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How Trifurcation Worsened East Delhi's Local Governance

16/02/2017 2:10 PM IST | Updated 21/02/2017 9:04 AM IST
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This is part 3 of a three-part series on Delhi's MCD trifurcation. Read part 2 here and part 1 here.

The notification for trifurcation was issued in December 2011 and the East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC) was constituted on 2 May 2012. Trifurcation was expected to improve administrative efficiency and accessibility, but the actual outcomes have been tripling of the top executive, no increase in internal revenue sources, poor expenditure management and shortfall in grants from the state government leading to a financial crunch. These factors have outweighed any positives that came from trifurcation.

The EDMC's function of solid waste management (SWM) is taken as the lens for studying the impact because SWM is the only function of municipal corporations of Delhi (MCD) that is not shared with any other state government or Central departments.

By dividing a central organisation into three sections, administrative requirements have tripled at the HQs. Associated with this is the tripling of some costs too...

East Delhi generates approximately 2500 metric tonnes (MT) of municipal solid waste per day. This waste is managed at the level of the zone and at the wards nested within that zone. There are two zones in EDMC: Shahdara North Zone with 33 wards and Shahdara South Zone with 31 wards. From collection of waste to its disposal at the Ghazipur landfill site, the process of SWM has remained largely unaltered across East Delhi. In fact, the management has only worsened. The impact of trifurcation can be broadly assessed by studying the process of allocation of staff and finances.

Allocation of staff

As long as four months after the trifurcation notification was passed, employees were not sure of which corporation they would be allocated to. An accountant explained, "Until people were allocated work in newly constituted corporations, they waited and continued to work for the unified MCD." Thereafter, staff allocated to the East Delhi Municipal Corporation moved to the EDMC's HQ at Patparganj Industrial Area.

Staff allocation by the Director of Local Bodies (DLB)

The DLB was responsible for dividing the staff at the unified MCD HQ into three different corporations. But the staff at the zonal and ward levels were allocated on an "as-is-where-is" basis, thus becoming employees of the respective corporation. This was sorted by April-May 2012.

Pre-trifurcation, employees could get transferred between all 12 MCD zones but post-trifurcation, due to lot of transfer requests, the process was put on hold and inter-zonal transfers outside of the corporation are not permitted. This is one thing that has negatively affected the productivity of staff as those allocated to the EDMC cannot expect to move out.

Better management due to smaller jurisdictions

There is an overarching perception among the staff that with the smaller corporations, management and monitoring has become better. Many felt that response to files sent to seniors had become quicker. The bureaucratic hierarchies have shortened to some extent. An accountant explained some benefit of trifurcation to the public, "The area of the corporation has reduced and the Commissioner has to look after fewer zones—only two in EDMC. Now the Commissioner has visited all wards, and so has the Mayor."

Apparently, the financial turmoil that EDMC is facing was known to the Finance Department prior to trifurcation and yet nothing was done to address it.

The heads of departments seem to enjoy a greater autonomy in decision-making. The EDMC Chief Engineer (Sanitation) felt that he was relatively more independent to take decisions, as he now only had to manage the waste collected in EDMC rather than that of the entire MCD. So he has been able to initiate the waste treatment plant without much delay.

Creation of a top-heavy bureaucracy

Since the employees in each department at the HQ of the unified MCD were split into three separate corporations, the size of departments at HQs has reduced. However, a layer of top-level officials was created that were needed to maintain the "command structure" and keep the bureaucracy in order to allocate tasks to be completed. So the position of the commissioners, the statutory positions of municipal secretary, chief accountant etc. were created. Also no rationalisation of staff was done and capacity was not increased at the zonal or ward levels. Thus, by dividing a central organisation and its work into three sections, administrative requirements have tripled at the HQs. Associated with this is the tripling of some costs too, impacting not just the HQs but also the functioning of the zones and wards.

Allocation of finances

SWM receives funds through internal sources of the EDMC (property tax, parking fees, etc.) and plan funding from the Delhi government. The EDMC Chief Engineer (Sanitation) explained how there are three plan budget heads i.e. mechanisation of conservancy and sanitation services, sanitation in JJ Clusters and sanitation in unauthorised colonies, for which the money allocated is used for SWM only. The plan fund does not provide for the salaries of the staff, which have to be met through internal sources and grants from Delhi government. So although EDMC has all the equipment (trucks and auto tippers for SWM) that it purchased using the plan fund, it is unable to use it when the karamcharis strike, leading to poor conditions in multiple areas.

Pending recommendations of the Fourth Delhi Finance Commission (DFC)

The recommendations of the Fourth DFC (2011-16), set up in 2009, were tabled in the Delhi Legislative Assembly only in December 2015. If the DFC's recommendations were implemented starting 2013, when it submitted its report, East MCD would have got ₹3000 crore for financial years 2013-14, 2014-15 and 2015-16 up to October 2015. Funds continue to be given according to Third DFCs recommendations (2006-2011)—constituted in 2004 with a mandate for allocation to the unified corporation. So East MCD gets about 19.14% of the share due to local bodies. This highly skewed and delayed process aggravated the financial situation of East MCD when it was actually supposed to ease it.

Poor sources of internal revenue

The 19.14% of the share of local bodies, from Delhi government is not enough to make up for the shortfall in internal revenue. Fact is, internal revenue generation is a major challenge for EDMC. An administrative officer had remarked, "East MCD has many 'dead zones', because only 10% of the settlements in East MCD's jurisdiction are approved or planned, i.e. 90% of the settlements do not generate any income." (Property tax – highest source of internal revenue – is only charged to approved settlements).

Devolution of funds has not happened post-trifurcation, leading to a dip in the condition of SWM and other services...

Also the property tax rates, which are determined by a Municipal Valuation Committee (MVC), haven't been revised for more than a decade. The third MVC which submitted its report in 2012 noted that 42 DDA colonies in East can have higher taxation slabs because of improvement in infrastructure post the Commonwealth Games in 2010. But this suggestion was dropped by the then unified MCD, thus artificially keeping the property rates down and preventing full exploitation of the property tax base.

Unless the property tax rates are revised upward or more areas are brought under its ambit or other sources like parking fees are exploited, East MCD will need continuous external support.

Foreseen financial crunch?

Apparently, the financial turmoil that EDMC is facing was known to the Finance Department prior to trifurcation and yet nothing was done to address it. AN EDMC accountant said, "When the geographical division was proposed, we debated that financially it will not be viable because zonal accounts and zonal assets and liabilities were known to us, and we knew that one corporation would be in surplus and two would be in deficit."

Even though this might have been known to the Congress-led Delhi government that trifurcated the MCD, they did not make any attempts to make MCD financially sustainable. This was evident in my interview with Sheila Dikshit in which she acknowledged that the MCD is not financially sustainable and it is the responsibility of the Delhi government to provide the gap amount. That's why the EDMC managed to make ends meet during her tenure as financial aid was provided; the situation worsened with the AAP government, which the councillors allege is trying to malign the MCD to get BJP out of power.

Conclusion

Sources of revenue for the EDMC did not increase post-trifurcation even as the bureaucracy (and the paraphernalia attached to it) expanded at the top-level. There was no addition to the ground-level employees like the safai karamcharis. Even though EDMC was able to procure sanitation equipment using plan funding, there is never enough money to pay salaries. Devolution of funds has not happened post-trifurcation, leading to a dip in the condition of SWM and other services. Unless we address this deeper problem, the objective of trifurcation will never be met, and Delhi's municipal services will continue to deteriorate.

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