The Times Of India
Sukhda Tatke

As the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance readies to return to power in the BMC, the question many experts are raising is whether its corporators will have any real role in the city's planning and development. The civic body, they say, is being slowly stripped of powers while the idea of local self-governance and decentralization gains currency elsewhere. 

Over the years, the civic body's role in the city's projects has got curtailed. This in turn means that people have a lesser say in deciding the direction the city takes. Experts point out that the real power today flows not through BMC committees, but from the corridors of Mantralaya and the offices of MMRDA and MSRDC. These agencies manage the city's flyovers and many of its major thoroughfares. There are, in fact, murmurs now of even taking away water supply management from the corporation. Ajit Ranade of the Association for Democratic Reforms feels that the civic body has been reduced to a "toothless tiger". "For the public, corporators are often the visible faces. But they have no say. The process of taking away the civic body's powers is akin to dilution of autonomy," he said. 

Experts point out that the trend, which started decades ago, goes against the grain of laws that make it mandatory upon the state to include local self-governance authorities as active participants in the planning process. 

"From the '70s, with the establishment of parastatal bodies, the state has been trying to take planning away from the civic body," said Amita Desai of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences. "It is worse now as the state is trying to intervene in housing policies, property tax system and building facades. While the state is building assets, the BMC is merely maintaining them." The downside of all this is that people are getting disconnected from governance. 

The ruling alliance has decided to make decentralization its buzzword now. Shiv Sena leader Subhas Desai said, "We will make sure that the state gives the BMC more powers." 

CM Prithviraj Chavan denied the state is taking away the BMC's powers. "The BMC needs to undertake what it has been assigned properly before taking up bigger projects."

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