Saturday, January 16, 2010

Why Local Governments May Not Work In The Present Form?

Many intellectuals are fighting for giving full powers to Local governments, and making MLAs and MPs as nominal in the local development. From the decentralization point of view, this is a good move. But, doing this in the present circumstances may give very bad results in the long run.

Why Giving More Powers to Local Government Solves Many Problems?

Right now, the Municipalities and Panchayats (Local Governments) have limited power. Even for their local activities, they may have to get approval from the concerned minister or Chief Minister. Each area in the state has different type of problem. It can be anything like Education, drinking water, Roads etc. It is difficult for the state to come up with a single plan for different problems at different places. The best way is, allocating some fixed amount to each Municipality and Panchayat based on the population, and let them decide on how to use that money. By this, they would use the money for the main problems they are facing.

Right now, the situation is so bad that, a sarpanch does not have enough power even to make a small road in their village.

What will happen, if Local Governments are given funds directly, and nothing else is changed

There are many panchayats with population less than 5000. They have only sarpanch as the elected representative and there are no wards in that. If the sarpanch is good, then the panchayat would see good development. If the people in that village want to have development, they would elect good sarpanch.

In Municipalities, it will not be that easy. Since, the chairman would be indirectly elected by the councillors. Not only that, as Ex-Officio members, MLAs and MPs also have voting powers in the election of Chairman. If one observes everything at the municipality level, it would be clear that, state politics is nothing when compared to municipality level politics. Motion of Confidence and Motion of No-Confidence are very common. Many times, the chairman asks one of his/her party members to put Motion of No-Confidence against him/her. The reason is, If there is no-confidence motion, and it is defeated, then they cannot put another no-confidence motion for one year. So, many chairpersons put no-confidence motion, so that, there will not be any problem for one year.

At the state level, even if there are huge differences between the leaders in the government, still, they never put no-confidence motion. Irrespective of how many differences are there between the leaders, to the opposition parties, they represent as a single party. But, that is not the case at Municipality level. At Municipality level, nothing matters other than becoming chairman or Vice-Chairman. Even the parties high command do not interfere that much. Even if it does, it is mainly based on the money given by the different members and not by anything else.

One may be able to contest for the assembly very easily from any place (probably except from Pulivendula) in the state. But, it is not that much easy to contest in the local elections. There will be pressures from all sides. It is little difficult for anyone to contest in the local elections unless they have some background/money/power.

Even when the municipalities do not have any power or money, if the situation is like this, what happens, if all municipalities get huge money? I am not optimistic that, it would be utilized that much efficiently.

Direct elections for Municipalities

Unless the chair-person is elected directly, there will not be any change in any Municipality except increase in fighting to become chair-person. If the chair-person is directly elected, and if people elect a good leader, then that area would be developed. Otherwise, it will not be.

But, this approach also has a major drawback in the long run. If the person is very good, and developed the town, and if he/she contests for the Assembly elections, then most probably, he/she would win and enter the assembly. People think that, if the person is doing very good at the town level, he/she can do much better, if he/she enters assembly. This thinking is not correct.

There is a big difference between ruling a town and a state. It is not from the perspective of scale, but many other things. For the head of the town, what they have to take care is, primary and secondary education, roads, water, sanitation etc. They have to solve the local problems in the daily life of people. But, the head of the state has different set of problems. He/She has to come up with policies which will lead to the growth. They have to come up with policies on different sectors like education, transport, agriculture, industrialisation etc. The policies also depend on whether the leader follows socialism or capitalism.

For assembly elections, everyone must vote for the party (based on the present top 5 leaders of the party), and for local elections they should vote based on the person.

If we take the example of Nehru, he was a very good person. It is very hard to find negative points. But, still, his policies were not proper. If people like Nehru lead the country at all times and at all levels, his policies may work. But, otherwise, they do not work. Because of his policies, the percentage of GDP of India is reduced by half by 1991. Now, the present GDP of India with respect to the world is almost same as what it was in 1947.

To lead a country or state, we need someone who knows how to develop the state/country and takes it in that direction. If somebody is developing the state aggressively, then even if that person corrupts, it may not be an issue. For example, leader A, in 5 years time, increased the state revenue by Rs.10,00,000 crore, than the projected revenue with the old policies. He corrupted an amount of Rs.10,000 crore. Leader B did not do any corruption, and increased the state revenue by Rs.1,00,000 crore. I always prefer Leader A to B.

The entire dynamics change a lot from a town to a state. So, a good person at a town level may be a bad person at the state level.

What can happen, if full power is given to Local Governments

  • A party which wants to develop the state came to power.
  • It changed the elections in Municipalities and Corporations as direct.
  • It gave all the funds to the elected Chair-person/Mayor, and revoked all the powers from MLAs.
  • The government ruled that, all the MLAs should do only what they are supposed to do, i.e., coming up with policies in different ministries to develop the state.
  • All Chair-Persons/Mayors developed their area (Much better than their previous chair-persons/Mayors).
  • The MLAs came up with good policies and the entire state got changed.
  • In the next elections, all the chair-persons/Mayors contested for MLA elections.
  • If the sitting MLA and Chair-person/Mayor contests in the election, who would win in this scenario?
    Without any doubt, the Chair-person/Mayor would win in the elections. Since, most of the indians, would vote for a person who gave a water connection without taking bribe rather than the one who came up with a policy which reduced their monthly expenditure by 10%.
  • After the elections, all the MLAs who changed the state by bringing good policies will sit at home, and all the Chair-persons/Mayors sit in the assembly and make the policies.
  • If they do not have good knowledge on the policies, or if their goodness was an investment for future corruption, then it will lead to a bad situation for the stae.
  • Even if they have good intentions and keep the old policies introduced by the government, there is no guarantee that, he/she would be elected again to the assembly, because the present chair-person/Mayor would be seriously trying to become an MLA next time.

Instead of giving full power to the Chair-person/Mayor, if full power is given to MLA/MP, then it can be sustainable. Eventhough there are drawbacks there as well, but, atleast if the person does some good things to his/her area, he/she would be elected again, and his/her party may form the government. The party which is in power, can force their MLAs/MPs to do some good things to their locality, and by that, they can form the government again. Otherwise, they cannot form the government again.

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