GUWAHATI: The urban local bodies (ULBs) in Assam have failed on all three of their main parameters or specific functions: water supply, public health, and solid waste management.
The Constitution of India has stipulated 18 specific functions for the ULBs, comprising municipal corporations, municipality boards, and town committees. The prime functions among them are water supply for domestic, industrial, and commercial purposes; public health sanitation and conservancy; and solid waste management. However, the performance of the ULBs is glaringly below par in Assam.
According to observations from the CAG, the coverage of piped water connections in the state is below the benchmark, the water loss is above the benchmark, the meter connection is low, and poor efficiency marks the collection of water tax.
On public health and sanitation, with the dwindling finances of ULBs and the extent of intervention required by the government, the ULBs are not well equipped to handle their functions.
On solid waste management, the CAG said that ULBs are solely responsible for this. "But the solid waste management system in the state is inadequate and poorly managed. In the mechanisms for doorstep collection, segregation, processing, recycling, scientific disposal of solid waste, etc., the ULBs are largely below par. Open dumping is the most common option for the disposal of solid waste. Dumping sites are situated at the banks of rivers or water bodies, resulting in pollution of surface water, narrowing rivers, etc.," the CAG said.
According to sources, ULBs fail to perform because of three major factors: a financial crisis, a lack of autonomy, and a lack of a dedicated work force. The ULBs should be self-sufficient by collecting taxes themselves. However, most of the urban local bodies in the state have failed on this front. They even have to depend on the government to pay salaries to their employees.
The CAG has recommended, "The state government needs to take decisive action in order to translate the vision of achieving decentralization into a reality. Tax needs to be taken to ensure that ULBs enjoy an adequate degree of autonomy in respect of the functions assigned to them."
According to sources, if the government does not provide full power to the ULBs, they will continue to face problems in performing their functions, leading to harassment of the general public due to the deprivation of various amenities and facilities.