GUEST COLUMN | The shenanigans of municipal councillors | india | Hindustan Times
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GUEST COLUMN | The shenanigans of municipal councillors

THE LOCAL municipal councillors are, reportedly, getting restive about inadequacy of their pay and perks. Finding them incommensurate with the (dubious) services they claim to be rendering to the people, they are likely to raise the matter soon at the appropriate forum.

india Updated: Apr 05, 2006 14:03 IST

THE LOCAL municipal councillors are, reportedly, getting restive about inadequacy of their pay and perks. Finding them incommensurate with the (dubious) services they claim to be rendering to the people, they are likely to raise the matter soon at the appropriate forum. Not only do they desire a hike in them, they are also aiming for the facilities that are extended to MPs and MLAs.

Apparently a municipal councillor gets Rs 2250/- per month as honorarium and gets an allowance of Rs 50/- for every meeting he attends in connection with the work of the Corporation. For the development of his ward a councillor annually gets an amount of Rs 5 lakh on the lines of Local Area Development fund of MPs and MLAs and 50 per cent of the property tax collected from his ward. In addition, he gets approximately Rs 2 lakh from the development funds of the Mayor and Chairman, Bhopal Municipal Corporation (BMC).

The dissatisfaction may be well founded, but this hardly is the time for seeking a raise. BMC, evidently, is steeply in debt, so much so that a hack recently put out that everyone in this town is in debt of as much as Rs 38000/- because of the loans BMC has taken and those it is negotiating for.

The loans already availed of for various projects are likely to snowball into a massive sum of Rs 300 crore. Other loans, worth about another Rs 300 crore, are under negotiations. Besides, the Corporation will have to fund 30 per cent cost of all projects that are sanctioned under the National Urban Renewal Mission (NURM).

Few projects under NURM have already been approved. Repaying capacity being non-existent, the liabilities, already massive, are only likely to spin out of control.

Failing to appreciate the stark financial realities and ignoring the saner counsel of the Mayor they recently (irregularly?) passed a budget in the general council that lavished unaffordable funds, inter alia, to each councillor, all the aldermen (who earlier never had any developmental funds) and the BMC Chairman, to whom a huge sum of Rs 66 lakh was allotted as “discretionary fund”.

Greedy councillors, glossing over the MPLAD scam, not only kept their area development funds intact against the advice of the Mayor, they also extracted an additional Rs 2 lakh each from the road maintenance fund. Partisan politics and sheer avarice seemed to have ruled over the needs for judicious deployment of the scarce resources.

What the budget, therefore, provides for is fragmentation of works. Losing the advantage of “economy of scale”, the haphazard development that might take place would be patchy and decidedly short on quality. A town is a composite whole and needs to be viewed holistically in so far as its proper maintenance and development are concerned.

Individual councillors/aldermen will, surely, be spending the tax-payers’ money but will achieve very little, maybe like what they have been achieving hitherto – nothing visible and of any significance, failing to ameliorate the dismal conditions. For them, of course, there will be spin-offs; the town will gain nothing barring some shoddy works.

Thanks to their shenanigans in the Corporation everything, from sewers to water supply to roads and sanitation or whatever, is in a shambles. The finances are in total disarray with enormous amounts remaining un-recovered from several quarters.

A well-endowed town that could be a model for others continues to languish in filth, squalor and disorder because of their apathy and neglect. Now, with the commencement of the NURM they need to shun partisan politics, join ranks and nurse the municipality back into sound organisational and financial health.

Instead of fighting over funds for their self-interest they should direct their energies towards greater good of the town and improvement in the quality of life of its citizens.