|Amar Singh Rai in Darjeeling on Sunday.
Picture by Suman Tamang
Darjeeling, Aug. 24: The chairpersons of the four municipalities in the Darjeeling hills have cried foul at the government’s decision to appoint the district magistrate as the reviewing officer to look into services being provided by the civic bodies, saying the municipality is a subject with the GTA Sabha now.
The municipal affairs department had issued a notification on November 1, 2013, appointing designated officers, appellate officers and reviewing officers of municipalities/notified area authority and municipal corporations. While the chairpersons of municipalities/notified area authority have been made the appellate officers, the district magistrate has been made the reviewing officer of the civic bodies. The designated officer is the executive officer of the municipality.
Amar Singh Rai, the chairman of Darjeeling municipality, said: “A meeting of the chairpersons of four hill municipalities (Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Kurseong and Mirik), along with the vice-chairpersons and the MLAs of Darjeeling and Kurseong, was held on Friday to discuss the notification. We are of the opinion that the notification is insensitive to the fact that the municipalities have already been transferred to the GTA Sabha. Instead of the district magistrate, either the principal secretary or the chief executive of the GTA must be made the reviewing authority of the hill municipalities,” Rai said today.
The meeting resolved to request the GTA to pass a resolution to this effect.
The four hill municipalities and the GTA are run by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha.
The notification gives a detailed list of the services and the timeframe within which the services are to be provided. For example, sanction for a water connection to a new household has to be given within 10 days and similarly, approval for a building plan has to be completed within 60 days.
“If anybody has any grievance against the designated officer or the department concerned, he/she can appeal to the (municipal) chairperson according to the notification. However, if they are not happy with the decision of the chairperson, it seems they can seek a review of the decision before the district magistrate,” Rai said.
“We fail to understand how a decision taken by an elected body can be reviewed by someone from the executive. Nevertheless, we are not going into this issue at the moment. We only want the reviewing authority to be from the GTA,” he added.
The notification is, however, not clear on whether the district magistrate could review the decisions of the municipalities with regard to the services.
For example, the notification sets a timeframe of 60 days for sanctioning a building plan. But it doesn’t say if the district magistrate has the power to review the municipality’s decision of not sanctioning a building plan for whatever reasons.
Even though the notification was issued in November last year, Rai said, the Darjeeling municipality received the same in March this year. “Other three hill municipalities (Kurseong, Kalimpong and Mirik) have not yet received the notification,” he said.