Failure attributed to governments' unwillingness to part with power
Absence of metropolitan committee allows backdoor Government control over local authoritiesMunicipalities seen more as service delivery organisations and not as development agencies
BANGALORE: "The weak and undemocratic structure, lack of access to information, lack of empowerment with funds, functions, functionaries and facilities made decentralisation of `ward committees' largely unfruitful in Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BMP)," a study has said.
Making this conclusion in the case study on the "Functioning of Ward Committees in Bangalore," the authors Kathyayini Chamaraj and Prasanna Rao attributed part of the committees' failure to the fact that the municipalities themselves were yet to become institutions of genuine local self-governance, as envisioned by the 74th Amendment to the Constitution, as the governments were unwilling to part with their powers.
The authors pointed out that in the absence of a Metropolitan Planning Committee in Bangalore, State-level agencies such as the Bangalore Development Authority and the Bangalore Metropolitan Regional Development Authority and other utility agencies allowed the Government to have backdoor control over local governance. Besides, the municipalities were themselves unwilling to share even their existing powers with the ward committees.
Another handicap, the authors noted, was that municipalities continued to be seen more as service delivery organisations and not as development agencies.
"Vital functions, involving the fulfilment of basic needs of citizens, such as the rights to food, work, primary education, basic health care and social security, and even poverty alleviation, which are best ensured at the local level, continue to be outside the purview of municipalities," they observed.
These functions, funds and functionaries of the line departments, the authors maintained, had to be brought under the municipalities and subsequently under the ward committees. "For this, the important functions of `economic and social development' and `safeguarding the interests of the weaker sections' listed in the 12th Schedule need to be brought under the obligatory functions list of the Karnataka Municipalities Act and these, in turn, devolved to the ward committees."
Based on the study, the Bangalore-based Citizens' Voluntary Initiative for the City of Bangalore (CIVIC Bangalore) recommended a ward committee for each ward; division of each ward into further sub-wards and amendment to allow for direct election of ward committee members from the ward sub-divisions.
CIVIC Bangalore also wanted an amendment to the rules to fix a population basis for the election of ward committee members and for the formation of ward committees, on the lines of elections to gram panchayats. "There should be one elected member for, say, every 5,000 population and one ward committee, for say, every 50,000 population," it said.
Shameem Banu, principal secretary, Urban Development, released the ward committee study. The event was arranged by CIVIC Bangalore.