Hyderabad: Making elected representatives and officials of Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) more answerable for their actions, the new Telangana Municipalities Bill mandates stringent action against them in case of corruption or negligence towards their work. The Bill also promotes optimum utilisation of technology to minimise problems faced by citizens by reducing interaction with officials and enables them to obtain majority of certificates, including building permissions, through an online system.
Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao introduced the new Telangana Municipalities Bill in the State Legislative Assembly on Thursday and Speaker P Srinivas Reddy posted it for discussion on Friday. The State Legislative Council is also scheduled to meet on Friday and pass the Bill. The two-day special session of the Assembly was convened to pass the new Municipalities Bill ahead of the upcoming municipal elections. The Bill will not be applicable for Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) which is governed by the Hyderabad Municipal Act.
The State government proposed to increase the number of Municipal Corporations from existing six to 13, including GHMC. Apart from the existing Municipal Corporations of Greater Warangal, Karimnagar, Ramagundam, Karimnagar and Nizamabad, the government proposed to establish new corporations for Badangpet, Bandlaguda Jagir and Meerpet (merger of Meerpet and Jillelaguda) in Ranga Reddy district, as well as Boduppal, Peerzadiguda, Jawaharnagar and Nizampet in Medchal-Malkajgiri district.
Aim for transparency
Introducing the bill, the Chief Minister said the new Municipalities Bill was needed to make Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) more transparent, time-bound and accountable that would be citizen-friendly, besides encouraging greenery as well as budget formulation in a scientific manner. He felt that some of the provisions under the existing Acts had become redundant and irrelevant due to changing times necessitating their replacement to meet the current requirements. He also observed that there was no proper use of technology to its optimum level for convenience of citizens and there were emerging scenarios which require new orientation in legal framework.
Under the new bill, District Collectors have been entrusted with more powers over the ULBs where they are even empowered to initiate action (including suspension) against elected representatives and officials concerned of the ULBs located in the respective district. The ULBs will have to operate under the supervision of the District Collectors who will have powers to revoke the decisions taken by the ULBs concerned. All the municipalities must come up with a master plan and encourage development accordingly. Underground drainage system, drinking water supply and waste management must be an integral part of the master plan.
To promote greenery, a district-level committee headed by the District Collector, comprising District Forest Officer (Social Forestry) or equivalent level officer in charge of Haritha Haram and respective Commissioners must come up with ‘Green Action Plan’ for a five-year period. All the ULBs must earmark 10 per cent of their budget towards ‘Green Budget’ to meet expenses for promotion, plantation and maintenance of green spaces in urban areas. They also must establish and maintain nurseries to meet the needs of each municipality.
Further, the State government decided to bring several other reforms, including constitution of a Common Municipal Service for the State for various cadres of officers and employees in the ULBs, including GHMC and Urban Development Authorities. The government is also planning to establish Telangana State Institute of Urban Excellence specialising in training of elected representatives and municipal employees on regular basis. Besides conducting training sessions, the institution will also focus on quality research, consultancy services and policy reforms on urban sector issues.
The government also decided to appoint the municipal building tribunals to hear and decide appeals pertaining to building regulations and land development. The tribunals will comprise both judicial members and technical members, to examine the cases brought to their notice.
To ensure planned growth and systematic development of a town or city, the State government proposed to encourage self contained integrated townships based on the ‘walk to work’ concept with minimum threshold area. The integrated townships will act as a hub containing residential, office space, commercial, entertainment and services. Appropriate incentives will be provided to builders and developers for developing these townships.
For proper assessment of property tax on buildings and lands, the State government proposed constitution of Telangana State Property Tax Board to provide assistance and technical guidance to all municipalities in the State. Citizens will also be allowed to pay property tax based on self-assessment. However, they may face penal action in case of discrepancies in property tax assessment.
Time-frame for services
The State government had set time-frames for delivering municipal services where some services must be rendered instantly. Property tax assessment and vacant land assessment will be completed instantly, any discrepancies including petitions and appeals must be resolved within 15 days. While water tap connection must be issued within 14 days, issuing of trade licence and its renewal can be done instantly. Certified copy of building permission can be obtained instantly, while land use certificate as per master plan, will be issued within seven days. Birth certificate will be issued instantly, but corrections in birth certificate including certification of non-availability of birth certificate as well as death certificates and any corrections will be completed in seven days.
Budget session soon: KCR
Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao on Thursday said a budget session of the State Legislature would be convened shortly to present a full-fledged budget for 2019-20.
He was responding to the demand from the Opposition parties to extend the ongoing two-day session by a week. During the next session, the Chief Minister also assured to take up the issues raised by the Opposition parties for discussion along with current issues.
Panel to look into heritage tag to old structures
The State government will appoint an expert committee to study and submit a report on heritage structures in the State.
Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao made the announcement in the State Legislative Assembly on Thursday, stating that heritage structures will be protected in the State, but they cannot be a hindrance to development. He said the expert committee will re-examine heritage tags given to several old structures in Hyderabad and also consider those which were not covered as heritage structures.
The Chief Minister ridiculed the heritage tag given to certain buildings in Hyderabad including private properties and guest houses. He felt that there were numerous heritage structures in the State, but the previous governments in undivided Andhra Pradesh only focused on Hyderabad and termed several irrelevant buildings especially private properties as heritage buildings without considering the plight of private property owners.