The Municipal Corporation of Delhi house of councillors witnessed scenes of pandemonium on Tuesday, as Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) members objected to the ruling Aam Aadmi Party introducing a large number of policy proposals directly in the house, bypassing the yet-to-be-formed standing committee — an all-powerful panel that controls MCD’s purse strings and ratifies the agenda for discussion in the house.
Even as BJP members tore policy papers and tossed them in the well of the house, around 54 proposals were passed by the AAP, with three postponed for further consideration, while one policy has been rejected, civic body officials aware of the proceedings said.
Among the matters that have been cleared are a new meat shop and meat processing plant policy, the framing of draft bylaws for plastic waste, and a new policy governing cloud or satellite kitchens.
Other policies passed include several health departments proposals to outsource several healthcare facilities, administrative approvals to hire companies to biomine a cumulative 5 million tonne of legacy waste at the Okhla and Ghazipur landfills, and the extension of the contract of the private concessionaire that has been hired to collect garbage from the Central zone of the civic body.
The standing committee takes up five types of policy matters —layout plans, audit reports, decisions with financial bearings above ₹5 crore, rate and contracts (appointing an agency and fixing contract rates), and new policies which have financial implications.
The formation of the 18-member standing committee has remained in limbo due to contention over the appointment of 10 aldermen (nominated councillors). The aldermen were appointed by lieutenant governor VK Saxena on January 3, a decision that the AAP challenged in the Supreme Court.
The matter is currently pending before the apex court.
HT on October 25 had reported that 147 major MCD policy decisions are stuck due to non-formation of the standing committee.
A senior MCD official said that before the 58 proposals were tabled in the house on Tuesday, the legal opinion of the civic body’s chief law officer was taken, and out of the five categories of proposals which were stuck due to the lack of a standing committee, only one category — where the panel had an advisory role — was moved to the house.
Meanwhile, a MCD spokesperson said that all the proposals have been put before the house in accordance with the law, after taking legal opinions.
The house meeting, which was due to start at 11am, started 27 minutes late, and the entire proceeding was wrapped up within 10 minutes, with condolence resolutions and incident reports being tabled.
No discussions were held on any of the policy proposals, even as members of the opposition raised slogans — the Congress accused the MCD of fudging dengue data, while the BJP objected to proposals related to the standing committee being brought directly in the house.
Leader of the opposition and BJP leader Raja Iqbal Singh said many of these proposals fall under the purview of the standing committee, and senior municipal officials as well as AAP functionaries will be “apprehended” by law enforcing agencies. “Just like (former deputy chief minister) Manish Sisodia and others are suffering due to the Delhi excise policy, these policy matters will lead to the same fate for you. The Delhi Municipal Corporation (DMC) Act is being violated openly and the standing committee’s power cannot be usurped like this,” Singh said, while the decisions were cleared.
At a press conference after the conclusion of the house meeting, the BJP said that proposals amounting to more than ₹1,500 crore have been cleared “illegally, in violation of the DMC Act”, which, they claimed, was in “connivance of the AAP administration and municipal officials”.
Singh said that items should first pass through the procedure and screening by the standing committee, which checks their validity and amends financial proposals on technical grounds. “After the panel’s approval, the house can take it up. The most powerful committee as per section 44 of the DMC Act is being bypassed. Violations and corrupt move involves senior AAP leaders, mayor and senior MCD officers,” he said.
However, mayor Shelly Oberoi insisted that the policies were cleared in accordance with the law.
Speaking at a press briefing, Oberoi said the proposals cleared will improve the lives of Delhi residents and MCD employees, and said that it was unfortunate that the opposition created a ruckus, due to which no discussion could be held. “We have cleared the proposal to regularise 5,000 sanitation workers, which was a key promise made by chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. Around 3,100 domestic breeding checkers (malaria field staff) have been promoted as multi-task staff (MTS), meeting their long-standing demand which had led to several strikes,” she said.
Oberoi added, “Whenever the standing committee is formed, we can put an agenda before the panel. We will follow the DMC Act… As soon as the Supreme Court order (on aldermen) comes, we will form ward committees and the standing committee. I appeal to the Supreme Court to announce the pending verdict on aldermen.”