LEDeG organises workshop for newly elected Municipal Committee members on role and responsibilities

The members from Urban Local Bodies of Leh and Kargil took part in the two-day orientation workshop

Ladakh Ecological Development Group (LEDeG) in collaboration with Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) Leh organised a two-day orientation workshop on Municipal Committee- its roles and functions, under the Liveable Leh project, which is supported by the European Union and co-funded by BMZ, at the Hotel Singge Palace in Leigh on November 29 and 30. The newly elected members of Municipal Committee Leh and Kargil attended the workshop. Chief Executive Councillor of Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) Leh Jamyang Tsering Namgyal and Deputy Commissioner Leh Avny Lavasa were the guests for the occasion.

The objective of the workshop was to inform the newly elected Municipal Committee members about the urban body, its functions, responsibilities, and delivery of public services. The Municipal members were also informed about the role of committee in improving infrastructure in a town, legal and institutional framework of the Municipal Committee, the need to create a vision document for their towns; and integrating the said functions with the New Urban Agenda.

The prominent speakers who spoke on relevant topics were Professor Mukesh Mathur, urban finance expert and former Professor at National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA); Dr VK Dhar, former Professor from National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA) & HUDCO chair, Fyaz Ahmed, Chief Town Planner of Jammu and Kashmir; Tikender Panwar, former deputy mayor of Shimla; Sonam Wangchuk, Ramon Magsaysay Award winner and founder of Students’ Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh (SECMOL); Anirudh Singh and Evita Das from Indo Global Social Service Society (IGSSS); Manas Rath, senior advisor at BORDA, and Anuj Malhotra, Director of Centre for Green Mobility.

Jamyang Tsering Namgyal, Chief Executive Councillor (CEC), LAHDC Leh, welcomed the newly elected members from Leh and Kargil and also the speakers. He shared that the Municipal Committee is a perfect platform to serve the people of Ladakh irrespective of their caste, religion and political party. He said the priority of the members of Municipal Committee should be to serve the people of Ladakh.

Moses Kunzang, Additional Deputy Commissioner (ADC) Leh, thanked LEDeG for offering the members of Municipal Committee Leh and Kargil an opportunity to meet each other, and also to understand their roles and responsibilities. He added that the experts would show them the way and also bring clarity to their roles and responsibilities.

Dr VK Dhar gave the introductory speech in which he talked about urban areas and the main functions of a municipal committee. He shared that there is a 50 % reservation for women and gave the examples of women elected to the posts of members of Municipal Committee in Uttar Pradesh and Haryana. Dr Dhar said that the women were in veil when they first assumed the charge of a member of Municipal Committee. However, the veil was gone and the women were more confident to share their thoughts by the end of the fourth year of their term. They were aware of their responsibilities and were more vocal. Dr Dhar shared with the participants that the orientation course would help them in understanding their roles.

He then threw light on what constitutes an urban area and the information needed by the Municipal councillors. Dr Dhar said that Municipal councillors also need their own platform just as mayors. According to Dr Dhar, it is hard for the councillors to know the development activities being carried out in neighbouring cities such as Jammu, Srinagar or Lucknow. He said that the councillors need exposure and they also need to interact with each other and gain knowledge in the relevant field. He added that the councillors need to form a group and share their works with each other.

He further defined the role of ward councillors, urban local government, the purpose of Municipal governance, the structure of a Nagar Palika, responsibility of Municipal Committee, roles and functions of the elected councillors and source of revenue for the elected body.

Post-tea, Dr Mukesh Mathur informed the participants about the 74th Constitutional Amendment. The 74th Amendment gives complete autonomy to urban bodies like corporations and municipalities. It states that they should be able to manage on their own, and shouldn’t be a subsidiary of the state government. He said that Dharavi in Mumbai is a perfect example of urbanism in India and termed it as a self-contained urban area. Dr Mukesh shared that Rajiv Gandhi, who is credited with laying the foundation of Panchayati Raj institutions in order to take democracy to the grassroots level and also gave impetus to the 74th Constitution Amendment, sanctioned a grant of Rs 100 crore to Bombay, of which a substantial amount was allocated to Dharavi to redevelop some of its parts.

Dr Mukesh also added that the recommendations of the 14th Finance Commission are still prevalent in parts of India. He informed the participants about the overlapping of functions between the District Planning Committee (DPC) and Metropolitan Planning Committee (MPC). He said the role of development authorities and parastatal bodies in the new set-up is not defined.

He rued the lack of a management information system (MIS) and said the majority is not in favour of implementing the 74th Constitutional Amendment Act. He said the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) has listed down 23 mandatory reforms, but the majority are yet to achieve those goals.

He made certain recommendations: the recruitment rules should be charged and the process should be streamlined and work as a business. He also stressed the need for the local body institutions to understand recruitment policy and also to form pressure groups to achieve their objectives. He highlighted that the objective of the 74th Constitutional Amendment Act was to form a decentralised government with the aim to provide quality service.

He also urged that the state government should hold local bodies’ elections regularly, especially in Jammu and Kashmir and North Eastern states.

Post-lunch, Fyaz Ahmed, chief town planner of Jammu and Kashmir, spoke about the role of Municipal Committee members, the role of the executive, and salient features of Jammu & Kashmir Municipal Act 2000. He said that only five towns from Jammu and Kashmir qualified for AMRUT schemes, including Leh and Kargil. He shared that there should be a representative-possibly from the Municipal Committee of Leh and Kargil, to build upon the central government-funded scheme.

