Vimal Khawas








The 73rd and 74th Amendments of the Indian Constitution ushered a new era in the history of local self-government. Indeed, it is a first serious attempt to ensure adequate constitutional obligations to stabilize democracy at local level. Until now, there was no constitutional obligations for local self government although there was a reference to village panchayats in the directive principals of state policy and of Entry No. 5 in state list as the subject of local self government as the function of state. As a result there was an erosion of the very fabric of local self-government both rural and urban in India over a prolonged period of time.

The enacted amendments may be regarded as agents of development and planning and pointers to the determination of state to bestow power to the people to plan for them and participate in decision-making process. With these amendments, local self government units have not only gained constitutional status or sanctions, but important provisions have also been made for them which would lead to improvement of the financial health of these bodies, rationalize their structure and functions and ensure a greater degree of meaningful improvement of the people through the process of integrated and orderly spatio-economic and social planning and development via effective and active involvement of the local people at local levels. With these amendments the planning function now becomes the exclusive responsibility of the local bodies.

The 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendment Acts, 1992 inserted Parts IX and IXA in the Constitution of India. Part IX deals with the panchayats and contains Arts. 243 to 243-O while IXA talks of municipalities containing Arts. 243P to 243ZG. The provisions in both the Parts are less or more parallel or analogous.

Some of the major features or what may be called the novel provisions of the new system may be highlighted as follows -

  1. direct election by the people in the same manner as at the Union and state level, reservation of seats for women, an Election Commission to conduct elections, a Financial Commission to ensure financial viability of these Institutions;
  2. provisions are supplemented by laws made by respective state legislatures defining the details as regards the powers and functions of the local bodies;
  3. local government including self government institutions in both urban and rural areas is an exclusive state subject, while the Union is only empowered to bring about outlines of the schemes to be
These Amendments, however, do not apply to the states of Jammu and Kashmir, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and NCT of Delhi. The acts also do not affect the powers and functions of Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council, in the district of Darjeeling, W. B, created under the DGHC Act, 1988, as the functional director of the local bodies, both rural and urban.

Urban Governance and Urban Local Bodies
Prior to the enactment of 74th Constitutional Amendment Act, 1992, there was no constitutional status of the local self-government in urban areas, in the strict sense of the term1. The statement of the objectives and reasons appended to the Bill when it was introduced in the Parliament while tracing the background which led to this legislation states that in many states local bodies have become weak and ineffective on account of a number of reasons, including the failure to hold regular elections (despite the earlier municipal acts provided for regular elections to them), prolonged super-sessions and inadequate devolution of powers and functions. Hence, by 1990s more than half of the municipal corporations stood superseded and some of the super-sessions stood for decades, which had a very deleterious effect on democracy at the grass root level, often eroding the very fabric and true spirit of local self government in urban areas. With effect, the urban local bodies were not able to perform effectively as vibrant democratic units of self-government.

The 74th amendment, thus, aims at remedying these inadequacies and lacunae to make these urban local bodies strong and stable. It has introduced a three-tier system of government setup where the local bodies play a vital role in planning and development of their respective areas. Further, now the planning function becomes the exclusive responsibility of the urban local bodies.

The 74th CAA (Constitutional Amendment Act), 1992, provides for a foundation to local self-government units in urban areas. Part IXA containing the various provisions of the Act came into force on 1.6.93, thus, heralding a new era in the history of multilevel planning within Indian Federation.

The Act gives2 birth to two types of bodies (Basu, 1997):

  1. Institutions of self government (Art. 243Q)
  2. Institutions for planning (Arts. 243ZX and 243ZE).
Urban Planning
Apart from giving constitutional recognition to the municipalities the 74th amendment provides for setting up of District Planning Committees so as to consolidate plans prepared by the municipalities and the panchayats with the district and to prepare a draft development plan for the district as a whole. Both panchayats and municipalities are to be represented on it. The draft development plan has to be prepared with respect to the matters of common interest between panchayats and municipalities including spatial planning, sharing of water and other physical and natural resources, integrated development of infrastructure and environment conservation. The plans so prepared and are recommended by the committee are to be forwarded to the state government by the chairman of the committee.

In the same way, with reference to the metropolitan areas, Metropolitan Planning Committee are to be set up on which the municipal authorities are to be represented. The Committee performs the similar functions for the metropolitan areas as is done by DPCs in a district.

West Bengal Municipal Act, 1993 - Brief Introduction
Following the precedence of the 74th Amendment Act of the Indian Constitution, 1992 and the broad guidelines led there under, the government of West Bengal enacted the West Bengal Municipal Act, 19933. Indeed, West Bengal was one of the first states in the country to give due respect to the 74th amendment of the Indian Constitution, 1992. The Act extends to the whole of the West Bengal, except Calcutta4 and Howrah5 and such other municipal corporations6 established by law.

