State Government set to miss deadline for NIT dissolution

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 03 Dec 2017 11:18:43


SPECIAL REPORT

By Manish Soni,

MAHARASHTRA Government is likely to miss the December 31, 2017 deadline for dissolution of Nagpur Improvement Trust (NIT) and its merger with Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC). The decision to dissolve NIT was taken in December 2016 by the State Cabinet. The three-member committee formed to oversee the merger is also likely to get an extension to complete the process. Overlapping jurisdiction of NIT and NMC was a point of friction between both the agencies and there was a demand to scrap NIT or at least drastically curtail its powers for areas within 217 sq km area of Nagpur city.

Maharashtra Government had taken in-principle decision in December 2016 to oust NIT from Nagpur and take away its jurisdiction within municipal limits. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had made a promise to this effect to the citizens of Nagpur, who faced lots of hardship due to dual development planning authority. However, it seems the decision was taken without a clear roadmap. Even after a year no steps have been taken to dissolve the NIT and merge it into NMC. Adding to the working of lethargy of the administration is the incomplete legal process that has been brought to the notice of High Court. The legal issues relate to a decade-old public interest litigation (PIL) based on ‘The Hitavada’ news series exposing massive irregularities in NIT.

A judicial process has been mooted to look into the flawed allotment of 85 public utility (PU) lands. Pending outcome of High Court proceedings may have further slowed down the process. The State Cabinet had decided to scrap NIT, in December 2016, under the provisions of Rule 121 (2). The Government formed a committee headed by Principal Secretary Urban Development - (2) Manisha Mhaiskar. It also had NIT Chairman and Municipal Commissioner as members. The committee was to oversee transfer of immovable properties, funds, liabilities and shifting of staff from one body to other. The committee has not completed the task till date, according to sources.

The NIT will take care of Nagpur Metropolitan Region Development Authority (NMRDA). But the development plan of NMRDA is still pending with the State Government for its nod. As per the procedure, the government will require to amend Rule 121 of NIT bylaws to pave way for the Trust’s dissolution and its merger with the NMC. The government will have to table these amendments before the Legislature. “But it is impossible to complete the task in the 10 days of Winter Session,” sources said.

As an alternative, top sources claimed, the government might issue an ordinance to dissolve the Trust after the Winter Session is over. The ordinance may be ratified in the Budget Session of the Legislature in Mumbai.But even for that to happen amendments would be needed in the relevant sections of NIT bylaws and also in Maharashtra Municipal Corporation Act, as suggested by the high power committee.As per the present rules, the staff from NIT can only join NMC after the merger. To accommodate the staff in NMRDA the government will have to first amend the bylaws.

The Rule 121 of NIT bylaws states, “When all the schemes sanctioned under this act have been executed, or have been so far executed as to render the continuance of the Trust, in the opinion of the State government, the government may by notification declare that the Trust shall be dissolved from such date as may be specified in this behalf in such notification, and the Trust shall be deemed to be dissolved accordingly.”NIT is yet to complete some projects under its jurisdiction including development of undeveloped layouts and 7 street schemes.

The committee also discussed transfer of assets, properties and other issues. A list is ready but there are reservations over the transfer of funds to the cash-strapped NMC as NMRDA will also require funds for further operations. Presently, NMRDA does not have any funds. The NIT, too, is in deficit at present as half of the total reserved corpus of Rs 1,000 crore will be reserved for Metro Rail project and remaining for other developmental works.

There are legal hurdles to clear too. The official note filed before the High Court by Amicus Curiae Anand Parchure in the PIL dealing with bungling in NIT has charged that assets and liabilities of the Trust including all subsisting contracts are being transferred to NMC without any notification issued under Section 121 of the NIT Act. All these issues needed deeper study but have been kept on the backburner for an entire year.