The civic map of the national capital Delhi stands redrawn on Sunday, as most of the city has come under a unified civic body.
Amid protests from Delhi's ruling Aam Aadmi Party and other Opposition, the Union government earlier this year passed the Delhi Municipal Corporation (Amendment) Bill, 2022, which merged the East, North, and South municipal corporations of Delhi into one Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD).
Two pockets of the city will, however, continue to have their own civic bodies — the New Delhi Municipal Council that primarily covers the Lutyens' Delhi and Delhi Cantonment Board that manages the cantonment area. Together, these two bodies only cover 4 per cent of the city, meaning 96 per cent of Delhi is now under one civil body.
Here we explain the idea behind the unification, the changes that will now be introduced, and how this new entity will function.
Why were civic bodies unified?
The unified MCD is not new. Delhi used to have a unified MCD until 2012, when it was trifurcated into East, North, and South civic bodies.
The need to decentralise the city's civil administration was said to be behind the trifurcation, but that did not go as per plans as the three bodies ended up having unequal resources, responsibilities, and theor poor financial health affected their work over the years.
The MCD is now being unified with the idea to remedy the financial difficulties, unequal distribution of resources, wage-related issues and frequent strikes by employees, reported The Economic Times.
Of the three bodies, only the South MCD was financially viable, and the other two were running into losses, as per ET.
What will change with unification?
The first change will be that current boundaries of civil bodies will end as the entire city — barring small pockets of Lutyens' Delhi and cantonment — would be under one body. This would be the easiest thing to do, as per The Indian Express.
A senior leader told The Express, "Unlike the MCD trifurcation in which fresh maps had to be drawn, now one has to just declare that it all comes under one corporation."
The next step would be to bring the employees under one umbrella, which will not affect the lower level staff but up to a third of senior posts would be reduced, noted The Express, which would cut redundancy and salary expenses.
It reported, "For example, there will be one director for each department such as horticulture, sanitation, education, health, hospital, etc. in the unified corporation instead of the existing three directors, one for each of the three MCDs. The same will apply to commissioners, committee heads, and mayors."
Advantages of unified MCD
Yogendra Singh Mann, a former director of the North MCD’s press and information wing, told The Express, “Firstly, there would be a balance of resources, income, and expenses. Currently, North regularly suffers from a delay in the payment of salaries. After the unification, there will be uniformity.”
Mann added that civil planning would improve with a centralised authority for things like parking rates, property tax, and new initiatives for the city.
An India Today story noted that resolving the power tussle between officials and elected representatives would also be an idea behind the unification along with giving a bailout package to the MCD to clear it backlogs as North and East MCDs had been running into losses.
It reported, "Through MCD unification, the Centre might chip in to bailout the MCD by providing one-time package to clear the backlogs occurred so far. Due to this crisis, employees are unable to get salaries on time and most of the times they have to wait for months to get their salaries."
How will unified MCD function?
The Centre on Friday appointed IAS officer Ashwani Kumar as the the special officer of unified MCD and Gyanesh Bharti as its commissioner.
The exercise to reshuffle and reorganise the municipal staff will begin from Sunday when their appointments come into effect, reported PTI.
The terms of South and North civil bodies ended on Wednesday and East Delhi's term ended on Sunday. The special officer and commossioner will take over the role of elected councillors and municipal committees until fresh elections are held after delimitation exercise since the new law provides for a maximum of 250 municipal wards — fewer than the current 272, as per a report in Hindustan Times.