What should be the Governance Structure for Lamka?
A serious article for serious readers
Efficiency and effectiveness in performance dependents largely on the right instrument at one’s disposal to use. This right tool comes from the body mechanism or structure. Accordingly, if one is to travel some longer distance, an automobile is better than going on foot. If it is very far and if the facility is available one chooses to travel by airplane these days as it is more efficient and effective. There are equally effective tools for digging and cutting of roads. Therefore depending upon the natures of the problems and the objectives to be achieved or the problem to be handled of the current and likely future problems, one chooses the available right instruments or tools.
Lamka, Churachandpur town is a growing urban settlement. Being the Headquarters of the district as also in the valley, the town has potential for rapid growth in every aspect. Moreover, it is not far from the State capital Imphal. Anything that has arrived at Imphal can be conveniently brought to Lamka town for the ultimate consumers. As such, it’s but natural that it has grown to be the second biggest urban centre in Manipur.
With the increasing urbanization, the town is badly and urgently in need of urban civic services. What are these urban civic services required by the place and the people? The first and the foremost is proper planning and laying of inter-locality roads and streets with proper drainage system keeping in view of the future needs of the growing population and vehicular traffics. As of now this sort of things do not exist. The people and the place are just left to themselves without any sign of governance. This has resulted into overcrowding and traffic congestions and the roads and the streets not being paved or black stopped, many areas get reduced to slum living conditions even as of now. Then there do not exist proper drainage system for any locality. There is no authority for this purpose. As such many of the streams and natural drainages are getting choked by the uncontrolled garbages and other dirt thrown by the people .This is further compounded by the untreated liquid and uncollected solid wastes This situation is increasingly threatening turning the town into nothing but garbage dump area. If nothing is done, a time may not be far from the situation where the people have to peep through the holes in the accumulated garbage and look at each other with the risks of the epidemic outbreak any time soon. Then the public are badly in need of recreation parks and other public amenities in addition to many more public conveniences. As of now these are not even in the offing as there is no proper Urban Governance Structure for planning, executing and supervision of this urban civic requirement of the people.
What is the solution?
The answer is very simple. Bring in or install the appropriate Governance structure for the urban town area. Then those tools and instruments for planning, execution and supervision will be available and gradually the system will work or can be made to work effectively and efficiently.
Lamka, (churachandpur), though initially was under the Town Committee, it has now been brought under the District Autonomous Council since 2001, the detailed reasons for which are not readily available to the public. The only possible logical reason could be that, being within a hill district, it has to come under the Hills Autonomous District Council, enacted in 1971 and amended from time to time. The moot question: Is the Autonomous District Council the appropriate Governance Structure for the urban Local self-governance of place like Lamka? Let’s have closure examination of this.
The original Act of the Manipur Hill Areas Autonomous District Council was passed in 1971. This has been amended from time to time and the latest is 2000 repealing the 1971 Act. What are the powers and responbilties of this ADC as commonly known as per the Act? (Keep aside this issue of this Local Self-governance Structure is ever being kept in the state of limbo by the State Govt). The powers and functions of the District Council are listed in clause 22 of the Act. Clause 22(i) envisages that the District Council may recommend to the Govt the laws that could be applicable to the Autonomous Council Districts. In Clause 22(2), it says that the District Council also may exercise functions in respect of items listed therein. There are items from (a) to (l). The item (g) has as many (19) sub items therein. On going through these items, it is observed, the sentence begins with the expression ‘may’ instead of ‘shall’ which, means that these powers and responsibilities may or may not be granted by a superior authority/ State Govt. It clearly means that the Act does not empower or endow the Council the authority to take up these responsibilities and exercise these powers. Moreover, it is further observed that all the listed items are of rural setting and have nothing to with urban requirements. The items which could broadly and vaguely be interpreted as applicable both rural and urban are only: education, water supply and sports. But then as stated above, delegated powers in all the items, including these three items, are vague and non-specific.
The second important thing in governance is control over the financial resources. There should be either well laid down procedure or structure for financial resuources to discharge the assigned functions and responbilities or there should be an enabling provision to mobilize resources. The District Council Act 2000 at clause 31 provides as under:
- Power to levy and collect fees. – The District Council shall have power to levy and collect, within the Autonomous District, all or any of the following fees:
(a) Fees for the maintenance and development of Schools, Dispensaries, Primary Health Centres and Roads;
(B) Fees on the entry of goods into a market for sale therein and tolls on passengers and goods carried in ferries for maintenance and development thereof;
- Fees on Vehicles (other than those mechanically propelled) and boats for regulating and managing traffic;
- Fees on animals, at the rate and in such manner as may be prescribed
The Provision in respect of 31(b) (c) and (d) are clear enough though how insignificant the possible resources it would be, the 31(a) is not clear on what items/ entity the fees are to be levied and collected. It hopes that everybody would agree that the expected collection of fees from those
sources would not meet even the office expenses of the administrative office of each Council, forget about effective discharge of its functions.
It’s politically sad indeed that, forget about the crippled state of ADC in the state, even if it is fully functional, the ADC with the assigned powers and responsibilities and the expected resources at its command in the present form would not or cannot meet the needs of the fast growing urban town like Lamka.
