Strategic Alignment of Municipal Reform Processes in India: Challenges and Opportunities
Survey of India,
The path-breaking Constitutional (74th Amendment) Act, 1992 incorporating a separate Chapter on Urban Local Bodies (ULB) (to be known as Municipal Corporations, Municipal Councils and Town Panchayats) has redefined the role, power, function and finances of ULBs across the country by giving Constitutional guarantee to ULBs to enable them to function as effective, democratic and self-governing institutions at grass root level with responsibilities for the upkeep and development of towns and cities. Accordingly, as provided in the Part IX A of the Constitution the Legislature of States have by law entrusted on these bodies such power and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as institution of local self government and discharge those functions enumerated in the Twelfth Schedule.
In order to strengthen the ULBs in discharging these responsibilities the Standing Committee on Urban Development and Eleventh Finance Commission have suggested adoption of innovative and good governance methods in ULBs and had emphasized the need for the local bodies themselves mobilizing and meeting their resource requirements through suitable reforms in property/house tax system, plugging the loopholes in collection of municipal taxes, leakage/diversion of funds etc. (Standing Committee on Urban Development 2004-2005).
In order that governance in urban local bodies are improved further and these bodies become more responsive, accountable and transparent, the Ministry of Urban Development has proposed to launch a Mission Mode Project on e-Governance in Municipalities. The main objective of the e-Governance initiative is application of electronic means to improve efficiency and effectiveness of urban local bodies in the interaction between local government and its citizens as well as other interested groups.
The National Urban Renewal Mission (NURM) launched by the Urban Development Ministry has made administration of property tax with the help of GIS so as to make it the major source of revenue for urban local bodies, as one the mandatory conditions, among other reforms measures, to be satisfied by the ULBs to qualify for availing Central assistance Rs. 550 Billion. In order that the financial position of ULBs improve to some extent, the Ministry have already launched certain initiatives which include Property Tax Reform Guidelines (1998), Model Municipal Law (2003) and National Municipal Accounts Manual (NMAM) (2005) (Standing Committee on Urban Development 2004-2005).
While all these institutional changes are taking place, the changes taken place in Information Communication Technology has revolutionized opportunities available for collection, storage, maintenance, retrieval and analysis of geoinformation as never before. The relative positioning techniques using Global Positioning System (GPS) has revolutionised the way location based information can be collected today. The Mobile GIS technique offers the possibility of a surveyor in the field accessing, rendering and updating the database while doing the data collection in the field. The internet technology with web services offers the possibility of users accessing the geoinformation in a remote server as per his requirements using SQL query from his client system through a web browser and dynamically rendering the same as per the map style of his choice.
The Public Key Cryptography and the Digital Signature facilitate secured electronic transmission of digital documents and execution of deeds and contracts electronically. The Database Management System (DBMS) offers the possibility of shared, and simultaneous access to the geoinformation of the entire enterprise stored in a central server. The Enterprise GIS capability offers the possibility to model and implement the entire business process, business logics, the objects and its relationships of any organization which ensure that the information in the database get updated as part of the routine business process of the organization as it takes place which ensures that the information always remain updated, accurate, consistent and reliable.
With all these the stage perfectly set for reforming and empowering the ULBs. But even after the lapse of one decade the ULBs are under tremendous fiscal stress in meeting its statutory responsibilities and have not been able to pay even the salaries and wages to their employees; there is no improvement in the responsiveness, accountability and transparency in way ULBs deals with the Citizen as envisaged in the Constitution; there is no improvement in Tax collection and/or plugging any leakage of resources and no perceivable change is seen in the living conditions and quality of life of urban residents in the country.
Why are the ULBs failing to take advantage of a favourable condition? What is that holding the ULBs back? The authors shares his views, basing on his experience in the last four years, being part of the team involved in reforming ULBs and implementing a web enabled enterprise GIS solution, in a significant departure from the tried out approaches, in 57 ULBs spread across Karnataka involving 3.5 million properties.
This paper is a narration of various issues and challenges which came up while conceptualizing, designing, developing and implementing this project. These encompass investigation of the impact of information systems in management and managerial decision making and examination of the role of information technology in ULBs, development of new methodologies for specific problems and IT Strategies for Business Process Re-engineering.
It also deals with issues related to surveying, mapping, managing scale, quality and transition, data modelling, interoperability, standardization, legal and security issues, manpower development, organizational changes, accounting practices and enterprise GIS solutions etc.