It shall not take effect to any Cantonment7 or part of it without the consent of the Central Government previously obtained. Further, in case of Darjeeling district8 of West Bengal the Act shall apply but subject to such exceptions and modifications as per the direction of the Government9. It is also that, the Act shall not be construed to affect the powers of DGHC10 (Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council) for hill areas of Darjeeling district.

74th Amendment, 1992 Vs Municipal Act of West Bengal, 1993
Although the major provisions led down under the Municipal Act of West Bengal, 1993 mostly follows and pays due respect to the broad outlines enacted by the 74th Amendment of 1992, few deviations can still be noted in the contents of the two amendments. Differences of note may be highlighted as follows:

  1. The 74th amendment talks of the constitution of three types of municipalities i.e. Nagar Panchayat, Municipalities and Municipal Corporations, while such is not the case as regards W. B. municipal Act. The latter merely provides for the constitution of municipalities11 based on certain defined criteria.
  2. There are no special provisions for the hill regions of the country, with different environmental set up in 74th amendment. The Municipal Act of West Bengal outlines certain conditions, which shall be applied only to the hill areas, to constitute any area on the hill areas a municipal area and their responsibilities therein.
  3. The 74th amendment is silent about the municipal authorities. The Municipal Act of West Bengal clearly outlines municipal authorities12 charged with the responsibility of carrying out the provisions of the Act.
  4. The 74th amendment does not highlight about the provisions with regard to the municipal establishments pertaining to various municipal bodies. The West Bengal Municipal Act, on the other hand, clearly brings out the major establishments characterizing the municipal areas.
  5. Amendments made under the 74th Act is virtually silent about such urban entity related to notified area, while in case of W.B. Municipal Act, 1993, chapter XXV covers incisively the provisions related to such area in the state.

Darjeeling Town is situated on the district of Darjeeling, the northern mort district of the state of West Bengal. The town is the headquarters of the district and is the largest among the hill towns situated in the district (Map No. 3). It spreads over an area of 10.7 Sq. km. And comprises of 32 wards. It was established in the year 1850 by the British and thus is one of the oldest municipal towns in the country. As per the provisional figures of the Census of India (2001) the town houses about 1.03 lakhs of souls with additional average diurnal floating population of 20500 - 30000 mainly comprising of the tourists and visitors. The principal mode of transport to the town is by road, with the nearest airport located at a distance of 90 Kms at Bagdogra. The nearest neighbours of Darjeeling town are Kurseong (about 35 km away) and Kalimopong Towns (about 55Km away). Siliguri the major trading trading center and the gateway to northeast and mainland India is about 72 km south of the town.

The town is located between 26'31'' and 27'13'' of north latitude and between 87'50'' and 88'53'' of east longitude. Its elevation varies between 1981m to 2286m above the mean sea level. It is a ridge shaped like English letter 'Y' the base resting at Katapahar and Jalapahar while two arms diverge from the Mall, one dipping suddenly to the North East and ending in the Lebong spur, the other arm running North West passes through the St. Joseph's College and finally ends in the valley near Tukver Tea Estate.

Historical Background
Tracing the old history of Darjeeling Municipality becomes a bit difficult as almost all the records were destroyed in the fire that gutted its office on the night of 20th November 1996. Nevertheless, a general peep into its past can be still sought with the help of few old municipal records, memoirs of old residents and available reference books.

The available sources highlight the fact that, Nepal by a treaty of Sugauly in 1816 ceded 4000 sq. miles of its territory to British India. On the 10th of February 1817 the British India by virtue of a treaty signed at Titlya made it over to the Rajah of Sikkim. The invigorating climatic asset of the place in terms of weather and location fascinated the duo Capt. Lloyed and Mr. Grant who happened to visit Darjeeling in February 1829 to settle the dispute between Nepal and the Rajah of Sikkim. They found the place suitable for sanitarium and cantonment. On the negotiations between the British India and Rajah of Sikkim the place was successfully transferred to British India on the 1st of February 1835. Dr. Campell in 1839 was transferred to Darjeeling as superintendent who made Darjeeling an excellent sanitarium.

Darjeeling Municipality, however, was established on 1st of July 1850. Nevertheless, popular participation in civic administration was actually started in the year 1847. Till 1994 the municipality was governed by the Bengal Municipal Act 1932. The 74th Amendment of the Indian Constitution made mandatory to every state to have municipal authority and accordingly West Bengal municipal Act, 1993, came into force with effect from July 1994. Initially, Darjeeling Municipality was to cover the entire area that was ceded from Rajah of Sikkim for Sanitarium. However, now it covers an area of only 10.70 sq. km.

