A heap of work, some dating back to the 1990s, greeted the newly-elected mayor and deputy mayor on the first day of their office at the municipal corporation Shimla. "The mayor and deputy mayor have decided to work for 16 hours daily for a few months, while the employees will work for normal eight hours," Sanjay Chauhan told Governance Now on his first day in office on May 28.
However, he was critical of the powers bestowed on the mayor, who according to him, is people's real representative. "The power still lies with commissioner who is not elected. The commissioner is appointed by the state government," said the 46-year-old mayor. "The Himachal Pradesh Municipal Corporation Act 2011 has not given any financial and working autonomy to the mayor yet. As a people's representative, you need more powers," he added. The mayor is planning to meet the state chief minister, Prem Kumar Dhumal, on June 16 to present a charter of demands.
The municipal corporation caters to city's approximately three lakh population. Besides, a good number of tourists also visit here.
Chauhan alleged the state government gives a frugal amount to the municipal corporation Shimla, one of the oldest municipal corporations in India. "In the coming days, we will raise the issue. The corporation will work on resource mobilisation and widening the taxation net," he said. However, Chauhan has made it clear that there will be no new taxes or any public private partnership (PPP) during his tenure. As part of austerity measures, Chauhan did not offer tea and coffee to guests. "More such measures will be announced in coming days," the mayor said.
"The priority is to streamline the way the municipal corporation worked," he added. Chauhan who is the first mayor elected through direct elections entertained people’s complaints. "The supply of water to its resident is his first priority," said Chauhan, who hails from the Communist Party of India (Marxist) - CPI (M). The other problems that need to be tackled are sanitation, building roads, sewage and street lights.
People have perhaps lost their faith in the two major parties, the Congress and the BJP, so they have given a chance to the Left, Chauhan commented on his historic victory.
In its heydays, this municipal corporation Shimla (then known as municipal committee) gave loans to other corporation in India. "In 1854, it gave a loan of Rs 2.3 lakh to the Bombay municipal corporation," said Tikender Singh Panwar, deputy mayor. He is also from the CPI (M). The municipal corporation Shimla was first constituted in December 1851.
The mayor and the deputy mayor will hold marathon meetings with the employees of municipal corporation in the next three days (between June 12 and June 14).