In a major decision on the eve of the announcement of the schedule for the civic elections in the State, the Rajasthan Cabinet on Wednesday resolved to make the elections of presiding officers to such bodies directly by the people, instead by the councilors or the elected members.

As a result, hereafter the mayoral elections in Rajasthan will be decided by the voters directly as it is the pattern in a few other States including Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.

“This is an attempt to improve the condition of the municipal bodies some of which are not properly administered,” Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, who presided over the Cabinet meeting, told journalists thereafter. “Direct elections would make the presiding officers more responsible,” Mr. Gehlot, who has been debating on the issue for sometime in the past, noted. The recent amendments in the Rajasthan civic bodies act had kept a provision for direct election of mayors and chairpersons, he noted.

However, the election of vice chairpersons and deputy mayors would be by the elected members of the respective municipal boards, councils and corporations. As for the provision of moving a no confidence motion against the directly elected presiding officers, that is possible after the completion of the first two years of election.

The Cabinet also decided to formulate an affordable housing policy in the State so that the economically weaker sections (EWS) and lower income groups (LIGs) got 50 per cent houses built by the Rajasthan Housing Board, various municipal bodies, urban improvement trusts (UITs) and the Jaipur Development Authority.

Besides this, the State would be holding negotiations with private developers for reserving a certain percentage of houses built for the EWS and LIG categories of citizens. The private parties would be offered incentives in the form of land and concessions in land acquisition/conversion charges in lieu of this.

“We will formulate a policy to make available low cost houses to the weaker sections and low income groups. We propose to rope in the private parties as well in this,” Mr. Gehlot said.

Till now there had not been any need based planning in the State for this category of people. The Government also proposed a slum development programme, similar to the one taken up in Mumbai while a Township Policy was on the anvil, he informed.

A pilot project on slum development would be taken up in the capital at the Jawahar Nagar Katchi Basti with the coordination of Awas Vikas Sansthan Limited, a subsidiary of the Rajasthan Housing Board (RHB).

Urban Development Minister Shanti Dhariwal said the projected demand for houses in EWS and LIG groups in the State at present stood at 10.70 lakhs. The demand is estimated to grow to 12.82 lakhs by 2012 and to 17.06 lakhs by 2021. The Government would choose from five proposed models of affordable housing.

The proposed models speak of a mandatory provision of keeping 50 per cent of the houses constructed annually by RHB for EWS and LIG categories besides 20 per cent for the middle income group(MIG-A). The land cost shall b cross subsidized for EWS/LIG to bring down the expenses. The UITs and other local bodies will allot or construct 25 per cent plots/houses/flats for EWS/LIG and 20 per cent to MIG-A.

In the case of private developers at least 15 per cent of the dwelling units or 5 per cent of the usable area would have to be reserved for EWS and at least 5 per cent to the LIG in the township schemes. Another model suggests earmarking 40 per cent of the land by them to EWS/LIG and 60 per cent for MIG and higher income groups.