Then where should we look for the appropriate solution? The 73rd and 74th Constitutional amendments are relevant in this context. In order to strengthen the functioning of democracy at the grassroots levels, the Parliament of India passed and enacted these two constitutional amendments making the local self-Government bodies the constitutional status so that the states governments cannot ignore or neglect them. The 73rd Amendment gave constitutional status to all the rural selfgovernment bodies such as Gram Sabha, Gram Panchayati and the Zilla Parishad. All the states Government have been constitutionally mandated to pass Legislative Act to this effect with some scope for local adjustments and variations. The 74th amendment gives Constitutional status to urban Local Self-government bodies such as the Municipal Corporation, the Municipality Council and Nagar Parishad or Town Committee. The states have been mandated to do the same as envisaged both the amendments. Therefore constitutionally there are two Governing structures at Local selfgovernment: (a) Gram Sabha, Gram Panchayati and Zilla Parishad for Rural areas and (b) The Municipal Corporation, The Municipal Council and Nagar Panchayat or Town Committee or whatever name for those areas in the transition stage from rural to urban. Accordingly, all the states governments have been mandated to enact the local Self Governments in the form of Panchayati Act and Municipal Acts. These have been done by the State of Manipur as well. Let us see the relevant clauses of the Manipur State Municipal Council of 19945.
Under this act at clause 36, the State Government ‘may’ assign even the responsibilities of planning for (a) Economic and Social Development and also (b) ‘shall’ provide fund and personnel for discharging these functions. The clause 37 covers all the items which are Obligatory functions of the Municipality. These include as many as 18 items from (a) to (r).They cover every aspect of urban needs and possible problems to be handled in the obligatory functions of the Municipality. Clause 38 covers the Special duties of Municipality (a) in regards to outbreak of epidemic or public Health hazards (b) relief’s measures in times of famine or scarcity of essential items. Then there is another important clause under 39, Discretionary functions. These include basically beautifying the urban settlement and providing public amenities and conveniences. There are as many as 20 items listed therein from (a) to (t).
How about the resources to discharge these functions or the enabling provisions for mobilizing resources? The Act provides for as many 11 possible areas/ items for levying and collecting taxes. Amongst them, there are two very progressive items/ areas (i) Property tax/ on property holding and (ii) on motor vehicles other than taxable under Motor Vehicle Acts, which would practically translate to either parking fees or any other business activity tax within declared urban municipal limits.
It would be clearly seen that the Municipal Act of 1994 is exactly the right instrument of Governance for the growing urban Town like Lamka. Nothing exists in the Hills District Act to meet the present and future requirement of the Town or city like Lamka. Now the question is: Can Lamka (Churachandpur) be brought under the Municipal Act of 1994 when it is within the Hill District of Manipur? The Town and district does effectively comes under the Manipur Hills District Council Act of 2000 as amended under the articles 371 (c) of the Constitution to be governed through the Hill Areas Council. To my understanding, the answer is in affirmative by introduction of a simple amendment through insertion in the Manipur State Municipality Act of 1994. In Section 1, it provides as under:
(1) It extends to the whole of the State of Manipur except the Hill Areas to which the Manipur (Hill Areas) District Council Act, 1971 (Manipur Act 76 of 1971) extends or any area which is included in a Cantonment under the Cantonment Act, 1924 (2 of 1924).
(3) It shall be deemed to have come into force on the 24th day of May, 1994
It can be proposed to amend as under:
(I)(a) The State Government by gazette Notification may extent this Act to any Hill district Hqtrs or any other urban settlement in the Hill Areas on the specific recommendation of the Hill Areas Council constituted under article 371(c) of the Constitution of India.
(I)(a)(i) The extension of the Act shall be effective from the date/dates as recommended by the HAC and notified in the State gazette.
(I)(a)(ii) Such gazette notification shall be Principal Act Under this Manipur Municipal Act 1994.
It is a matter of public debate for intellectuals, public leaders in various walks of life and professions including the Hill political leaders whether it would be wise and politically expedient to extent the Manipur Municipal Act of 1994 to the urban settlement in the district Hqtrs of churachandpur or any other hill district Hqtrs? There is a strong desire in the minds of the general public that the Town should be properly and effectively governed in every aspect. But unfortunately, it is left to itself except the Revenue Administration and the Police Administration under the concerned Deputy Commissioner and the Superintendent of Police.
The vision for Lamka is “to make Lamka the best place in the world”. To be the best it has to embrace all aspects of healthy and well governed urban settlement. There is the great expectation and even demands of the people for an effective and politically sound governance structure of local selfgovernance for this urban town. Without this governance structure in place, efforts of making better things for yourself and your community would not make the desired impact and fizzle out since there is no governance structure in place. ‘We need to open our ears and eyes. Initiative and efforts of individuals and communities, are admirable. They are, however not the substitute for lasting and progressive solutions. Think about it. Set aside your unknown fears and apprehensions. The people of Lamka should have the courage to embrace the world to themselves first to becoming a world class society and city.
 Chairman, Vision Lamka
 As per available literature online
 You can have access through Google
 The state of Manipur has already enacted the two acts for the rural urban self-governments. 5 You can have access of this in Google.