Evolution of Darjeeling Municipality
Darjeeling municipality in the inception was placed in the 1st Schedule along with Khulna, Haribagh, Muzzaferpur, Darbhanga, Bhagalpur in which the commissioners were appointed by the local government and also placed in the 2nd Schedule along with Burdwan, Hooghly, Nadia, Hazaribagh etc. in which the chairman was to be appointed by the local government. It was only in the year 1916 a nomination cum election of the commissioners was held on trial basis.

The first general election of Commissioners of Darjeeling municipality as provided u/s 24 of Bengal Municipal Act 1932 was held 4th October, 1937 and thereafter formed the board. The first general election on the basis of Adult Franchise, as notified vide G.O. No. 4120/ME-13/52 dater 17.07.1963, was held on 23rd march 1964. But the newly elected board was not, however, been able to function for an Interim order of Injunction till disposal of Civil rule No.430 (W) of 1964. Hence the old board continued till the next election. The Municipality Board formed after the election held on 1st may, 1966 was superceded in September, 1970 and was kept in supercession till 14th July 1984, The Municipal Board constituted in 1984 was again superceded on 3rd August, 1989 and remained in supercession till May, 1994.The general Election of Councillors of Darjeeling municipality was held on may, 1994 and the election was for the first time contested on party basis and the GNLF party formed the board with overwhelming majority; the GNLF continues to govern the town.

Table 1 Changing Status Of Darjeeling Dist And Evolution Of Darjeeling Municipality

Darjeeling District Darjeeling Municipality
Years Status Years Municipality Evolution
Prior to 1861 Non-regulated area 1850-1916

The Municipality was place in the first Schedule (along with Halna, Hazaribagh, Muzzaferpur etc. in which commissioners were appointed by the local govt.) and second Schedule (along with Burdwan, Hooghly, Nadia, Hazaribagh etc.) in which Chairman was to be appointed by local government.


Regulated Area


Nomination cum election of commissioners on trial basis


Non-regulated Area


First general election of Commissioners


Scheduled District


First general election on the basis of Adult Franchise


Back Ward Track

1970-July 1984

Period of super cession


Partially Excluded Area

Aug. 1984

Municipality reconstituted

After 1947*

Presidency Division


Period of super cession

Autonomous Hill Development Council (1988) under the State Legislature

May 1994

First general election of the Councillors on party basis

Source: Based on Literature Review

* As per the Constitution of India the district is still under the presidency division and thus enjoys no special status. However, under the State Legislature the hill regions of the district has been extended special provisions after the creation of DGHC in 1988.


Till 28th August 1988 Darjeeling Municipality was placed in the 'D" category of the state municipality (based on the criteria of population). In view of the various problems faced by the hill municipalities different from their plain counter parts the government of west Bengal vide letter No. 569/MA/O/C- 4/1A-1-18/95 dated, 12th October 1988 upgraded Darjeeling municipality from 'D" to 'A' category and number of wards were increased from 26 to 32 wards. Further on the persuasion of the Board, the state government has agreed to upgrade Darjeeling to the status of a Municipal Corporation vide their letter No. 87/MA/O/C-4/1-A/2000 dated 29th February 2000.


District Scenario
The district of Darjeeling although one of the least developed districts of the state in the economic term, however, is one of the sixth most urbanized districts in the state of West Bengal. The influx of the immigrants from the late nineteenth century through the whole of the first half of the 20th century from Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet and the mainland India played important role in this regard. Further, the establishment of plantation agriculture and the development of tourism industry during the period led to the unprecedented growth of population in the region. Such situation, obviously, had large-scale consequence in the urban centers of the region. Hence, Darjeeling started to witness more rapid increase in its urban population in the post independence period. Today the district contains 5 towns. Siliguri, the largest of the towns covering not only the district of Darjeeling but also a part of Jalpaiguri district is majorly a foothill area and consumes about 63% of the total urban souls of the district. Darjeeling the second largest town in the district and the largest in the hill areas takes in its share about 20% of the urban population. As a district headquarter the town serves as a major center in every sector of the economy of the district. The other major towns of importance all located in the hills include Kalimpong, Kurseong, and Mirik. Mirik, the smallest town in the region got its municipal status only in early nineties and has a population of less than 10 thousand.

Table 2 Darjeeling District - Urban Situation
Table not available in online version

Darjeeling Town
The town of Darjeeling has seen fluctuation in the growth of its population in the last one century. However, at an average the town has supported the growth rate of over 20% per decade. Closer examination, however, highlights the fact that the growth in population has been more rapid from the 1970s onwards exceeding the growth rates at the district level. The growth rate has touched the sky height of about 45% in the 1990s and thus is far above the national, state, and district average.

