ByÂ Mehul Thakkar:
Enough of Modi chants like ‘Chalo Chale Modi Ke Sath’ and ‘Kuthe Neun Thevla Maharashtra Majha’ (What have you done to my Maharashtra).
With the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) forming a minority government in Maharashtra, it is going to be quite a challenge, as they will be governing a state which is highly aspirational and is urbanizing at a greater rate than any other state of India.
Maharashtra in the coming years is to become India’s ‘most urbanized state’. All eyes in Maharashtra are now on the BJP, which while ruling at the Centre, is now going to be in the state as well and in-case of Mumbai, the BMC too.Â The expectations of the voters are obviously going to be high, which is going to be a task in itself for the BJP.Â Over the last decade, Maharashtra’s urban population increased nearly by 25%. According to research reports, Maharashtra’s urban population is expected to grow from 50.8 million in 2011, to 84.1 million by 2031, which is more than 50% of the state’s population looking for urbanization.
Looking at Maharashtra’s speedy urbanization, the state government cannot afford to remain apathetic towards the governance of municipal bodies like the previous government. The challenges are not only limited to municipal bodies of Mumbai (BMC) or Pune (PMC) but also municipal bodies that will emerge with the urbanization process.Â Already with Mumbai taking more than half of the state sponsored revenue for the Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) the state’s other ULBs are short of adequate capital.
With the previous government failing in getting rid of the distress among the state’s ULBs and failure in collecting taxes (of the total, property tax collected was only 37% and water charges collection was only 46%) ,the new state government cannot afford to govern in the same manner. The CAG report also observed that municipal bodies in Maharashtra spend 42%-50% of their revenue on establishment salaries. Such inefficiencies and operational hurdles leave the municipal bodies in Maharashtra with little for capital works and public services.
The practical problems are leakages within state government, inflation and delays in clearance of projects which, extrapolating the requirement of urbanizing Maharashtra, go beyond calculations.
It’s clear that the municipal bodies are going to decide the fate of the quality of governance by the new state government. The new government has to make sure the revenues for municipal bodies increase and regular upgrading of accounting and management of funds is done. All this will go a long way in monitoring outcomes, attracting corporates and providing aspirational governance to citizens.