Urban local bodies continue to languish

By our Staff Reporter

GUWAHATI, Sept 1: Blaming the Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) for the hellish urban life in Assam mostly sounds like an ‘urban legend’. ULBs are not the ones to be blamed for all that ails urban life. It is Dispur that should own the responsibility of most of the problems that afflict urban dwellers in the State.

The ULBs in Assam are municipal corporations, municipal boards and town committees. Assam has only one municipal corporation (GMC), 34 municipal boards and 59 town committees.

To cut a long story short, one can say that the chronic short release of funds by Dispur to the ULBs is the prime reason urban life going awry because of waterlogging, poor draige and sewerage system, poor garbage disposal system and the like.

When the period of five years in the immediate past is taken as the case study, a number of latent factors unfold. According to standard rules, Dispur should devolve a portion of the amount which it collects in the form of tax to the ULBs. In standard devolution of such funds, Dispur should have devolved around Rs 1,020 crore to the ULBs from fiscal 2009-10 to 2013-14. However, Dispur released only Rs 555 crore to the ULBs during the past five years. The ULBs collect a paltry amount of tax on their own, and they also get some direct funds from the Centre for a few schemes. Bulk of the funds which they rely on is from Dispur, which, however, has tightened its purse strings for them. Poor roads, draige and sewerage system, lack of sanitary facilities in most of the urban areas in Assam is the direct fallout of Dispur’s short release of funds to the ULBs.

Another misdeed which the ULBs have been chronically meted out by Dispur is: according to standard practice Dispur should have transferred 18 subjects to the ULBs. However, Dispur, for reasons best known to it, has transferred only eight subjects to the ULBs and retained ten subjects with it, depriving the ULBs their fair share of work for the development of their own areas. Dispur, for reasons best known to it, gives the works of the ten subjects to line departments like Urban Development Department, Guwahati Development Department in Guwahati, Town Planning, Water Resources Department etc.

This is not all. Dispur has also failed the ULBs in their work for the development of their respective areas by not giving them the required manpower. The ULBs had submitted their staff pattern to Dispur way back in fiscal 2011-12, but till February 2015 the Fince Department did not approve that.

Sources said, if Dispur continues to give ULBs the cold shoulder, the latter can never work for the development of their respective areas. The irony, however, is that when anything goes awry in urban areas, the ULBs are the ones who have to incur the public wrath.       

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