The town as a district head quarter acts as the center of all types of economic activity, which attracts the rural folks of the district to migrate to the town for better opportunity. Besides, the invigorating climatic asset of the town compels the people from the surrounding states to migrate and settle permanently in the region. This has made the town more prone to the environmental problems in recent decades. It should be mentioned here that the British designed the town in early nineteenth century only for the population of about 10000 probably only the European bureaucrats. Thus, it becomes clear that the population of over 1lakh is surely a hazard to the health of the queen of hills, so complex in its geological and geomorphologic attributes.

Table 3 Populations - Darjeeling Municipality

Year Population (lakh) Growth (%)
1901 0.17  
1911 0.19 12.30
1921 0.22 17.12
1931 0.21 -4.82
1941 0.27 28.51
1951 0.34 23.44
1961 0.41 20.97
1971 0.43 5.47
1981 0.58 34.36
1991 0.71 24.07
2001 1.03 44.63
Source: Municipality office, Darjeeling, 2002

The fact that the town supports the floating population of over 20500 in the form of tourists, students, visitors, and wage earners is sufficient to highlight the pressure this environmentally fragile region is sustaining in recent decades.

The available demographic attributes of the town confide the fact that the region is one of the most literate urban regions in the state as well as the district. However, this should not be messed up with the term education. Educationally, the region is lowest on the ladder. The sex ratio of 928 females per 1000 males is below the national average, which again highlights the fact that the migration from the rural surroundings is mainly male, selective. Its is also that, the density of about 10000 persons per sq. kms is highly detrimental to the health of the town as the region is geologically relatively new with hosts of environmental problems and hence unstable in nature. It seems something uncanny when one finds that the queen of the hills houses about 31% of its population in the Slums but this is a fact. This is nothing but the culmination of the unprecedented urban growth due to the unsustainable migration in the area (mainly the low class wage earner) for better opportunity and is one of the forces that have acted over the years in this regard.

Table 4 Demographic Characters- Darjeeling Municipality

Total Pop. (2001) 103375 Male Female
Sex Ratio 928 52% 49%
Literacy 85% 89% 82%
Density 96613 (persons per Sq. Km.)
House Hold 20339
Slum Pop. 30.5%, 37 (Nos.)
Floating Pop. 20500 to 30000
Source: Municipality office, Darjeeling, 2002


Municipal Composition, Powers and Functions
All the Municipalities13 within the political jurisdiction of the state of West Bengal including the Municipalities14 located on the hills of Darjeeling are governed by the West Bengal Act, 1993, as amended from time to time.

The authorities charged with the responsibility of municipal area administration following the amendment of 1993 are -

The Municipality refers to the Board of Councillors charged with the authority of Municipal Governance of the town and normally consists of the elected members from the respective wards along with the non-elected members who are nominated by the state government. The latter, however, have no voting right in the meetings of the Municipality.

The Board of Councillors elects a Chairman from among its elected members. The West Bengal Municipal Act provides far a Chairman-in Council system of governance, and consists of the Chairman, the Vice Chairman and such other members depending on the size and classification of the Municipality. In case of Darjeeling, the number is seven. The Chairman is elected from among the Councillors. The Chairman nominates Chairman-in-Council and distributes the business of the Municipality. All the executive powers of the Municipality vest in the Chairman-in-Council and the executive actions of the Chairman-in-Council are taken in the name of the Municipality. The Chairman is the executive head of the Municipality and the municipal administration is under his control. The Chairman presides over the meetings of the Chairman-in-Council as well as the Board of Councillors and in his absence the Vice Chairman chairs the meetings.

The administrative functions of the municipalities are dealt through the committees and are headed by the Chairman-in-Council.

List of Committees in Darjeeling Municipality
Markets and Estates, Mutation, Health and Sanitation, Buildings, License, Finance and Establishments, Assessments.

The Municipal Act has the provision for the creation of Boroughs and Borough Committees in Municipalities with a population of over 3 lakhs. Each borough would consist of not less than 6 contiguous wards. The committee consists of the councillars representing the wards, and elects a chairman who will be a member but not a Chairman-in-council. The Borough Committee discharges functions prescribed by the municipality. Darjeeling Municipality with less than 3 lakhs population (it has 1.03 lac in 2001) is not eligible to enjoy the above provision.

