The Gandhian era fought for Swaraj (self rule) and since most of India was villages it may be coined as Grama Swaraj. By the sustained struggles and contributions of our forefathers Gram Sabha is functional.
But now its time for us to look toward Nagara Swaraj or Nagar Sabha. A key to achieve Nagar Sabha is the 74th Constitutional Amendment. In 2018, it is the Silver Jubilee Celebration for the Act but nothing significant is seen on the ground. Well, the Constitution mandates for the Ward Committees!!!
In Bengaluru, 16th November 2018 is a watershed moment; the BBMP Commissioner issued a notice to conduct Ward Committee meetings regularly and more so every first Saturday of the month at 11.30am. That was the Aha moment for most of the citizens —especially for the numerous champions of Local Self Governance in Bengaluru. Because, at last a forum where the voices of people had to be heard was sanctioned by the Government. All this while the voices were heard by politicians only before people cast their votes.
To elicit responses from the public and seek guidance from the Mayor and Commissioner in the working of ward committees, Citizens for Bengaluru called for a Round Table Meet. Enthusiastic people from all around the city attended the meet where they witnessed a Model Ward Committee meeting.
It was my privilege to administer the oath to strengthen Ward Committees, further the goals of Ward Committees in their respective wards and to educate the citizens.
The oath was this:
1. ನಮ್ಮ ವಾರ್ಡಿನ ಸಮಸ್ಯೆಗಳನ್ನು ವಾರ್ಡ್ ಸಮಿತಿ ಸದಸ್ಯರಿಗೆ ತಿಳಿಸುತ್ತೇನೆ – We will inform our grievances to our Ward Committee Members
2. ನಾನು ವಾರ್ಡ್ ಸಮಿತಿ ಸಭೆಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಭಾಗವಹಿಸುತ್ತೇನೆ – I shall participate in the Ward Committee meetings on first Saturday of every month.
3. ನಮ್ಮ ನೆರೆಹೊರೆಯವರಿಗೆ ವಾರ್ಡ್ ಸಮಿತಿಯ ಬಗ್ಗೆ ತಿಳಿಸುತ್ತೇನೆ – I shall inform my neighbors/citizens about Ward Committees.
ನಮ್ಮ ಸಮಿತಿ ನಮಗಾಗಿ.
ನಮ್ಮ ಸಮಿತಿ ನಮಗಾಗಿ
ನಮ್ಮ ಸಮಿತಿ ನಮಗಾಗಿ
Our Committee for our Benefit
I am committed to the pledge, so are many others.
The Commissioner was kind enough to explain the people their rights and responsibilities in a ward committee meeting. The Mayor pointed out that the holding Ward Committee meetings regularly is important as it occupies a significant position since the local problems get resolved at the local level and the Council time would be utilized productively for the resolution of larger issues. That’s a very sensible, reasonable and valid argument.
And finally the D-day December 1st 2018 Saturday 11:30am had come. Many awaited their turn to put up their grievance with the Ward Committees. To our dismay only a few wards had their meetings. Many of the Corporators were unaware as to how the meeting should be conducted. Most of the wards did not allow general public to take part in the meeting; after persistent effort and giving valid proofs from the excerpts of the Mayor/Commissioner and the State Gazette they were allowed in. Lack of quorum was the most commonly cited reason for not conducting the meetings.
In some of the places, the Corporators’ Spouses who generally run the shows were taken aback with this development. To this day only a 50 of the meetings have happened from the 198 wards. Where are the rest?
There are a number of issues varying from the selection of the Ward Committee members, tenure and also the procedure for removal. Another critical issue is the attendance of the Ward Committee members in the Ward Committee meetings.
All these will have to be addressed in the future. The hopeful prospect is that until now we knew they were 198 Corporators but now we can see 1980 Ward Committee members along with lakhs of citizens discussing pertinent and relevant issues to solve the problems of the city. How big a team is this to resolve the issues of Bengaluru?
Being witness to a few Ward Committee meetings, the citizen’s role was applauded and the establishment was more than happy to join hands in building a liveable Namma Bengaluru. One thing that stuck was, most of the meetings centred on garbage management. It was very painful to hear that Garden City had turned Garbage City. Where is my city going?
Come on fellow citizens, let’s all unite for making our city a better place to live in. The silver lining is, a Corporator from Yediyur has turned waste in to electricity making the parks self-sufficient with regard to electricity. A long way to go, for more and more wards of Bengaluru!
Written by Umesh Babu P G, who volunteers for Citizens for Bengaluru.