CIVIC and the Federation of Civil Society Organisations of Sagayapuram, a coalition of Residents Welfare Associations (RWA’s) in the ward, organised a debate for candidates of Sagayapuram (Ward no 60) and the residents of the area on March 24th at the Medico-Pastoral Association on Pottery Road from 4.30 – 6.30 pm.
The ward is reserved for Scheduled Caste. The meet saw only around forty residents and two candidates participate. Richards Town, Lazar Layout, Bagalur Layout and Sagayapuram come under Sagayapuram ward.
As no contestant was available even half an hour after the scheduled start time of 4.00 pm. K G Shashidhar, General Secretary of the Richards Town Residents Association (RTRA), one of the local RWA’s, welcomed the gathering and briefed them about the meeting’s objectives.
A Sivasankaran, president of Jago, a network of local RWA’s explained the work done by some of the RWA’s and CIVIC in understanding the issues, needs and demographics of the ward, particularly in the low income zones. They have estimated that the infrastructure development work in the area requires Rs 20 crores and that the BBMP allocates Rs 6 crores for this purpose to every ward, annually.
In a conversation with Citizen Matters, Harish Poovaiah of CIVIC mentioned the detailed maps that they have created for each neighbourhood which helps the stakeholders specify the existing problems and urgent demands and track their resolution status. The maps also assist citizens in questioning prospective ward councilors (or ‘corporators’) their detailed plan for developing/improving the ward.
Kailasam, one of the contestants finally arrived around 5 pm, greeting the audience after Shashidhar introduced himself. This sixty one year old retired Purchase Assistant (at the Chandrika soap factory) who has studied up to class IX belongs to the AIADMK, a party he has worked for since 1972.
Having lived in a low income neighbourhood in Sagayapuram all his life, he expressed awareness of issues like unavailability of family ration cards, water, sanitation and power apart from poor roads and footpaths. He promised to mitigate/resolve the problems, if elected and particularly reduce the processing time for a ration card although he did not seem to have a definite strategy to achieve this. He plans to maintain personal rapport with the majority of the over 33,000 citizens in the ward. Opposing corruption, he supports the Lokayukta’s critical role in alleviating this menace.
Speaking primarily in Tamil (although he knows Kannada and follows English), he patiently answered questions admitting ignorance of certain facts relevant to the ward level budget and its utilisation. He believes that the BBMP has sufficient funds to provide all services and can augment its revenue by collecting taxes properly.
As someone who polled the third highest number of votes when he contested the BBMP council election in 1990, he is aware of the basic roles and responsibilities of a councilor. He has collected Rs 70,000 from personal contributions as has party (based in Tamil Nadu) provides him minimal funds and supports his candidature. "My campaign supporters and I eat Anna, Sambar and subsist on very little", he added.
Even though some participants thought that his minimal academic qualification and insufficient awareness of relevant legislations are a deterrent, everyone appreciated his sincerity and modesty and the commitment towards the debate, where he spent nearly forty five minutes .
Just as Sivasankaran planned to end the discussion around 6 pm, Marimuttu arrived. A former councilor from this ward, she apologised for being late.
Reiterating her faith in fellow citizens, she highlighted her contribution towards enhancing roads, parks and pavements during her previous tenure and attending ward meetings regularly. Unable to spare much time in answering questions, she vowed to ensure fulfillment of residents’ needs, if elected. She evaded replying directly to a question on the ward level budget/expense management by simply stating that it would be based on the overall BBMP budget allocation. A P Chandru of Richards Town Citizens Association (RTCA) refuted Marimuttu’s claims about accessibility to residents but her praised her ability to voice their concerns to the BBMP council, if necessary.
The discussion ended with Poovaiah and E T Ponnukuttan of RTCA thanking the participants and urging them to vote definitely and conscientiously. Remarking that that the candidates’ poor response did not surprise him, Poovaiah told Citizen Matters that Sagayapuram is a unique ward where residents across the socio-economic spectrum campaign for their rights and entitlements, jointly.
Details and Affidavits of Sagayapuram candidates.
Details of candidate, age, education and assets
1. Marimuthu, JD(S), 58, 4th Standard
Cash- Rs 2000, Gold-200 grams, Other income -450000 per year, Property value – 1, 20,00000, Bank loan – Rs 2800000
2. Muniswamy G, BJP, 69
Cash- Rs 55542, Gold-1030 grams, Property value- Rs 3578550.
3. Palaniammal V, INC, 39, 9th Standard
Gold-10 grams, Cash- Rs 50000
4. Kailasam, AIADMK, 61, 9th Standard
5. Amuda, 35, 8th, Standard
Gold 64 gram, Cash-25, 000, House value-Rs 2000000
6. K Ezhulumali, Independent, 49, 6th Standard
Cash – Rs 20, 000, House Value – Rs 1100000
7. V Ezhlumali, 34, 8th Standard
Cash- Rs 52000, Gold-100 grams, Vehicle-Hero Honda Splendor
8. S M Raju, BA, 54
Cash – Rs 5000, Gold-400 grams, Other Income- Rs 120000