The Act of 1993 lays down the foundation to provide ward committee in each municipal ward and the state government determines the composition and functions by notification. The Councillor for the ward acts as the Chairman of the Ward Committee. Persons with special qualifications may be associated with the ward committee. The Ward Committee's functions include assisting the municipality in the realization, detection of statue violation, planning and execution of development programmes and redressal of citizen's grievances. The committee has the responsibility to hold an annual public meeting of citizens to discuss the Administration Report of the municipality as well as future plans and programmes. As an exception, however, Darjeeling municipality did not felt it necessary to install the ward committee(s) despite such provision was led down under the act (1993) until early 2002 when the initiation in this respect took off, although hesitantly. Navigation at the micro level especially with the core staff members highlights the fact that the fear of negative political consequence seems to be the major reason that stymied the provision to take its shape, as it was believed the creation of ward committees meant the division of power.

The Municipal Act lists out the officers who the municipality may appoint the most important among them being the Executive Officer, the Health Officer, Engineer, Finance Officer, and Secretary. The board of councilors is empowered to decide which of the posts are necessary and creates them with the prior sanction of the state government. The Executive Officer is the principal executive of the municipality and all other employees of the municipality are subordinate to him. The Executive Officer and Finance Officer exercise such powers and perform such function as may be notified by the state government but under the supervision and control of the Chairman.

The WBMA 1993 provides for the obligatory and discretionary
functions15 to be performed by the urban local bodies in West Bengal. Major heads under which the municipalities extend their obligatory and discretionary functions include - Public Work, Public Health and Sanitation, Town Planning and Development, Administration, Education and Socio-economic Development.

The act also provides for the provision where by the state govt. may transfer such functions, now performed by the govt., which may include town and country planning, urban water supply and sanitation, urban employment schemes, health and family welfare, fire fighting, sports and youth activities and environmental safety and improvement.

Urban Planning Functions
Prior to the precedence of the West Bengal Municipal Act 1993, preparation and implementation of physical planning for the entire state was governed by the West Bengal Town and Country (Planning and Development) Act of 1979 (Act XIII of 1979). There were provisions where by the government would notify and declare a Planning Authority and Development Authority (PA/DA) for specific area(s). Ironically, besides the constitution of Siliguri-Jalpaiguri Development Authority (SJDA) covering siliguri planning area, jalpaiguri planning area and naxalbari planning area, the district of Darjeeling never came under the purview of the so called 'specific areas'.

The Act of 1993, nevertheless, outlines provisions whereby the municipalities in West Bengal have a wide range of functions covering the entire gamut of urban infrastructure and services. Through the District Planning Act, 1994 and the Municipal (amendment) Act, 1997 (updated version of 1993 Act), the local bodies have a framework for development planning of the area under their control and an obligation to prepare a Draft Development Plan once in five years and an Annual Development Plan each year. In this regard, the Board of Councillors shall prepare a Draft Development Plan for the municipal area, in consultation with the District Planning Committee. Further, as per the provision of the 1993 Act pertaining to the powers and functions the local bodies can extend their activities to include programs and projects in the field of economic and social development.

Table 5 Important Features of Darjeeling Municipality- Before and After WBM Act, 1993

Had no Constitutional Status Acquired Constitutional Status
Administered by the board of Municipal Commissioners headed by Chairman Administered by the Board of Councillors headed by the Chairman in Council
Was a provider of urban basic services, no planning functions Provides urban basic services, empowered to prepare plans for economic and social justice
No provisions for urban poor - weaker sections and women It has become more responsive to the needs of urban poor
Local people were largely kept away from the formal structure and decision making processes Effective and active involvement of local people
No special provisions to the urban local bodies of the hills of Darjeeling with reference to the powers and functions Some special provisions inducted to supplement or modify mainstream provisions keeping in view the complex geological, geographical and local attributes.

It should be mentioned here that the district of Darjeeling even today neither has town-planning department nor Development Authority (besides SJDA, which covers only the Siliguri sub-div. of the district). The district, moreover, does not have constituted the District Planning Committee as yet. Thus, no draft development plans both at district level and municipality (including Darjeeling municipality) level has been sought so far in the region, although all the municipalities prepare Annual Development Plans.

Moreover, over the years the functional role of Darjeeling Municipality has been progressively undermined. Many functions performed hitherto by Darjeeling Municipality are now performed by respective state agencies and DGHC. In this connection the management and maintenance of electricity and fire brigade were handed over to the respective state departments while in case of hospitals and schools the same was taken over by Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council after its creation in 1988. Factors like organizational incapacity, severe service deficits, haphazard and unplanned growths are the possible forces in this regard, which have also made the municipality vulnerable in recent years.

