Lok Satta

Sunday, 17 November 2013 11:11

JP calls for no-tax agitation for model Nagar Raj

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17th Nov, Mumbai: Lok Satta Party President Jayaprakash Narayan today called for a determined campaign, including a refusal to pay municipal taxes, to press for the passage and implementation of the model Nagar Raj Bill in Maharashtra.

He was addressing an impressive Sunday morning turnout of concerned citizens and prominent NGOs at Bandra's Apostolic Carmel Church. Others who spoke at the public meeting were former police commissioner Julio Ribeiro and former municipal commissioner DM Sukthankar.

Drawing a comparison with China, Narayan, better known to supporters as JP, said that while Indians tend to sneer at the 'autocratic' Chinese system, the reality is that at the grassroots there is greater empowerment and informed debate in Chinese cities than in India, where citizens have little, if any, control over matters affecting their communities and daily lives.

The model Nagar Raj Bill, drafted by Lok Satta, proposes to decentralise urban administration and empower citizens and communities to participate in governance through the formation of area sabhas and ward committees at the local level. Passage of the bill is mandatory to avail of funds for infrastructure development from the JNNURM. However, the bill introduced by the state government is a watered down version that severely restricts citizens' participation and has no provision for allocation of funds at the polling booth level.

Attacking the state government, JP said its amended bill violates the letter and spirit of the Constitution, which provides for decentralised governance in urban areas through the 74th amendment, and urged Mumbaikars to use all means, including civil disobedience, to make the rulers see reason.

JP said getting citizens involved in local administration and decentralising civic functions and funds would improve delivery of services and increase accountability and access of citizens to government, thus reducing corruption. It would also lead to the emergence of grassroots leaders from local communities.

Citizens, who are the biggest stakeholders in their locality, have greater passion, incentive and collective ability than government officials to manage their issues, and the continued refusal of our rulers to trust the people is the principal reason why India remains a champion underperformer, JP said.

Earlier, Mr Sukthankar explained the salient features of the model Nagar Raj Bill while Mr Ribeiro said the only way to manage the growing urban landscape was to decentralise civic functions. A signature campaign is already on in the city to press for the model bill and a petition with several thousand signatures will soon be presented to Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan to demand that the original bill without modifications be tabled and passed in the winter session of the state legislature in Nagpur next month.