Overriding vociferous objections from the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC)’s elected council and resistance from the local populace, the government had gone ahead with the decision to stretch the boundaries of the civic body with the merger of 35 Gram Panchayats.
Through three different government orders, the Municipal Administration Department had brought these Gram Panchayats into the GHMC fold, but following several writ petitions, the High Court recently suspended the orders related to 17 Gram Panchayats.
This merger move, which takes the total jurisdiction of the GHMC from 625.52 sq. km to 922.66 sq. km and has the population swelling from 67.31 lakh to 71.70 lakh, has been contested on various grounds, one of them being the civic body’s ability to manage an extra area and population.
The GHMC council, which has 150 corporators, in two hotly debated meetings, ended up unanimously rejecting government orders, and the second meeting even ended up with instructions to the Commissioner, M.T. Krishna Babu, not to use the civic body’s budget for work in the new areas till clarity emerged on funds.
Keeping aside their political affiliations, corporators were vocal in raising concerns over the merger move with most stating that the civic body which was struggling to manage its present status would be mired in more problems with additional area and population.
Most pointed out that the surrounding municipalities that joined the erstwhile MCH to become GHMC were yet to get a fair share of development and amenities in most of these places.
During council meetings, the corporators and floor leaders highlighted various issues related to the merger. MIM floor leader Mohammed Nazeeruddin stressed the limited staff and resources available with the civic body which was hardly sufficient to meet the present demands and challenges. “How are we going to manage the extra responsibility that the merger brings?” he asked.
Corporators also maintained that Gram Panchayats are predominantly agriculture-based. The MIM corporators said the merger would witness loss of agriculture lands, with layouts, plotting and roads taking over.
TDP floor leader Singireddy Srinivas Reddy wondered how the GHMC would handle the distinctive needs of the Gram Panchayats. “Are we equipped with the required expertise and manpower to address the needs of Gram Panchayats? Can the GHMC provide them with ploughs and tractors and advise them about their agricultural produce?” he asked.
BJP floor leader Bangari Prakash lamented that the government was going ahead with the merger without realising the will and aspirations of the people. “Are the people in these Gram Panchayats willing, happy and enthusiastic on merging with the GHMC? Has the government sought their views on it?” he asked.
Another key factor for the GHMC council was lack of assurance from the government on allocating the required budget to meet additional requirements. Can the civic body stretch its budgetary resources to cater to the new demands?
Lack of proper roads in most places and absence of basic amenities at several of these areas were conspicuous by their absence and in such a scenario, what aspirations can the new areas have from merger, members observed.
People from the new areas would only end up paying more taxes and made to travel long distances even for basic approvals and permissions from the GHMC. “The city is getting fresh vegetables and fruits from these surrounding villages. The merger will only spell doom for agriculture there,” Mr. Nazeeruddin said.