In a major development, the Telangana government has passed a new Municipal Act in a two-day special session of the state Assembly held on June 18-19.
It was last week that Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao instructed the officials concerned to formulate a new 'Urban Policy' for the state along with a new rural policy and revenue policy.
At the time, the CM said that as part of the new Urban Policy, a new Municipal Act, new Corporations’ Act and new Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) Act should also be brought in. He also recommended a new Act for the Hyderabad Metro Development Authority (HMDA).
"There will be municipal corporations and 128 municipalities in the state. There will be a single law governing all of them and we have defined their duties and also made provisions for the state government to regulate them. We will give ample allocations," KCR said in the legislative council on Friday.
The need for a new Act
The act was a result of several developments. After the TRS came into power, the number of districts in the state has been increased to 33. With many mandal headquarters now becoming district headquarters, rapid urbanisation is taking place in tier-2 and tier-3 towns and cities in the state.
Add to that, an ever expanding Hyderabad which has found the GHMC and the HMDA struggling to keep up with encroachments of lakes and illegal constructions without permission.
By GHMC's own admission from earlier this year, there are at least 1.2 lakh illegal constructions in the city.
"The CM declared that the new Acts should eliminate the corruption in toto at all levels and should never give any room for any illegal and unauthorised constructions. These Acts should help the cities be clean, tidy and green," a press release from the Chief Minister's office had stated.
The Act has several major points that it lists out with one of the most prominent being that seven new municipal corporations would be formed in the state, taking the total count up to 13.
The corporations would be formed for Badangpet, Bandlaguda, Peerzadiguda, Jawaharnagar, Meerpet, Boduppal and Nizampet. While most of these areas are within Hyderabad's Outer Ring Road, they do not come under the jurisdiction of the GHMC.
A provision for a 'green budget' has also been laid down, constituting 10% of the total municipal budget, which must be earmarked for taking up plantations. Ward members have been made responsible to ensure that at least 85% of these plants survive.
The roles of a Chairperson, Commissioner and ward members have also been clearly defined to ensure that municipalities collect garbage at the door, prevent encroachments, pull down unauthorised hoardings and ensure sanitation, regular water supply and proper amenities.
According to media reports, the Act also grants more power to the state government as it can cancel any resolution passed by a civic body and can even suspend chairpersons, wielding control over Urban Local Bodies (ULBs), through District Collectors.
As far as citizens are concerned, the state government said that progress reports would be uploaded online with a time-bound plan to address their issues, failing which a penalty would be issued to officials concerned.
The Act also allows citizens to 'self-certify' plans for their plots and apply for property tax assessment online if they have a plot size of less than 500 sq metres. The government said that it would undertake random audits and any citizen found deviating from the plan given to the government would be fined.
"We want to decrease human interface to ensure a more transparent process. There will be no permission required for plot sizes less than 75 square metres. House tax will also be only Rs 100 annually, while their registration fee will be just Rs 1. They need to register with the municipality to ensure that they can avail amenities provided by the state by paying the token amount," KCR said on Friday.
What happens next
KCR has also said that the state government has decided to strengthen local bodies by spending Rs 7,000 crore annually and Rs 35,000 crore in five years for the development of villages.
The state government has also decided to hold Panchayat Raj conclaves all over the state to create awareness on the new Panchayat Raj Act.
"The local bodies should prepare themselves to utilise these funds effectively. In the proposed conclaves, the duties and responsibilities of the officials and elected representatives to make the village clean and green will also be discussed," a press release from the CMO had stated.
After the conclaves, 100 flying squads with officials would be formed to undertake surprise inspection of the villages. The state government said that immediate action will be taken against those found guilty of dereliction of duty and for the misuse of funds.
With the Act now being passed, municipal elections in the state are expected to be held soon.