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Honorarium hike for Maharashtra corporators, but what about accountability?

Mumbai city news: Corpoartors from Mumbai will be given a hike of Rs15,000, which is more than double of their existing fee of Rs10,000

mumbai Updated: Jul 17, 2017 20:13 IST
Shailesh Gaikwad
Shailesh Gaikwad
Hindustan Times
Mumbai city news,BMC,corporators
In a city like Mumbai where the civic body plays the role of city government (BMC undertakes more duties than any other civic body in the state), the role of our corporators is quite important. (HT File )

The Maharashtra government has increased the honorarium given to the elected representatives of the civic bodies in the state. In Mumbai, the corporators representing the people will be given Rs25,000 in place of the current Rs10,000 per month.

Other cities have been divided into four categories — A, B C and D — on the basis of population and per capita income. The honorarium given to the corporators in these cities ranges from Rs10,000 to Rs20,000 against the current Rs 7,500. With the hike, there is likely to be an additional financial burden of about Rs50 crore on the taxpayers. Earlier, the civic bodies used to bear the burden, but in the GST era it will be eventually paid by the state government since the civic bodies have lost its primary source of income: octroi or local body tax (LBT).

The government cites inflation as the reason for increasing the payments to the elected representatives such as legislators or corporators. This is justified since the elected representatives need not spend their own money while discharging their duties. Also, the amount each of them getting is not very high even though the hike is more than double.

But then, one also needs to assume that the elected representatives are not resorting to illegal or illicit ways to make money. One also hopes that there are no allegations of corruption or misappropriation or extortion against them.

In a city like Mumbai where the civic body plays the role of city government (BMC undertakes more duties than any other civic body in the state), the role of our corporators is quite important. Legislators or MPs in Mumbai jokingly say that the local corporators have more demand than them. In fact, we have seen several corporators who performed well and later went on to become legislators, ministers and even chief ministers. At least two chief ministers of Maharashtra — Manohar Joshi (1995-99) and Devendra Fadnavis — began their political careers as corporators in Mumbai and Nagpur, respectively. It shows what a person elected as representatives to the civic body can achieve.

Unfortunately, the image of corporators in the people’s minds is not of an ideal elected representative. They have often seen how someone coming from a humble background, suddenly becomes a millionaire, in some cases even a billionaire after getting elected, shifts his residence to some skyscraper nearby and drives around in expensive SUVs. For years, there have been tales of how they make money—the cut in discretionary funds in their wards and share by contractors if they undertake road construction or any other work in their wards and by the builders who are building projects in their wards. For years, we have been hearing about the way the decisions are taken by civic panels on which corporators are members. There have been instances of `percentage system’ (percentage share in kickbacks) prevailing among the corporators and civic administration being made public.

While the government increases their pay, why there is no move to ensure accountability on part of the elected representatives, the citizens wonder.

Why can’t the elected representatives—whether legislators or corporators—declare their assets every year? Why can’t the civic body display on its website the performance report of the corporators—his/her attendance, questions asked, decisions taken and how discretionary funds spent? While we see the elected representatives on the same page when it comes to getting privileges, none of them wants to talk about accountability towards the citizens.

First Published: Jul 17, 2017 20:13 IST