According to them, the proposal to merge 15 gram panchayats and 6 more gram panchayats by including contiguous areas in GHMC goes against the basic principle of democracy for decentralisation and delegation of powers. The basic objective of the proposal, as stated in sub-section (1) of Section 3 of Hyderabad Municipal Corporation Act, 1955, to secure "efficiency and economy" in the Municipal Administration, is not likely to be achieved, because of inherent administrative and organisational inefficiencies and inadequacies of a mega organisational set up.
The services delivery systems of present GHMC, spread over an area of 625 sq.km. with a population of 50 lakhs are unresponsive to the basic needs of the citizens. There is no accountability for the delivery of basic services at various levels of GHMC. The implementation and enforcement of various rules and regulations are extremely poor to say the least.
The enlarged corporation spread over an area of about 800 sq.km with a population of about 55 lakhs judging from the ground realities is going to be unwieldy and unmanageable, making things worse adding to citizen's problems.
The contiguous, areas proposed to be included in GHMC are without basic civic amenities and are totally neglected in spite of decadal population growth of 155% during 1981-91. The situation in these areas are not likely to improve very much even after inclusion in GHMC, going by the fact that many areas even in present GHMC remain ignored and neglected.
The public perception of development activities of GHMC is that they are mainly confined to certain privileged areas such as Banjara Hills, Jubilee Hills,Madhapur, Gachibowli, Kondapur and others, at the cost and neglect of less privileged areas.
Decentralized local governance, involving local community, is key to sustainable cities. Most of the services offered to urban citizens are of local nature and can only be provided efficiently, if they are handled locally. Decentralization is believed to reduce the cost of operations, and delays, significantly.
“The question marks hang in the polluted air over mega cities like, Rio, Sao Paulo, Jakarta, Mexico City, Cairo, Delhi and Beijing. In many of these cities, well-to-do citizens and corporate bodies are moving out, driven away by high costs, crime, and a deteriorating quality of life. We strongly oppose the proposal to join the galaxy of Mega Cities mentioned above”, said M Vedakumar, President, Forum for A Better Hyderabad.
He said they agree with the argument that, in the light of the HI-TECH City, International Airport and other growth oriented activities, time has come to look at Hyderabad and the surrounding Municipalities as one entity and plan for the development of Land, Water, Sewage, Road Network, Urban Transportation and other resources, in an integrated fashion. However, he said this can be achieved by constitution of "Committee for Metropolitan Planning" (MPC) for Hyderabad Metropolitan Area (HMA) in accordance with Art 243 ZE of The Constitution of India, without resorting to the merger of the areas.
He felt the Hyderabad Metropolitan Planning Committee (HMPC) can function as Planning and Regulatory Body, while the Municipalities and Gram panchayats in "Metropolitan Area" can function as institutions of self-government, within the framework of Development Plans prepared by Metropolitan Planning Committee (MPC), and for the performance of functions and implementation of schemes as may be entrusted to them. (11th & 12th Schedules of The Constitution of India).
He pointed out that the schemes of common interest between various bodies of HMA, namely development operation and maintenance of infrastructural services such as Water, Sewage, Road Network, Transportation, and others may be entrusted to "Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Authority" (HMDA). This Authority will co-ordinate the activities of common interest for integrated development and environmental conservation of HMA. Thus the functions of the present HMDA will be shared by "HMPC" and "HMDC".
Additionally, he highlighted the following issues in the present context:
1. The trend towards concentrating administrative, planning and development resources in the city of Hyderabad over the last several years without a matching effort at regional planning and development, has created a serious imbalance in both the city and region. Adding 21 gram panchayats is another step in the same direction. These imbalances have already resulted in severe stress on the city’s infrastructure, growth of unauthorized construction by all income groups, congestion and rising pollution levels in the city. These issues need to be addressed before such a major decision as to merge the Gram Panchayats is taken.
2. Adding 21 gram panchayats is also a step towards centralization of resources and power. This is against the spirit of the 74th amendment of the Constitution, which seeks to promote local participation in planning and development. That local democracy where the local people actively participate in decision-making assumes a viable size of the local body, is self-evident.
3. The proposed amalgamation will result in serious disparities in political power in local governance. The fact that Hyderabad, unlike any other city in the state is also the state capital, implies that the state government has tremendous influence over urban governance and development. The most powerful actors in the GHMC are not the corporators but the bureaucrats and ex-officio members. While this is an unhealthy trend even for the GHMC, extending it to the 21 gram panchayats will only mean that more territory is directly subjected to centralized state power. Adding 15 Gram Panchayats will only exacerbate this undemocratic centralization and specific local interests may be missed for redressal.
4. Need for funds should not direct policymaking. Mega systems are known to suffer from mega crisis as well and to mitigate some special problems of mega cities that have unfortunately emerged due to lack of proper planning at the appropriate time, special funding is provided. Only to attract some special funds available to a mega city, we should not create the phenomenon of a mega city with its attendant problems. Mega city should be avoided on the principle that prevention is better than cure.
Vedakumar expressed hope that the government will reconsider the decision in light of the these arguments and pursue a policymaking path that will truly aim at creating a city worth living and region for all economic and social groups.
In this connection, he said they cannot help pointing out that the government has taken the decision to merge 21 gram panchayats without prior consultation with the Gram Panchayats, the political parties, not to speak of the NGOs concerned with urban planning. He lamented this as arbitrary and undemocratic.