Unified MCD to come into being from May 22: Centre

The unified Municipal Corporation of Delhi will come into effect from May 22, according to a notification issued by the Union government on Wednesday, as the terms of the three municipal bodies in the Capital are coming to an end.

The term of the South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) ended on Wednesday, while the North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) and East DMC will complete their tenures on May 19 and 22, respectively.

“In exercise of the powers conferred by sub-section (1) of section 3 of the Delhi Municipal Corporation (Amendment) Act, 2022 (10 of 2022), the Central government hereby appoints the 22nd day of May, 2022, on which the Municipal Corporation of Delhi shall be constituted,” the gazette notification issued on Wednesday said.

Ten years after the Sheila Dikshit government trifurcated the Municipal Corporation of Delhi into three separate civic bodies, the current Bharatiya Janata Party-led central government merged them, with Parliament passing the Delhi Municipal Corporation (Amendment) Act, 2022. Under the new law that was notified on April 20, the Centre will appoint a special officer who will take over the role of the elected councillors and municipal committees until fresh elections are held.

The elections, however, will have to wait for a comprehensive delimitation exercise since the new law provides for a maximum of 250 municipal wards — fewer than the current 272.

People familiar with the development said the Centre will “soon appoint” the special officer.

Both AAP and the Delhi government did not comment on Wednesday. However, the AAP has questioned the timing of the move that came just ahead of the civic elections, and maintained that rampant corruption in MCDs was responsible for the financial distress.

SDMC mayor Mukesh Suryan said the unification will help in better planning and improvement of services for the citizens of Delhi. “With our dependence on the state government gone, the unified MCD will help in improving the quality of services and restart the development works which had been stalled due to non-cooperation of the AAP government. A new era of urban governance is starting,” he said.

Shyam Sunder Aggarwal, the mayor of East MCD, said the separation of the trans-Yamuna area led to a situation where the civic body was left with meagre revenue resources. “Running a city is not a profit-making project. Services in these underdeveloped areas were to be funded by taxes and Delhi government’s allocation, but the government did not let the trifurcation experiment succeed,” he added.

Jogi Ram Jain, standing committee chairman of North MCD, said the unification will solve the financial crisis that the civic bodies were struggling with. “The trifurcation could have worked if the state government was cooperating with the local bodies,” he said.

The Delhi government did not respond to the allegations on Wednesday, but it has maintained that not only did it clear all dues to the municipal bodies, but it also extended loans to them to help them pay their staff.

The Centre’s plan to merge the three bodies back into a unified civic organisation came to light at a March 9 press conference by the state election commission that was believed to have been called to announce the schedule for the MCD elections that were due in April. However, the election commissioner announced to the press that the Centre has sent a letter expressing its intent to unify the three MCDs.

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) was quick to call the move the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) admission of defeat even before facing the civic polls. The BJP, which was running the three civic bodies for a straight third term, dismissed the allegation, saying unification was necessary to bring financial stability and administrative efficiency to the corporations.

Union home minister Amit Shah, participating in the debate over the DMC (amendment) Bill, 2022, in Parliament, said it was meant to bring more transparency to the functioning of the agencies and to allow for better citizen services. He argued that the trifurcation of the MCD in 2011 was done in a hurry for political reasons, which led to an imbalance between the income and liabilities of the civic bodies.

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