Neither Village Nor City, Tibbi In Rajasthan Faces Existential Crisis Post Municipal Upgrade

Two years have passed since Tibbi became a municipality, but proper government staff recruitment or development work has not been initiated so far

Amarpal Singh Verma

Hanumangarh (Rajasthan): Enduring foul smell and navigating sewage from overflowing drains are nothing new to the people of Tibbi in Rajasthan’s Hanumangarh district. The problem was there when Tibbi was a village panchayat, and it persists even now, two years after Tibbi became a municipality.

A 2 km road planned under the state highways through the main market is incomplete, though its construction began in April 2022. Drains have to be constructed on both sides of the road, but work remains pending. A drainage system built by the village panchayat was in place earlier, but it was damaged when road construction began. As a result, dirty water spills onto the main market road.

Councillor Ramamurthy Khanna agreed that drain water is found scattered in all important areas where people frequent. Prabhulal, a resident of ward 12, said that dirty water is directed into the ponds without treatment for a long time, due to which the water bodies are stinking now.

“There is a need to make concrete arrangements for drainage here,” he said.

“No development is visible,” added Balwant Ram, another ward 12 resident.

Groundwater with high fluoride content is supplied as drinking water in Tibbi. People have been asking the Public Health Engineering Department to provide them with canal water, but their demand went largely unheeded.

Most of the residential houses in Tibbi were built on agricultural lands, but without getting leases. Residents want the government to regulate the colonies situated on such lands and provide leases for the houses built there.

According to the 2011 Census, Tibbi had a population of 13,387. At present, its population is estimated to have crossed 20,000. Yet, the place is still seen as a backward and underdeveloped town. People also demand that the government should promote development by making a suitable master plan.

Tibbi is at the crossroads, being neither a village nor a city following the municipal upgrade. Even today, most of the posts created in the municipality office remain vacant. The result is that municipality functions are not properly organised and necessary facilities are missing.

“The municipality could have functioned smoothly if the government had appointed officers and employees to the sanctioned posts. When officers and employees are not present, who will do the work?” Tibbi Municipality Chairperson Santosh Suthar told 101Reporters. She was the sarpanch of Tibbi when the state government issued a notification to upgrade it into a municipality on May 20, 2022.

When a municipal office was established in the panchayat office, the sarpanch became the municipal chairperson and deputy sarpanch became municipal vice-chairperson. The 23 panchs became new councillors.

Posts of an executive officer (EO), assistant revenue inspector, junior engineer (civil), junior accountant, health inspector, map navis surveyor and senior assistant each have been created. Except for the EO’s post, all others were rarely filled. From July 19, 2022, to July 11, 2023, Tibbi Tehsildar Harish Kumar Tak held charge of EO. However, due to lack of staff, he could not function properly. From February 12 to June 14, 2023, Sangaria Municipality EO Sohanlal Verma was given the additional charge.

On June 15, for the first time, a full-time EO was appointed. However, three months after his appointment, Sumer Singh Chauhan was transferred. On September 22, Brijesh Kumar Soni took charge as EO, but he was transferred unceremoniously in less than a month. In his place, Chauhan was reappointed. He worked in that post from October 5, 2023, to February 21, 2024. At present, Soni occupies the post.

The junior assistant and junior engineer (civil) posts were filled four and three months back, respectively. In the absence of an assistant revenue inspector, generating revenue for the municipality has been an issue. Similarly, keeping proper accounts has been difficult in the absence of a junior accountant, while sanitation has been affected due to the vacant health inspector post. The municipality does not have a single permanent sanitation worker. Cleaning work is outsourced.

Notification was recently issued for the recruitment of 24,797 posts of sanitation workers from the Local Self Government Department (LSGD) of Rajasthan, but Tibbi won’t benefit from this recruitment. “The notification does not cover new municipalities. So, we have no option but to outsource,” Soni reasoned.

The present recruitment was initiated by the previous Ashok Gehlot-led Congress government. However, it was postponed once BJP came to power. Now the government has again invited applications, but neither the previous government kept posts for new municipalities nor the present government paid attention to it.

Under the Rajasthan Municipalities (Constitution of Committees) Rules, 1996, committees related to administration, finance, health and sanitation, and construction have to be formed, with councillors appointed as members. These committees monitor the functioning of the municipality and prepare the outline of development works in their meetings, but the formation of such committees is still awaited in Tibbi.

“It is necessary to have proper arrangements in the municipal office for the employees and for the use of the necessary resources, but no such system has been developed in Tibbi. To garner applause, the state government created various municipalities, but did not look back at them after that,” said councillor Khanna.

“Tibbi still does not have a fire engine. When a fire breaks out, a fire brigade has to be called in from Sangaria, located 30 km away, or from Hanumangarh town, located 18 km away. By then, fire would have spread and caused heavy damage. Most of the incidents of fire occur in the crops standing in the fields,” said councillor Saroj Khichar.

Municipal Chairperson Santosh Suthar said she has been trying her best to streamline the arrangements of the municipality, but due to the lack of staff and non-availability of budget for desired works, the expected results could not be achieved.

“We sent a proposal for bus stand construction to the LSGD director, but did not get a response. A proposal has also been sent to construct a municipal office building, which has not been approved. We have repeatedly given memorandums to the state government, regional MP and district Collector demanding that adequate staff be appointed, but even today the posts are lying vacant,” she detailed.

Avi Garg, Regional Deputy Director in the Bikaner office of the LSGD, said that new municipalities were suffering more due to lack of manpower, though there is a shortage of staff in all municipalities.

“We are sending information about vacant posts to the government from time to time. Appointment of employees and officials is a matter at the state government level,” Garg informed.

Due to the administrative standstill, residents feel that Tibbi being a village panchayat was better than being a municipality.

(Amarpal Singh Verma is a Rajasthan-based freelance journalist and a member of 101Reporters, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters)

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