LGs and the Autonomy Debate

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This debate is as old as the return to civil rule itself. Although local governments started pretty well with their seeming independence rarely tampered with as far back as 1999, before state governments started to fondle with their autonomy gradually. Today, the councils are no less a shadow of themselves as far as their status as the third tier of government is concerned.

Today, the debate is as relevant as it is alive to the demands of time. The councils want their autonomy. The governors think they are just mere appendages of the state. The state assemblies share the sentiment of the councils but are not imbued with such bravery to undo what their “paymasters” desire or had designed. There lies the complication!

However, it may be too late to start narrowing down the debate to regional benefits or who stands to gain what at the level it is now. Some people hold the view that if the debate is about revenue sharing, then the northern states stand to gain more from the agitation for council autonomy. How that is in sync with the reality and the demand for autonomy is yet to be seen.

This is because already the allocations that come to the councils are still based on the number of local governments controlled by the states respectively – 774 of them recognised by the constitution (not inclusive of the development areas) and money are being monthly shared on the basis of that number. What has changed therefore is how the monies are being managed, albeit by the state governments.

Rather than go directly to the councils, the monies go into the state/LG joint account, from where the state governments decide what they give the LGs from their own money as they deem fit and under different guises. This is how the autonomy has been stripped of the councils for many years and allowed for impunity to creep in. The debate is therefore good and should be addressed as it is.