Table 6 Decreasing Function of Darjeeling Municipality

Major functions: Conservancy, Water Supply, Zamindary, Urban Planning (Spatio-economic and Social)
Electricity The management of electricity was taken over by the WBSEB on January, 1978
Fire Brigade Darjeeling Fire Brigade was handed over to the WBFS on 20th October 1967
Hospitals Major government hospitals are managed and maintained by the DGHC after its formation in 1988. There are only two dispensaries under the functional jurisdiction of Darjeeling Municipality.
Schools Out of the 52 primary schools under the functional jurisdiction of Darjeeling municipality 50 Primary Schools were handed over to DGHC for management and maintenance under the direction of the state government.

Institutional Framework
The Directorate of Local Bodies under the Municipal Affairs Department (UAD) is responsible for ensuring the administrative and financial discipline of the local bodies in the state. Their role, nevertheless, is limited only to monitoring activities and they have no say in appointment of staff or planning of development projects.

Thus, municipalities, as part of the urban local bodies, and the Chairmen-in-Council have no major constraints to take up any schemes covering any items in the obligatory and discretionary lists of functions as well as schemes included in the Draft Development and Annual Development Plan. They can take up any development project of any size with their own resources, but would need government concurrence when borrowings are involved, chiefly because financial institutions require government guarantees. Such provision, however, is in paper only. The ground situation is slightly different. Government Departments and State organizations, historically, have played important role in constructing and often maintaining infrastructure in the municipal areas. Also, the Public Health Engineering Department has an important role in the project design, implementation and operation in respect of water supply.

The institutional set up of urban entities in Darjeeling, in terms of their powers, functions and jurisdiction is, nevertheless, of a special character. The Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) was created in 1988 by the state government statute for the hills of Darjeeling and exercises authority over all the 'transferred departments of the state which includes almost all the development related establishments and part of welfare departments. However, the subject of urban development has not been transferred to the DGHC and thus the municipalities in the Darjeeling Hills are not under its direct control, although DGHC is empowered to direct, support, and monitor the workings of the hill municipalities. It can be said that the DGHC acts as a District Planning Committee (DPC) for the Municipalities and Panchayats in the hill areas although such status of DGHC has been formalized -neither by Municipal Act, 1993 nor by any other subsequent amendments of the state. The municipalities in Darjeeling hills (including Darjeeling municipality) continue to be under the overall administrative jurisdiction of the Dept. of municipal Affairs of the West Bengal. Moreover, the district administration in the Darjeeling hills continues to discharge certain development functions in the urban areas, which often impinge the functional freedom of the Municipality.

Table 7 Darjeeling Municipality - Institutional Setup

Major Institutional Stack holders of Darjeeling Municipality Municipality (Board of Councillors headed by the Chairman in Council)
Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC)
Directorate of Local Bodies under Urban Affairs Department, West Bengal
District Administration


Water Supply
Natural Springs from the Sinchal Range are the major sources of water supply in Darjeeling Municipal Town. Water is collected from over 30 natural springs and carried down to two lakes; the lakes called Sinchal North with a capacity of 20 MG and Sinchal South with a capacity of 12.5 MG were built in 1910 and 1932 respectively. It was designed for the population of approximately ten thousand populations. The reduced level of the Sinchal Lakes comes to around 2200 M. Besides, there is Sindhap Lake or the third lake constructed by PHE Department in 1984 with the capacity of 15MG but it had some technical defect and failed to supply and store the estimated quantity of water. During the lean season when the yield of the springs is not sufficient the water is pumped from the Khong Khola. In addition, the collection and distribution center at Bokshi Jhora caters to some extent the need of the people of Raj Bari and its surroundings.

Darjeeling Municipal Town is, however, still marred by the heavy storage of water supply and the per capita availability of water in the town is far from the prescribed norms of 135 lpcd and only over 50 per cent of the municipal households are connected to the municipal water supply. Mentioned should be made that the municipality has locally tapped all the perennial sources of water, yet the historic water problem has gone from bad to worse because of widening gap between supply and demand. Moreover, the present water works infrastructure was built around the first quarter of the 20th century to cater the population of about 10 thousand, possibly only the elites of the period who were mainly the Europeans and the Indian bureaucrats. Thus, the majority of network is very old and dilapidated.

It is also revealed that the inflow from the springs of Sinchal Range have been gradually decreasing with time. The massive deforestation in and around the sources is further aggravating the problem. There are no nearby potential sources the yield of which can either be gravitated or pumped to augment the supply. The result is inevitable and there are growing resentment amongst the residents and tourists. Primary survey debunks the fact that the per capita supply of water is only about 10 liters to the average municipal residents although the municipal figure shows it to be 40 liters. The acute shortage of water supply also poses great threat to the prospect of tourism promotion in the long run.

