There is a huge difference between perception and reality. There is a certain image built about politicians and IAS officers that gets amplified by social media posts – usually a reaction to some headline, a quote, an incident that triggers outrage.
But when you actually try and engage and work with politicians and officers, you will find many of them to be sincere, knowledgeable and passionate about their job and committed to positive change in their own ways. We don’t talk about it much but many of us know, this is true. The wheels of the city move forward despite many issues because there are people out there working and thinking about how to make it work.
Here’s what happened at the #ನಮ್ಮಸಮಿತಿನಮಗಾಗಿ Namma Samiti Namagaagi Public Round Table on Ward Committees that we organised. This is not a report on the meeting but just my observations on the Mayor and Commissioner.
Mayor turned out to be a huge champion of decentralization, empowerment of citizens, transparency, accountability, theory of subsidiarity – without ever using those words!
She said: “BBMP council meeting time is being wasted with all little things that can be solved locally at ward level. I want ward committee meetings to resolve those issues. People know what they want and don’t want “beku, beda avarige gottaagitte” (I fell off the chair though I was standing thinking about all the nasty remarks about beku beda) – if public is interested in engaging, it will make our job also easy, we will know what to prioritize.” “It is a great idea that WC meetings must be held at fixed time, we immediately embraced it.” “Come to my ward committee meeting.”
Commissioner who stunned us by spending full two hours, listening and writing down questions posed by public, answered every single question with great detail and clarity. “There is nothing perfect in this world, but at least now, nobody can claim when and where is the ward committee meeting – it is always on first Saturday of every month at the ward office at 11:30AM.” “The process of selection is not good. Let’s make it better.” The best part was about ‘planning’ – he basically said – “ward committees empower people to plan their ward, the corporator can take input from ward committee members (and citizens) and submit proposals. Now if the corporator asks for Rs 100 Crores, we may not be able to grant, but if the proposal is for Rs 15 Crore coming from ward committee, I don’t see why not?”
Now that’s participatory planning for you. No need to read any heavy articles from thick public policy websites and get carried away from theory.
You saw that the house was full yesterday, not even standing room, no time to answer all questions, the energy of the volunteers, the skit and the participants that came from Bellandur, Whitefield, Kengeri, Malleshwaram, Hebbal, Vijayanagara, you name it – every corner of Bengaluru. That shows the commitment of all of us to make good on the pledge we took, to make use of this opportunity and together we will #SaveGardenCity
*More on the round table coming soon! Please share your experience too.