The three municipal corporations in Delhi--East, South and North--have been merged into one after the Centre notified the Delhi Municipal Corporation (Amendment) Act 2022 on Tuesday. The Rajya Sabha also passed the bill on the same day. The unified body will now be called the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), which is its old name before it was divided.
Why the merger?
Delhi's civic body was created in April 1958 as a single institution. It was known as the world's second-largest civic body after the Tokyo Metropolitan Area. In 2012 however, the Delhi government, led by Sheila Dikshit of the Congress party, split it into three corporations based in the south, north, and east of the city (SDMC, NDMC, EDMC).
The idea behind the the trifurcation was to increase the performance and enhance the delivery of services. The move created some improvements, but within a few years, several unanticipated consequences of the trifurcation became apparent:
- The three corporations began to run out of money and were unable to pay its employees salaries on time.
- The SDMC, which ran South Delhi, home to a more prosperous demographic, was relatively well-funded, while NDMC and EDMC struggled.
- The increase in department heads made it difficult for all wings of the MCDs to function smoothly.
Is the merger a political move?
Unlike other states, Delhi is run by three competing agencies: the Delhi state government, the central government of India, and the MCD. Currently, the central government and the three corporations are controlled by the BJP, the latter for more than 15 years. The Delhi state government is run by the Aam Aadmi Party. There are turf wars over jurisdiction and a struggle for resource allocation.
Fresh elections to the civic body are due this year. On the very day the dates were to be announced by the State Election Commission however, the central government sent a communication that they intend to merge the three civic bodies, a move that will result in the postponement of elections. The Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP government has opposed the merger asking pointed questions about the timing of the move. It believes the merger is really aimed at postponing elections till the BJP's chances improve. IN 2021, the AAP won four out five seats in by-elections. The results were seen as proof that control of the civic bodies will change hands from the BJP.
How will the move affect Delhi residents?
Just like the effects of the trifurcation took a few years to be apparent, the long-term implications of the merger will also be apparent once the merger is through. There are several issues at stake however. Currently, Delhi is divided into 272 wards. The new Act proposes to reduce the wards to 250, for which a delimitation exercise will be carried out. This process is likely to take more than a year.
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