Keeping all the above issues in view, in 1995 the Darjeeling municipality requested the DGHC to move to the state government to sep up a committee to prepare a project report on the viability of various methods to augment the water collection and supply system. The high level committee, which was set up by the govt. in 1995 prepared a project to pump water from the Balasan river to Sinchel Lake at an estimated cost of 39.5 crores. The report was submitted to the govt after extensive survey. However the government hesitated to implement the project on grounds of non-availability of funds. Thereafter, with the concurrence of the State Government Darjeeling Municipality tried to seek the financial assistance of the World Bank for the project. The project was duly submitted to the Bank team, which visited Darjeeling with the consent of the government and was quite enthusiastic about the viability of the project. The emergence of differences and friction between the World Bank, State government and DGHC, however, stymied the project to make any headway. Hence, the historic problem of water continues unabated in the area.

Table 8 Water Supply- Important Indicators

Supply Source Sinchal Lakes Supply/Capita -lpcd 40
Total Supply (MLD) 3.24 Network to Road Length (%) 81
Treatment Capacity (ML) 7.92 % Holdings Connected 51
Network Length-(KM) 83 Starage Capacity (% total) 80
No. of Reservoirs 28 Persons/PSPs 163
Capacity -ML 2.6 PSP-Public Stand Posts
No. of Connection 5133
No. of PSPs 500 HP-Hand Pumps
No. of HP 0
Source: Municipality Office, Darjeeling, 2002

Sewerage and Sanitation
Darjeeling town as of today generates over 6.6 MLD of sewerage. The town has an underground sewage collection and disposal system and is not conventional. The system collects the domestic waste from about 2500 holdings and about 50 community toilets, which is conveyed to six central septic tanks and ultimately disposed in to the natural Jhoras (water ways). Five out of six septic tanks are in a defunct state and the entire conveyance system needs repairs.

The sewerage system of Darjeeling is age old, which was laid down in 1935 and covers only about 35% of the town at present. It was originally intended to serve only the European settlers resided and has now almost broken down. This archaic system is today burdened beyond capacity. The state government well aware of the fact engaged a reputed Calcutta based firm 'Consulting Engineering Services (India) Pvt. Ltd in 1984 to prepare a project on the total up gradation of the sewerage system of Darjeeling. The firm submitted the report to the govt. in 1985 with an estimated project of 13.65 crores to upgrade the entire sewerage system and to bring it to a serviceable standard. However, the project is still gathering dust with the government. The 'queen of hills' hence continues to remain in rags.

In the absence of the any sewage facility the major mode of disposal in the town is through individual sanitation facilities. 58% of the holdings have opted for an organized way of collecting and disposing the septic tank waste. In slum areas community facility have been provided. The dependence on these facilities comes to 38 persons/seat in Darjeeling town.

Table 9 Sewerage And Sanitation

Qty. of Sewage, MLD-Estm. 6.52 % of Holdings Covered by UGD Network 25
Sewer Length (KM) 90 UGD Network Length as Proportion of Road Length 88
Treatment Capacity 0 % Of Holdings Covered by Safe Disposal Facility 58
No. of Connection 2500 Slum Population/Pub. Toilet Seat 38
PFT-Public Flush Toilet
No. of Septic Tanks 1300
No. of PFTs 2003
Total Holdings with Sanitation Facilities 5803
Community Facilitities (Nos) 118
Source: Municipality Office, Darjeeling, 2002

Solid Waste
Darjeeling town has a primary collection mechanism by way of bins. Managed and maintained by the Health and Sanitation Department of the municipality, the collection vehicles of the dept. pick up the solid waste from different parts of the towns and disposes off above Hindu Burial Ground.

Darjeeling town produces about 50 metric tons of solid wastes every day while the vehicles and personal available are able to collect and dispose only over 60% of the waste; the remaining wastes continue to accumulate in the town on a daily basis. In addition to the waste collection the conservancy labour sweeps the major streets of the town on daily basis. The road length swept by each conservancy labour comes to around 662 meter per day.

Here too, mentioned should be made that the old Darjeeling had a more scientific system of solid waste disposal by using the ropeways. There was a solid waste disposal rope way station located at what is now 'Butcher Busty' but due to the population explosion in and around the 1970s the local population forcefully stopped the operation of the ropeway station at the said location which was subsequently abandoned and there after became inoperative.

