ULBs mean failure?
Going by the contents of the lead news story carried on the front page of this newspaper’s Sunday edition, one can now easily surmise that the urban local bodies (ULBs) of Assam have either become totally inefficient or have become a synonym of the word ‘failure’.
Going by the contents of the lead news story carried on the front page of this newspaper’s Sunday edition, one can now easily surmise that the urban local bodies (ULBs) of Assam have either become totally inefficient or have become a synonym of the word ‘failure’. Quoting observations made by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), the said news story has stated that the urban local bodies (ULBs) of Assam have failed on all three of their main parameters or specific functions, these being water supply, public health, and solid waste management. It has also been pointed out that the Constitution of India has stipulated 18 specific areas of function for the urban local bodies, which comprise municipal corporations, municipality boards, and town committees. It is pertinent to note that the prime functions among them are water supply for domestic, industrial, and commercial purposes; public health sanitation and conservancy; and solid waste management. But, according to observations from the CAG, as the news story has pointed out, the overall performance of the ULBs of Assam is not just low but below par in comparison to the all-India scenario. It is very sad to note that while the coverage of piped water connections—a responsibility primarily vested in the ULBs—in the state is much below the benchmark, the percentage of water loss too is above the benchmark. Likewise, the density of the meter connection is low, and the collection of water tax is affected by the worst kind of efficiency one can think of. On the public health and sanitation front, the situation is such that the less said, the better. It has been pointed out that, with the dwindling finances of ULBs and the extent of intervention required by the government, the ULBs in Assam are simply not well equipped to handle their functions. About the sorry state of solid waste management in the cities and towns of Assam, the CAG has observed that ULBs are solely responsible for this. One, however, does not need the CAG to ascertain that the solid waste management system across Assam is not just grossly inadequate but is also poorly managed. Any taxpayer in Guwahati, Dibrugarh, Jorhat, or Bongaigaon will say that the mechanisms for doorstep collection, segregation, processing, recycling, scientific disposal of solid waste, etc. are simply pathetic. Most municipal bodies dump the collected waste within or outside the towns, and the dumping and burning of solid waste, including plastic and polythene, is a common sight at the entry points of most towns. In many towns, dumping sites are situated at the banks of rivers or water bodies, resulting in pollution of surface water, narrowing rivers, etc. It will, however, be an injustice to the ULBs if the entire blame is dumped on them as they dump garbage. The government too must share the blame, and so must a section of tax-paying citizens. A sizable section of tax-payers have yet to behave in a civilised manner as far as the disposal of solid waste is concerned.