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Ring Road in Naraina
The Times of India, Apr 25 2016
Well-maintained pavements with ramps at both ends, green stretches along them and clean surroundings make Delhi Cantonment Board the envy of other civic bodies
For almost a kilometre and a half, the Ring Road cleaves the village of Naraina in southwest Delhi into two. On both sides of the road are dense residential areas, with concrete structures untidily standing next to each other without even a chink separating them. But observe carefully and you would notice that one half of the village is cleaner than the other. That is the CB block of Naraina, managed by the Delhi Cantonment Board. Its dustier counterpart comes under the South Delhi Municipal Corporation. Residents of Naraina CB agree that their side is cleaner, and sanitation and other civic services are much better than in the rest of the city . And almost as he is describing an atypical government agency, a resident says, “From house tax to death and birth registration, everything can be done at one centre. We don't have to run from pillar to post to get work done.“
Is this a citizen's idyll? No, it's only the way the Delhi Cantonment Board runs the area under its jurisdiction, which demarcates itself from the municipality territories with its pot municipality territories with hole-free roads, well-maintained pavements with ramps at both ends, green stretches along the pavements and clean surroundings. The board is one of the five civic bodies that cater to the needs of the capital's 18 million people. But unlike the other bodies, the 16-member board gets things done quickly and efficiently.
Catering to a population of over 1.5 lakh in a 43-square km area, the board's eight elected representatives and an equal number nominated by the Indian Army and the ministry of defence meets every month to discuss development. Explaining why development is a smoother process here, B Reddy Sankar Babu, CEO of the cantonment board, says, “We don't have too many levels of approval and the projects approved by the board are almost always implemented immediately .“
While the responsibility of the board is largely to provide civic services in the civilian areas, all decisions are taken keeping in mind the security concerns of the military space. This is why the station commander of the Delhi Cantonment has veto power. “All infrastructure projects have to be assessed from the security point of view.We can't simply build a new complex to boost board revenues,“ says Babu. Unlike in the municipal corpora tions, cantonment councillors don't get funds to sponsor projects in their wards. But as Sandeep Tanwar, Congress councillor from Naraina CB ward, says, “We only have to make a proposal and get estimates prepared.If the project is approved by the board, the work starts within a few days, unlike in the corporations where even sanctioning a small project takes long.“
It helps that the cantonment board is financially strong. “Our revenue collection from house tax and other sources is close to Rs 260 crore. We also get funds from the Ministry of Defence,“ explains Babu. For two successive years in 2014 and 2015, the board won the Raksha Mantri Excellence Award for its special focus on sanitation, maintenance of greens, roads and other civic infrastructure, leaving 61 other cantonments in the shade. The Delhi Cantonment Board also placed 15th in the Central government's Swachh Bharat municipality rankings, one position ahead of its swankier neighbour, New Delhi Municipal Council, and way beyond the three other corporations lying at the 398th spot.
Issues related to constructions and property mutations are, however, a headache for residents. “While the new building bylaws are applicable in the city, they are not here, so people find it difficult to construct houses. We have requested the board and the defence ministry to amend the bylaws,“ says Tanwar.