Today the solid waste is disposed off above the Hindu Burial Ground by four tractors and the disposal sites are in a pathetic state. Repeated requests to the government by the municipality have fallen deaf ear. The municipality feels that the sanctioned staff pattern of the government on the basis of population (e.g. one sweeper for every 1000 population) is detrimental to the hill municipalities. Hence, a separate staff pattern has been requested to the government in view the different geological and geographical characters and hence unique problems. Moreover, it is felt that the tourist centers like Darjeeling require a different method of sanitation and cleanliness, particularly in view of the heavy influx of floating population like tourist, outside students and outside daily wage earners, which has put severe pressure on civic amenities.

Table 10 Solid Waste Management

Total Waste Generated/day (tons) 50 Per Capita Waste Generated (Gms/day) 613
Waste Collected 31 Collection Performance (%) 62
No. of Vehicles 7 Vehicle Capacity-(% of Waste Generated) 21
No. of Labour 150 Road Length/Conservancy Staff (M) 662
No.of Disposal Sites 1    
Source: Municipality Office, Darjeeling, 2002

Roads, Drainage and Street Lights
All the roads in Darjeeling municipal town except Hill Cart Road and Lebong Cart Road belong to the municipality. The geology of the area compels all the roads to follow the contour lines and therefore, they are mostly serpentile and sloping in nature. The total length of all types of roads including stepped path within municipality is around 90 KM in length as stated below. The road density (road length to total area) ranges to about 9 -km/sq. km. Over 75% of the roads are surfaced. Emphasis should be made here that all these roads are not meant for heavy vehicles and most of them are constructed during pre independence period and now due to plying of heavy vehicles and lack of maintenance, most of the roads are in a bad shape. No special funds are granted for the repair and maintenance of these roads. With rapid urbanization of Darjeeling town without any land use plan, the main Cart Road now NH 55 within the municipal area has become a constant source of nuisance due to frequent traffic jams. One of the vital bottlenecks being the stretch of Jorebungalow where the width of the road is narrow, Railway Track is there and also the Water Mains from Senchal to Darjeeling town is running underneath it. Thus, even for maintenance of minor problems the activities of other equally important things like plying of vehicles gets affected. Another equally important bottleneck to traffic is due to mushrooming growth of vehicles repairing shops along Cart Road. All these roadside repair shops lack space making it vulnerable to traffic jam and accidents. Moreover, the cost of road construction is very high in Darjeeling i.e. one truck of sand which cost around Rs. 300/- in Siliguri, cost around Rs. 1500/- in Darjeeling.

Table 11 Municipal Roads

  Type of Roads No. Length (KM)
1 Motorable Bituminous Road 40 50
2 Non-motorable Bituminous Road 61 14.5
3 Water Bound Macadam Roads 21 9.50
4 Concrete Stepped Roads 25 2.50
5 Kutcha Roads 10 13.50
Source: Municipality Office, Darjeeling, 2002

The roadside storm drains carry sullage and storm water. The proportion of drains to road length comes to over 70%. Although Darjeeling does not face major problems of flood as its plain counterparts the topography of Darjeeling is such that it has different types of problems regarding drainage than of the towns in plains. In hilly terrain the scouring and erosion of the Jhora beds and gullies make the surrounding areas prone to landslides.

There are 7 main Jhoras 27 minor Jhoras and about 65 km of Roadside drain within the municipal area, which usually start from Jaldhapara Spur and joins different streams down below. Cleaning of drains is not much a problem, if sufficient water is there; the drains are cleansed by the gravity.

All the roadside drains and minor jhoras were lined with earthen ware hald curve tiles which was popularly known as Ranigunj Tiles, but of late the practice of using/replacing the same is not in vogue mainly due to non availability and same is being replaced by concrete drains making it more un-durable and costly as it requires constant maintenance. Under such circumstances, it seems necessary that all the jhoras and drains be again lined with Ranigunj Tiles and thorough repairs of guide walls with masonry wall be carried out in a phased manner. Darjeeling municipal town has over 1550 streetlights at present. The town has more than 90% of its street made up of low power filament bulbs and has no tube lights. The average spacing of light (no. of street light over road length) is about 64 m while the no of lights per km road comes to about 16. The major issue here seems to be the spacing of streetlight, which is below the desirable standard of at least 35 meters.

Table 12 Storm Water Drains And Street Lights

Pucca Covered (KM) 65 % of Strom Water Drainage Length to Road Length 64
Pucca Uncovered (KM) 0 % of Pucca Drains to Total Drain Length 100
Kutcha 0    
Total Drains (KMS) 65    
Sodium Vapour Lamps -(Nos) 160 Spacing of Street Lights (M) 64
Tube Lights (Nos) 0 No. of Lights per Km Roads 16
Others (Nos) 1427 % of High Power Lamps 10
Total 1587 Lights per Staff 265
Source: Municipality Office, Darjeeling, 2002

Continue to Part II

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