor alone will not be enough to get efficient and accountable governance.
The mayor must come to power through a direct election. Even after such empowerment, the mayor may find himself helpless while dealing with the issues of public interest, in which many governmental and autonomous bodies are involved such as the railways, MMRDA etc.
They should also be controlled and linked to the city’s mayor. So the ideal solution would be to have a directly elected mayor as the CEO of the BMC and the tax payer citizens should have the right to recall in their hands.
(The writer is a retired deputy municipal commissioner)