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The working of the five Corporations in Uttar Pradesh, in their short life of about four years, has not led to the fulfilment of any of the expectations for improvement of civic life in these towns as a result of the coming into being of the Corporations. There have been differences between the Councillors and Commissioners over their respective powers. While the Commissioners have seemingly found themselves incapable of functioning properly on account of their not having enough powers, the councillors have not hidden their frustration at the Commissioners having all the powers and their having none or very little. The inability of the councillors to combine to make a majority in the Corporation for taking positive decisions and give the Corporation's decisions some sembalance of policy or plan, has reduced the elected wings of the civic bodies to quarrelsome and cantankerous debating societies. Out of five Corporations in Uttar Pradesh only in one any single party is in absolute majority, but even here the councillors have not fared better than in the remaining four corporations. Despite one party majority its members seem to be more interested in quarrelling and squabbling among themselves than in working with any discipline,
At a conference of the councillors of the five Corporations in Uttar Pradesh, held in July, a demand was put forward for vesting more powers in the councillors, over the administration. The Chief Minister, who participated in the conference was of the opinion that the councillors had enough powers and there was no case for more.
Such obiter dicta, however, are not going to solve the problems created by the unsatisfactory working of the Corporations. The Chief Minister, in the course of his address, had gone on to complain that the Corporations had so far not paid heed to the need for developing their respective cities. While the complaint is genuine, it can only be removed if the State Government move in the matter.
The Corporations are the creatures of the State Government. The set-up, the powers and authority, and their distribution among different Corporation wings, are all decided in the Acts passed by the State Legislature.
Only the State Legislature concerned can change these laws, and the State Government (executive branch), under the Acts framed for the working of the Corporations, generally retain large powers of supervision, guidance and control even over the day-today working of the Corporations. The Corporations are what the State Government have made them. Their performance cannot be improvcd until the State Government move in the matter. The Corporations are the instruments of State Government, and the State Government cannot escape their responsibility in the matter by blaming the Corporations. The word on such occasions and used in this context generally refers to the elected councillors, who are but rhe products of the legislative and executive actions of the State Government. If the councillors prove incapable of doing better, the action at State level alone can help in bringing about some relief and improvement.
The diffusion of the powers and authority of the Corporation between the elected and appointed wings helps in creating the illusion that the former is more to blame than the latter, and both even more than the State Government, who are their creator, and controller, and who prescribe the laws and rules under which they will operate. While powers and authority, little as they are, are so diffused, in none of the two wings does any responsibility seem to vest. The Corporation Act lays down numerous obligatory and optional functions to be discharged by the Corporations, but neither the councillors nor the commissioner seem to have been made clearly “responsible” for any of the functions. And so the two wings of the Corporation go on squabbling, not overworried about the consequences of their actions, for none has been made responsible for anything in the various Corporation Act.
As long as the human material in the respective wings was such that a decent working equation could be established between the two, and both felt imbued with a sense of responsibility, instead of worrying about powers, things worked well, as they did in Bombay. But now it is not possible under the old conception of distribution of powers behind the present Corporation Acts to produce such good results. The responsibility in the Corporation has to be defined and clearly vested in specified authorities, and after this has been done, and only then, it will be pertinent to examine the question whether the authority and powers of the concerned authorities are sufficient to enable the discharge of the above responsibilities.
The metropolitan areas are growing rapidly, and the Corporations have bigger tasks to perform now. The present civic arrangements have proved unequal to the needs of the cities. And radical changes, in the above direction, are necessary to ensure better results.
Both the elected and appointed wings of the Corporation will remain at loggerheads
and will certainly never be able to develop co-ordination which leads to good working results, under the present Corporation Acts, which divide the civic body into two wings. This system makes none responsible for the government of the city. In the name of democracy the State Government refuse to make the Commissioner responsible, and in the name of good government they refuse to vest responsibility in the elected councillors. The result is that the two keep on working at cross purpose and the civic bodies seldom seem to be moving forward. T Vice-President Dr. Zakir Husain, replyingT to a civic address presented him by the Bangalore Corporation, in July said: “You knew the city would expand and the slums would grow. These things should have to
forseen while planning the development of the city”. The Vice-President's complaint would have been justified if the Corporations were run on the pattern of the Union and the State Governments, in which the elected representatives ef the people are responsible for running the Government. The councillors of Bangalore are tot so responsible for their city’s government.
The State Government are responsible under the Constitution of the country for the good government of cities and they alone can transfer this responsibility to others. This has yet to be done.
Disgusted with the civic squabbles and inefficiency certain Calcutta newspapers and many of its citizens have been making-derogatory criticism of the Calcutta Corporation and also of the system of the city government itself, which places the elected councillors, at the head. The Calcutta Citizens’ Assocition, which is headed by a former Mayor, and whose membership includes city's leading business executive has been pleading for the introduction of the council-manager form of local government, which has found much acceptance in North America and is now being extended fairly fast in European cities also.
