Calling for more powers to the local bodies, chief minister Parkash Singh Badal has asked the Centre to place adequate money at disposal of the states to ensure all-round urban development.
Badal has asked for the empowerment of the local government institutions and proper devolution of grants in the spirit of the 74th Constitutional Amendment to go hand in hand. He was addressing the delegates after inaugurating the 105th national executive committee meeting of the All-India Council of Mayors (AICM) on Saturday at a private banquet hall here.
The CM used the platform to target the union government. He accused the Centre of diluting the federal structure by encroaching upon the rights of the states. "States have been reduced to dignified municipalities," he said. "The Centre's strategy is to usurp the powers of states by moving from federal to unitary structure clandestinely. This is against both democratic norms and Constitutional ethics."
Badal charged the Centre with sanctioning sponsored schemes such as Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) with pre-conditions, forcing the states to levy user charges or other taxes on people. "This makes it difficult for the urban bodies to undertake development projects," he said.
Mayors should discuss framing a policy on low-cost housing for the lower- and middle-income class, said he chief minister. "It will rehabilitate the poorest of the poor who live in unsanitary conditions in slums," he added. "It will also help urban bodies tackle the mushrooming of slums."
The Punjab government was committed to laying the facilities of safe drinking water, sewerage, roads, streetlights and parks in all 142 cities and the towns in another three years. He projected the urban development cost to be Rs 6,000 crore. Badal asked the mayors to think of ways of generating money for the upgrading of infrastructure to make the urban local bodies sustainable financially.
In his address, the home minister of Madhya Pradesh and national general secretary of the AICM, Uma Shankar Gupta, demanded direct mayoral elections in the country and a minimum tenure for five years for each mayor.
Krishan Murari Moghe, chairman of the AICM and mayor of Indore, asked the state governments to release more money to urban local bodies for combating the spurt in urbanisation because of the migration from villages to cities. "Migration requires additional money for laying down basic amenities," he said. "The rural-urban population ratio has changed from 80:20 to 70:30."
In his welcome address, Baljit Singh Birbehman, vice-chairman of the AICM and mayor of Bathinda, said that Punjab government had accorded highest priority to urban development, and the upgrade of Bathinda was a testimony to that.
Balwinder Singh Bhunder, member of the Rajya Sabha; Sarup Chand Singla, chief parliamentary secretary; Kamal Sharma, political adviser to the chief minister; and Suresh Kumar, principal secretary of local bodies, were present.
Badal on issues
Taxes: Centre sanctioning sponsored schemes such as Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) with pre-conditions, forcing the states to levy user charges or other taxes on people
Slums: Mayors should discuss framing a policy on low-cost housing for the lower- and middle-income class
Centre: Trying to usurp the powers of states by moving from federal to unitary structure
Facilities: Safe drinking water, sewerage, roads, streetlights and parks in all 142 cities and the towns in another three years (cost Rs 6,000 crore)
Mayors: Should think of ways of generating money to make urban local bodies sustainable financially