Giving Aurangabad its due

Print edition : November 17, 2006

Aseem Gupta, Commissioner. -

Interview with Aseem Gupta, Commissioner of Aurangabad Municipal Corporation.

ASEEM Gupta took over as Commissioner of the Aurangabad Municipal Corporation in June 2005. Excerpts from the interview he gave Frontline:

What were the problems you tackled soon after assuming charge?

The problems that I identified were in the areas of water supply, transport, sanitation and finances. I felt the need to delegate duties to the lower levels of the administration. We have many unions but not a single one that is recognised. I told them that I want my workers to be organised to demand their rightful due, and they must not be divided. One of the unions should prove it represents the majority by getting itself recognised. We started workers' welfare programmes such as group insurance. Earlier on the death of an employee his or her family used to get Rs.10,000 from our welfare fund; now it gets Rs.1,00,000 from the Life Insurance Corporation of India for a very small premium - one-tenth of what would have been charged had they gone individually to the LIC. We also gave them a bonus as they did a good job of revenue mobilisation. I think we generated a feel-good factor among them. There was absolutely no opposition from the unions for transport privatisation although a bit of resistance came for the privatisation of octroi collection. When we proved our earnestness and the benefit for the Corporation, we sailed through.

What is your blueprint for housing, especially for the poor?

For slums, we are trying to adopt the new Integrated Housing and Slum Development Programme. As for illegal housing, the main problem is regularisation and provision of services to improve living standards. A massive drive has been undertaken under the Gunthewari Regularisation Act. All 40,000 houses have been surveyed; about 20,000 houses have been given notices.

If you had a completely free hand and unrestricted funds, for instance, what would you do for Aurangabad?

Unrestricted funds is too good to happen. But I would first tackle the water supply problem with slight changes in the system of BOOT [build-own-operate-transfer] - 90 per cent would be paid by us and the operator would have to execute it with only 10 per cent of his money and maintain it for 30 years. The second thing I would do is to go in for a full road network. Next on the agenda would be an underground sewerage at a cost of about Rs.400 crores.

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