It is unfortunate that the State government seems to be moving in a direction that is contrary to the principles of a democracy where power is efficiently decentralised among the local self-governing bodies. The move to issue a Government Order on April 22, 2013 was a sign of such an adverse development, according to a letter submitted by the Mayors Chamber to the Chief Minister that stressed the need for the withdrawal of the directive.

The GO seeks to strengthen the presence of the Project Implementation Unit in each civic body. It is this section which coordinates the activities of the Kerala Sustainable Urban Development Project (KSUDP), the nodal agency for the Union government’s Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission. It prescribes the Local Self-Government secretary to be the chairman of the selection board that determines whom the posts in the PIU go to. The KSUDP project director is the convener and the deputy project directors and technical officers have been deemed members, effectively stripping the representatives of the local bodies themselves of any responsibility.

This becomes more evident compared to a previous order issued in 2007 that also deals with the constitution of the project monitoring and implementation units. According to this GO, it is the respective Corporation Mayor that chairs the interview board and members include the Corporation Secretary. This rule respected that the activities of the KSUDP figured as part of the civic body unlike the sidelining of democratically elected representatives the recently implemented GO engenders, the Mayors claim. The Mayors Chamber, a collective of the five Mayors, is chaired by the Kozhikode Corporation Mayor A.K. Premajam.

Mayor K. Chandrika had a particular case in point as well. She told that despite her strongly worded reservations regarding the re-tendering of works related to the expansion of the sewerage system in the capital city, the KSUDP empowerment committee had decided to proceed anyway, “paying no heed to the dissent voiced by the Mayors.” The project is being held at the mercy of contractors and officials, she said.