A committee set up by the state government to suggest ways of bringing about transparency and accountability in the functioning of the BMC and other municipal corporations has suggested that mayors be elected and vested with all decision-making powers, sources said.
While the three-member committee had submitted its 300-page report in March to the urban development department, headed by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, it is still in the deliberation stage. The committee — comprising former BMC commissioner Sharad Kale, former housing secretary Gautam Chatterjee and former Pune municipal commissioner Ramanath Jha — was set up by Fadnavis in April 2017.
The Indian Express has learnt that the report has suggested radical changes in order to give a free hand to the municipal corporations. According to sources, the report has also suggested that a regulatory body to constituted to keep a watch on all decisions taken by the mayor, who should be the apex authority. “This would be done to ensure there is accountability and transparency in the mayor’s functioning. An independent vigilance authority should be set up to keep checks on any allegation of corruption or irregularity,” said an official privy to the findings.
On the report recommending that the civic bodies follow the US system of electing the President, the official said: “In the US, the President is elected directly by the people. In India, however, the mayors of the urban local bodies, chief ministers and even the Prime Minister is elected on the basis of the strength of the corporators as well as the the MLAs and the MPs of a party.”
The report also mentioned that the antiquated British era acts governing the civic bodies should be done away. “It states that the mayor should have a term of five years, with a fixed tenure of two years. In case any corruption allegation comes up or if the people or corporators are not satisfied with the mayor’s work, then he can be removed, but this too, only after he completes two years of his term,” said another official.
“In the event of him resigning or being removed, the House should be dissolved and fresh elections held,” the official added.
Also, to ensure residents’ participation in the functioning of the corporations, the committee has suggested that a committee be set up that would vet all local projects. “There should be a committee comprising locals, NGOs and activists in every ward. All proposals pertaining to road repair, garden developments and others should be brought before it. The committee will have powers to sanction or reject proposals considering the various modalities like the expenditure incurred and the benefits accrued,” the official said.
Another official said that if these suggestions are implemented, the government’s role will be limited to only taking strategic decisions. All operational decisions will be taken by the urban local bodies, much like the US system.
“In 2017, transparency was one of the key issues raised by BJP during the BMC poll campaign. Fadnavis had attacked the Shiv Sena, which is currently ruling the BMC, alleging corruption and irregularities. Following this, the CM had promised to bring transparency and accountability in BMC’s functioning,” said the official.
The mayor’s role is largely ceremonial as the real powers are vested in the municipal commissioner under the Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act, 1888. Also, since the commissioner is appointed by state government, there have been instances of interference in the civic body’s functioning. The mayor is usually elected from the majority party and serves as head of the House. The BMC gets two mayors — each having a tenure of two-and-a-half years. In India, only six states elect mayors. These are Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhatt-isgarh, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.