In absence of elected representatives, local issues may remain unresolved

Updated on Aug 06, 2022 12:59 AM IST
The delay in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) polls by four to six months could affect the civic governance as there would be no elected representatives for almost a year
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation building HT Photo
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation building HT Photo
ByLinah Baliga and Pratip Acharya, Mumbai

The delay in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) polls by four to six months could affect the civic governance as there would be no elected representatives for almost a year.

The term of corporators ended on the night of March 7. Since then, then commissioner chief Iqbal Singh Chahal has been presiding over the BMC as the administrator. The BMC was supposed to go to the polls sometime during September-October.

Now with the Eknath Shinde-led government reversing the decision of the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi regime on formation of wards and restoring the boundaries to their 2017 status, the elections are pushed by another three to four months.

“In a democracy, elected representatives act as a bridge between the people and the administration. Now with the corporators not being elected for so many months, the voice of people is gone. Most of the decisions are being taken at the administrative level and they don’t have a micro-level understanding of several issues. Therefore, many local issues will remain unattended for a longer period,” Milind Mhaske, CEO of Praja Foundation, said.

“Also, there will be lack of accountability owing to the absence of elected corporators. Earlier, Mumbaikars could file complaints and address their issues with the help of corporators. Since there are no elected representatives and the former corporators have no power with them, many people are clueless about how to resolve their problems,” the official of the non-profit organisation said.

The State Election Commission will now have to repeat the exercise of drawing the ward boundaries along with drawing the lottery for reservation. This means, there will only be Chahal calling the shots in major proposals and projects which are otherwise cleared in the standing committee and general body meetings.

Samajwadi Party leader and former corporator Rais Shaikh said administrators do not look at issues at the micro level and no bureaucrat can replace public representatives.

“It is like dictatorship now. There are no counter suggestions or any debates on proposed works. The administrator has the power of the standing committee and the house, and is clearing the projects. It is a one-man show. He has all the financial powers and it isn’t healthy for democracy. The elections should be held soon,” he said.

Dhaval Shah, founder of the Lokhandwala Oshiwara Citizens’ Association, said several infrastructure projects have been stalled owing to the delay in polls. “The corporators used to get funds for local level development works each year and this money was used for upgrading civic amenities. But it seems for one year, there will be no allocation of such funds due to which several issues will remain unaddressed.”

Shah further said there are big-ticket projects like Gokhale bridge and Ram Mandir bridge in Andheri that has been stuck for years now. “Elected corporators would urge the administration to expedite the development works but now with the elections not happening, these projects are going to get delayed further.”

Bharatiya Janata Party’s Harshita Narwekar, former corporator from Colaba-Nariman Point, said, “What happens now is the projects are at the discretion of ward officers. Usually, the local corporators suggest the way forward. The administrators don’t have any understanding of what is happening on the ground. There are also no corporator funds.”

Narwekar said if the BMC doesn’t go to the polls by September-October, it will badly impact projects at the ward level.

“The administration isn’t questioned, there is no accountability, and the administrators drag their feet when it comes to completing projects. We do not have access to how they are spending the funds allocated for wards. The faster the elections, the more work can be done and micro-level works will not be neglected,” he added.

Former Congress corporator Asif Zakaria said the development works will suffer at the ward level due to lack of funds. “The councillor acts as a bridge between the administration and the citizens and that bridge is now incomplete. The funds released till March are over. In effect, citizens will suffer.”

A senior official from the BMC said the administration is already working efficiently. “The democratic representation has to be there. But that doesn’t mean works have stopped in the sectors of health, education, sanitation, and roads. We will not let people suffer.”

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