Empower and activate SMC
Interacting with the office-bearers of Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) here other day, Lieutenant Governor Girish Chandra Murmu Monday promised “empowerment” of municipal councilors saying a notification would be issued soon for defining their powers, status and protocol. “After the abrogation of Article 370, we empowered Panchayat representatives and now it is your turn to get empowered,” he told them. Lt. Governor also promised that “positive steps” would be taken about the issue of hike in Ward Development Fund so that the councilors are in a better position to take care of their areas. The meeting also talked about the implementation of the city’s Master Plan with Lt. Governor stressing that roads, electricity, drinking water and drainage sector should be the focus area of the concerned councilors.
Blame it on the general politico-official culture here, fact of the matter is that SMC councilors even after being there for quite some time now are actually visible nowhere on the ground, nor are their contributions, if any, discernible anywhere. In fact when the elections for the SMC were being held, all those people who participated, like their counterparts in the higher political echelons, made towering promises with the general public. But after being elected to office, they have gone, as if, missing. The pathetically pitiable condition of the entire Srinagar city — be it in terms of roads, streets and drains, or the condition of electricity and water supply — is indeed a very sad commentary on the existence and utility of the elected city council. Thus far, it has only been because of the dirty political slugfests involving SMC councilors which have indicated their presence on a few occasions. Otherwise when it comes to working for the development of the city, their contributions score a big zero. Now that the government is mulling to put municipal councilors in the driving seat for running the affairs of the city, it is also necessary that the latter are also held responsible in lieu of whatever accrues to them by way of what is being termed would be their “empowerment”.
A little bit of political will together with a little quantum of sincerity to serve is all that is needed to put his disjointed city back on track. And if the elected representatives of the city have it in them, nothing is going to stop them from delivering on the ground. In fact they have so many added advantages. Unlike the bureaucracy, since councilors are chosen by the people of their respective wards, they have a better idea of their needs and requirements. They have far more intimate understanding about the local cultures and public temperaments. They are ideally situated to mediate the general developmental needs of the city including its civic requirements. It is high time that besides their own “empowerment” the municipal councilors start moving around to ensure empowerment of the common people of this God-forsaken city as well. Taking care of the broken roads and streets and chocked drains, and of course delivering this city from the greedy clutches of encroachers and land-grabbers can be a best take-off point.