Civic quagmire in Gurgaon
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Civic quagmire in Gurgaon

Multiple agencies with overlapping powers throw a spanner in the Gurgaon growth story .

Civic quagmire in Gurgaon

Even after years of coming into existence, Gurgaon still suffers from birth pangs despite a good deal of development. Touted as the city of CEOs, it continues to hang between multiple administrators with parallel command chains. As a result of overlapping jurisdictions, entangled functions and civic work, the city is yet to be what it should have been by now.

“Gurgaon is a management nightmare. Its administration is full of anomalies and multiplicity of agencies. In all, 38 government departments function from Gurgaon, most of them independently, taking orders from their parent bodies or the ministries in Chandigarh," explains Parimal Bardhan, former adviser to the European Commission in India, and a resident of H Block, DLF Phase I.

The Municipal Corporation of Gurgaon or the MCG, which ideally should have been in charge of all the civic work, shares the responsibility with HUDA, the public works department, the industry body of Haryana State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation or HSIIDC and, in some areas, even private builders. “The deputy commissioner, who ought to be the logical head of the district, often finds himself helpless as responsibilities overlap with the MCG commissioner and the HUDA administrator,” elaborates Suparna Sen, a resident of Malibu Towne. 

The president of the Gurgaon Citizen Council, RS Rathee, who has taken up the cause of having a single authority in the city, adds, “The deputy commissioner is always junior to the HUDA administrator and, at times, to MCG commissioner as well. Though he is expected to perform the role of a coordinator, these three officers act on their own whims and fancies. There are just so many anomalies because of overlapping jurisdiction.”  

Sohna Road, the latest address of the city’s urban boom, is a classic example of how overlap affects civic work. “The HUDA, PWD and MCG all have a stake in this road, yet it has notbeen taken care of; the streetlights often malfunction and there are no foot overbridges for pedestrians to cross from one side to the other,” adds Rathee.

Another instance is the road dividing Laxman Vihar and Sector 4. The narrow two-lane road divides the jurisdiction of the civic agencies. Laxman Vihar is under the MCG, while Sector-4 is HUDA’s responsibility. Garbage picked from one side is often dumped on the other side of the road, making the very idea of Swachh Bharat untenable,” said Mangat Ram Bagri, the local councillor. He adds “This dividing road is being developed for the past two years, but the work still continues just because of overlapping powers between the two authorities - HUDA and MCG. The overlapping jurisdictions are baffling and defy a logical approach.”

It is entirely possible that the expressway underpasses, too, are never tunnelled out, given the fact that no single agency is willing to bear the entire cost. The MCG, which had conceived the idea, recently expressed its reluctance in going ahead if the HUDA, HSIIDC, and the Department of Town and Country Planning did not share the project’s funding.

The Municipal Corporation Act of Haryana clearly defines the functions of the MCG, putting sanitation and sewerage, street cleaning, waste management, roads, bridges, flyovers, footpaths, bus shelters, cycle lanes, urban planning, streetlights and parking within its domain. Why then should an urban development agency like HUDA interfere in some of these functions?

The HUDA and private builders should have transferred areas developed by them to the MCG long ago. But unless the administration shows the will, the stalemate is likely to continue. “HUDA wants to hand over only the liabilities, such as sanitation, but not assets like vacant land,” said a senior MCG officer. “We are clear in our stand. We want all, or none. This matter has been pending for many years now and the state government has to resolve this tussle. Also, the private builders are not interested in handing over their areas as they get external development charge and maintenance from residents,” the officer added.

The MCG councillors feel the political will required for solving the stalemate is missing. The mayor is not the executive head of the MCG, and has no say in the way the city is run. “The executive head is a bureaucrat. The municipal commissioner reports to his seniors in the state government and is not accountable to the mayor or councillors,” says Nisha Singh, a councillor. “Despite the 74th constitutional amendment, which says local governance should be done by the mayor, no state has done so, so far. Hence, we are going to file a PIL in the court, demanding that the mayor be given the power to govern Gurgaon,” she added.

This administrative rut has led to calls for a unified command to be handed over to a CEO. One of the proposals is to form a Gurgaon Development Authority (GDA) like it has been done for Noida. “There is an urgent need to form a Gurgaon Development Authority that brings MCG, HUDA, HSIIDC and PWD under one umbrella. It will also give tremendous fillip to efforts aimed at developing Gurgaon as a model city,” stressed Subhash Singh, a resident of Nirvana Country, and a director in a MNC.

State minister and Badshahpur MLA, Rao Narbir Singh, is willing to throw his weight behind the idea. He adds, “I think the GDA should be formed to speed up clearances. Files will not be required to be sent to Chandigarh and the revenue generated in Gurgaon will be spent here. While I am not against further empowering the MCG, I feel the mayor should head the GDA.”

Till the Haryana government takes a final call, the millennium city of Gurgaon will just have to wait to reach its full potential.