While in 1915 there were only 50 cities in United States and one city in Canada under the council-manager form of government, the number has now increased to 1,847 and 72, respectively. In 1962 there were 1,732 cities in West Germany, Ireland, Norway, Sweden and Finland under the councilmanager system. The system was reported being considered in Iran and Nigeria. No Asiatic and African city has yet tried this system, and the suggestion of the Calcutta Citizens’ Association to introduce it in Calcutta, therefore, is not only novel but also represents bold , thinking as well as deep dissatisfaction with the present city government there.
Under the council-manager form of local government, the voters elect their representatives to a council and the latter appoints a skilled administrator as city manager.
Usually he holds the job during the pleasure of the council, that is, he has no written contract. If the manager dosen’t do a good job he can be fired. The council debates problems and creates policy for the city, which the council manager puts into effect. He hires and fires, prepares and administers the budget, makes recommendations and supplies information to the council, and coordinates the work of the civic departments. A city manager can be compared with the managing director of a private company.
Between 1923 and 1958 Calcutta Corporation Council used to appoint its Chief Executive Officer, subject to the approval of the Provincial Government. But thereafter the resemblance of the Culcutta Corporation with the council-manager type of city government ended. The councillors were not content with laying down policy and nor was the Chief Executive Officer invested with the administrative powers of a city manager. The councillors were far too jealous of their authority and were unwiliing to entrust anyone the execution of policies and programmes and confining themselves to the laying down of the latter. The experiment, therefore, in undiluted local democracy, failed, and after four years of supersession the civic body was revived with the ower of the elected councillors consideraly curtailed.
Under the 1951 Act, the Chief Executive Officer of Calcutta Corporation is appointed by the State Government. But the working of the Corporation even under this Act has brought no satisfaction. What is proposed is not reversion to the old system, but greater emphasis on the seperation of the deliberative and policy-making functions from the administrative functions, and vesting them in two difference authorities, that is, the former in the elected councillors and the latter in a Government-appointed civil Servant.
The essence of the council-manager system is that the councillors themselves appoint the city manager, equivalent of the Chief Executive Officr or Commissioner here, and he holds office at the pleasure of the council. The council members feel convinced of the wisdom of contenting themselves with laying
down policy and leaving it to be imlpe. mented by the manager, who is their nominee. It will be extremely difficult to transplant this system of local government in its entirety on the Indian soil. Not only are the right type of councillors needed, but also the right type of city managers. While both are defficult to come by competent city managers would be even more difficult to find. No arrangements exist for the training of professional city managers, and even if men were available who can handle such jobs—while US ba', nearly a dozen institutions that train city managers, there is none in Canada though it has 72 cities under city managers—they will not be willing to work for municipal councils at their pleasure, that is without any terms of contract and security of service.
The city managers in USA and in other countries, it seems, are prepared to work without a contract for they are sure, on the strength of their competence, to find other job, if they lose the one in hand. Not only there is shortage of trained personnel here, the shortage of jobs is even greater. This would make the adoption of the councilmanager system somewhat difficult.
Yet it cannot be gainsaid that appointment by the State Government and the investment of a large amount of security for the Chief Executive Officer's posts in the Corporations in India have tended to rob the officers of the necessary incentive and the need for greater exertion.
There seems to be a tendency that the job of executives in civic bodies requires no specialised training or aptitude, and the civil servants in regular government employ, whose services are transferred for short riods to man civic posts, find the work i. and generally unsatisfying.
The need for training councillors as well as civic executives is obvious. More openings for trained civic executives would induce to bring into being a trained professional class of people who could fill the role of city managers.
Under the present conditions it will be hard to find men who will answer the description of city managers in this country. The
dualism in the past has done nothing but harm, and its perpetuation would do no good. Under the conditions of backwardness that we still have in several respects, an administration which stresses on simplification of authorities and procedures is likely to lead to better results. Trained civic executives untramelled with undue interference by councillors could help lay the foundations of good city government.
What is of essence is clear-cut definition and vesting of authority and responsibility. In keeping with this view is the demand, contrary to that of Calcutta Ciziens’ Association, for a strong Mayor-in-Council set up for Delhi, made by the Delhi Congressmen.
The Union Territory of Delhi is to have a new administrative set-up. It will not have a Legislative Assembly and Council of Ministers, as have been provided in the other Union Territories.
The present Municipal Corporation setup does not provide for the necessary degree of people's participation in the government of the Territory, and so a scarch is going on for a more satisfactory administrative set-up. Various suggestion have been made, including the setting up of a Metropolitan Council as in Tokyo. But now the leading Congressmen of the city seem to have veered round to the view that the Delhi Municipal Corporation should be vested with additional powers and authority, and these should be exercised through a Mayor, who will be more than the presiding authority as at present. While the Commissioner will stay, he will not have all the executive authority vested in him, as at present.
Courage is needed if we are to have a better city government administration than in the recent years—courage to vest superior authority in either the Mayor or the Commissioner. Only one can be made responsible; and he who is responsible must have ample authority to discharge the responsibility.
He, who is to execute the policy of someone else, must be subordinate to the latter,
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