Panchayat minister wants control of urban local bodies

By Ravleen Kaur
Published: Saturday 04 July 2015

a proposal to bring urban and local bodies under one head has been mooted once again. Mani Shankar Aiyar, Union minister of panchayati raj, has asked for urban local bodies to be put under his ministry "for effective planning to bridge the divide between urban and rural areas" and "better implementation of schemes like the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (jnnurm)". In 1992, Aiyar had proposed the idea but it was shot down as "impractical".

The present proposal comes after Aiyar's visit to Pakistan where the delegation interacted with Pakistan's local government officials on the three-tier model followed there (see box Governance models).

Experts say the proposal will help urban areas in better implementation of the 74th Amendment that aimed at decentralisation in urban local bodies, which are under the purview of the Union ministry of urban development at present.Decentralisation of rural local bodies under the 73rd Amendment has been effectively implemented. Thus, the proposal, if implemented, will give better participatory rights to migrant population, they say.

According to Aiyar, "Rajiv Gandhi wanted an employment programme for urban areas along the lines of Jawahar Rozgar Yojna, which is why district planning committees were laid down as part of the 74th Amendment.''

Of late, the planning commission has been insistent on states forming district planning committees which, under the 74th Amendment, are supposed to consolidate plans prepared by panchayats and municipalities in each district before allocating funds. But many states still do not have such committees. Kerala is the only state to follow the model.

In response to Aiyar's letter, which he gave to the prime minister's office (pmo) in the last week of July, the pmo has asked the Union ministries of urban development and urban employment and poverty alleviation to comment. The ministries, however, don't seem too keen. "Urban and rural bodies have different functions. An urban structure is tax-based while a rural one is grant-based. If both are merged, it will be against the interests of the rural people,'' says an official of the ministry of housing and urban employment and poverty alleviation.

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