He also requested the organisers of the event to simplify the J&K Municipal Act 2000. He said that despite being termed as one of the most beautiful places on earth, Srinagar stands at 100th rank in the most desirable places to visit. He said that it showed the flaws in the city. He said it is the responsibility of the members of Municipal Committee to meet the expectations of the people and provide better services.

He also stressed the need to have a Master Plan for the city. He said that although Kargil has already prepared a Master Plan, it could still be improved. Fyaz said that tax collection and generation of revenue should be the priority of the Municipal Committee members. He also encouraged the Municipal members to collect taxes from the tourists visiting Leh and asked them to use that money for the development of the town. He further added that the Town Planning Organising department of the state has invited tender for the Leh Master Plan.

Thereafter, ADC Leh Moses Kunzang shared the development works carried out by the district administration and LAHDC. He said the majority of the programmes under UIDSSMT are almost complete. He said the tender for Sewage Treatment Plant (STOPP) has already been processed and the work will begin next year. He said that Rs 42 crore under AMRUT scheme would be used to construct a multi-tier parking area in the heart of Leh town. He added that the work on Changspa Street will finish next year. Moses shared that the government will adopt animal birth control (ABC) programme to check the menace of street dogs. He said that a new route from SNM Hospital to Cheetah Chowk and from Chandu Market to Polo Ground will be used to ease the flow of traffic on these roads. He further added that 100 Kanal of land was provided for the taxi stand to decongest the traffic.

He also shared information on earmarking a separate place for butchers, promoting Old Leh Town as heritage town, inaugurating toilets at Zangsti and Bus Stand, construction of a park near the main branch of J&K Bank, installation of ‘black hole’ at Bomb Garh to clear the solid waste, and construction of a slaughter house.

Sonam Chosjor, the Additional Commissioner Revenue (ACR) who also holds the additional post of administrator Kargil Municipal Committee, shared the Kargil story with the participants. He said that the people of Kargil town have lots of expectation from the newly elected members of the Municipal Committee. He informed that Rs 90 lakh is generated in Kargil town through entry fee charged from taxi drivers. He also highlighted issues concerning the Kargil Municipal Committee, including traffic congestion, sewage system, solid waste management, unplanned construction and water supply.

The participants were then divided into four groups to perform a group activity. Each group was asked to list down the projects/activities needed in their respective towns.

Post-tea, Tikender Panwar talked about the role of elected representatives in the development of a town. He asked the Municipal Committee members to intervene and work for the betterment of the city. He asked the Municipal Committee Leh members to participate actively in the preparation of a Master Plan for Leh town. He also said that the Municipal Committee staff should be empowered and the chairman should write the executive’s ACR.

He said the people of Leh town should not be too reliant on water lifted from Indus River and instead look to utilise gravity-flow water. He also advised the people of Leh not to abandon traditional systems of harvesting water. He added that the main objective of the Municipal members should be generating income for the department. Tikender also asked the MC members to promote pedestrianisation in the town.

The penultimate session was taken by Professor Mukesh Mathur as he talked about understanding municipal finance for small municipalities. He shared with the participants the major sources of income for ULBs, including taxes and non-taxes, grants, etc. He said that the municipal committee has to consider the selection of value capture financing (VCF) tools and also take care of the budget. He also talked about different types of budgets.

The first day ended with a session on happy cities by Sonam Wangchuk. He screened a video on happy cities and then asked the participants to list down the things which they like and dislike about Leh and Kargil towns. He said that Leh is an example to other Himalayan cities and the only solution to overcome the problem of rampant urbanisation was to create a twin city. He also made certain recommendations to make Leh an attractive city: maintain and preserve the USP of Ladakh, houses should be powered by solar energy and windows should have double wall to trap the solar heat.

Day 2 began with a session on the 74th Constitutional Amendment by Anirudh Singh and Evita Das from Indo Global Social Service Society. They talked about the Nagar Raj Bill Act, Mohalla Sabha, the constituency of Mohalla Sabha, Mohalla Committee- its functions, duties and powers, and ward committee. Manas Rath from BORDA took a session on the importance of water supply and the role of a committee member in which he also talked about the current water scenario in Leh.

Post-tea, he and Tikender Panwar took a session on urban amenities. Both of them talked about financial resources, tariff, key performance indicator (KPI), objectives, delegated management model, lifting water from the Indus River, water freeze in winters in Ladakh, and storage capacity of the tanks.

Rigzin Spalgon, the administrator of Municipal Committee Leh, shared the Leh story with the participants. He talked about the functioning of toilets in peak tourist seasons and winters, construction of public parks- lessons learnt from mistakes, and the number of cars plying on the roads in Leh.

Post-lunch, the participants went for a field visit to FSTP at Bomb Garh, Changspa Street and the public convenience at Zangsti.

Anuj Malhotra took the last session as he talked about mobility and administration. He shared the details and designs on Changspa Street. He added that pedestrians should be given priority ahead of cars and the need to connect the intersections to connect the loop around Leh town. He said the center of Leh town should be completely pedestrianised, but also conceded the challenges to achieve the objective. He also advised the Municipal members to work on a comprehensive mobility plan of Leh town.

Avny Lavasa, Deputy Commissioner Leh, also joined the workshop and shared that the Municipal members should make the most of the workshop and she exuded confidence that the new Municipal team will perform well. She said the benefit of local people would be decided by Municipal Committee and also stressed the need to prepare a vision document.