Understanding Mumbai’s municipal corporation

BMC ELECTIONS 2022

council chamber in the BMC headquarters
The BMC's administrative wing and deliberative wing together run the city of Mumbai | Photo: Sheena Khalid

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), also called the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM), is India’s richest civic body. With an annual budget of Rs 45,949.21 crore for the year 2022-23, the BMC governs a population of over two crore people. Established in 1888, it is one of India’s oldest municipal corporations with a vast administrative structure.

Like any city corporation, BMC too consists of a deliberative wing comprising elected representatives i.e. the Corporators who represent the local wards, and the administrative wing composed of appointed officials. Officials including the Municipal Commissioner and Additional Commissioners, along with the staff of various departments, ensure the functioning of the civic body.

Mumbai now under an Administrator

On March 9th, the civic body began functioning under an Administrator for the first time in four decades, after the term of many Corporators in the city ended on the night of March 7th. Municipal Commissioner Iqbal Singh Chahal was appointed as the Administrator, given the delay in local body elections for 2022. 

Since the deliberative wing of the BMC becomes defunct, the administrator is now in charge of all responsibilities, including approving civil works, policy decisions and financial proposals. Corporators will no longer be part of any decision-making processes for the city. Decisions that would have earlier been made by consensus from Corporators shall now be taken by the Administrator.

Outside of special circumstances, the administrative structure of the BMC is as follows. 

Commissioner, the executive head

The head of the BMC is the Municipal Commissioner. Appointed under Section 54 of the Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act of 1888, the Municipal Commissioner is appointed by the state government to head the administrative staff of the municipal corporation, implement the decisions of the corporation, and prepare its annual budget.

BMC’s responsibilities include maintenance of sewage systems, school divisions, power companies, roads, and other aspects of local infrastructure. However, the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) and the Mumbai Fire Brigade are autonomous bodies under the MCGM, and hence, they fall outside of the Municipal Commissioner’s jurisdiction. The Municipal Commissioner is a member of the Indian Administrative Services (IAS).

Under the Municipal Commissioner, there are Additional Commissioners amongst whom departments and zones are equally distributed for supervision and execution. This year, four Additional Commissioners were appointed.

Additional CommissionerZonal ResposibilitiesDepartmental Responsibilities
Ashwini Bhide5,6Garden cell, department of business development, elections, matters pertaining to smart city, Computerisation in Mumbai Municipal corporation, Ganpati festival, recreational spaces etc.
Sanjeev Kumar1,2Matters pertaining to workers and labourers, market, strategy, urban unemployment, slum redevelopment etc.
P VelrasuAssessment & Collection Department, Implementation of Property Tax Reforms, National Urban Renewal Mission, sewerage projects, financial reforms etc.
Suresh Kakani3,4,7Solid waste management, fire brigade, health department (hospitals), building maintenance, disaster management plan, textile museum, central purchase authority etc.

Table lists the Additional Commissioners and their zones and responsibilities, as in March 2022

Under Additional Commissioners, there are Deputy Commissioners who are appointed to assist Municipal Commissioner/Additional Municipal Commissioners in carrying out their responsibilities. Deputy Municipal Commissioner is appointed by the corporation with the approval of the Government of Maharashtra. Currently, there are 23 Deputy Commissioners in Mumbai.

Then there are Heads of Departments (HODs). The BMC appoints HODs for various departments like maintenance department, market department, solid waste management, sewage, garden and trees, waterworks, shops and establishments, health, building and factory, disaster management, licence departments etc, all head functions and executions of each project in the department. Currently, there are 53 departments in the MCGM.

The administrative wing of the ward is divided into various sub-sections known as ward sections, handled by Ward Inspectors and supervised by Deputy Superintendents and Superintendents.

Wards

BMC ward boundaries and constituencies.
Current ward and constituency boundaries in Mumbai. | Photo: MCGM

The city is divided into seven zones and 24 administrative wards that are alphabetically ordered from A to R/North, these are further divided into 227 electoral wards also called constituencies. Each zone has 3-5 administrative wards, and each ward has 3-15 electoral constituencies. One Corporator is elected from each constituency to oversee maintenance, local issues and infrastructure.

In January 2022, the Maharashtra state government had issued a draft delimitation notification that had proposed 236 constituencies but had cancelled the same in March. The government says a fresh ward delimitation process will be undertaken under the newly passed Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act and the Maharashtra Municipal Councils, Nagar Panchayats and Industrial Townships Act 2022.

Each ward is headed by an Assistant Commissioner – formerly known as Ward Officer – whose responsibilities include supervising and checking technical aspects of the development and maintenance of the ward office and serving the citizens. The Assistant Commissioner is appointed by the corporation on the recommendation of Maharashtra Public Services.

Elected representatives in the city council

Corporators constitute the legislative arm of the BMC. They act as facilitators between citizens and the BMC and are in charge of facilitating developmental activities in their constituencies through the Rs 1.5 crore local area development fund they are granted, along with an additional Rs 60 lakhs of discretionary funds that can be used for constituency work that is in the public interest. They also oversee the functioning of the BMC, frame public policies and decide budgetary allocations through various BMC committees.

The role of Councillors is cited as part of the obligatory and discretionary functions of the BMC as mentioned in Section 61 of the MMC Act, 1888. Along with framing policies for the protection of the environment and ecology, the Councillors also decide budgetary allocations through various BMC committees. They plan social and economic development in their constituencies.


Read more: Explainer: What are the roles and responsibilities of councillors in Mumbai?


The mayor is elected from amongst the Councillors for a 2.5-year term. Till March 7th 2022, Kishori Pednekar had served as Mumbai’s Mayor after long stints as Corporator. The mayor is usually part of the ruling party and is the head of the council and the first citizen of the city. However, the mayor’s position in Mumbai holds no real executive powers. The position is largely ceremonial, with most powers held by the Municipal Commissioner.


Read more: Concerned citizens work alongside the municipality. Story of ALMs in Mumbai


Enabling participative democracy

Mumbai currently has 17 Ward Committees, each supporting a large population across electoral constituencies. The role of ward committees is to represent the public’s interest in ward-level decision making. They make recommendations as to what issues need resolution in the ward, and how the local area development fund is allocated. However, given the large population associated with each committee, it is not very effective and does not facilitate community participation.

As for Area Sabhas, they comprise voters from contiguous polling booths. They ensure grassroots participation in governance, which is a key step in decentralising local governance. According to the 74th Amendment Act, Ward Committees and Area Sabhas act as an institutional mechanism to facilitate decentralisation. Mumbai however has not constituted Area Sabhas.

This explainer is part of a series on ‘Explainers and Information Resources for Mumbaikars’ supported by a grant from the A.T.E. Chandra Foundation.

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About Radha Puranik 38 Articles
Radha was an Engagement Associate at Citizen Matters, Mumbai.