BBMP Corporators ‘support’ Ward Committees in their own way

"The High Court order questions our credibility and our commitment to resolve issues in the city” — so said Padmanabha Reddy, corporator of Ward 29 (Kacharakanahalli) at the special session of the BBMP Council on January 15th.  The agenda of the special session was to discuss the court directive ordering the government to form ward committees, and present the nominations to the ward committee to the Mayor.

Though Reddy started his speech by offering full support to the formation of the ward committees, he ended up questioning, “10 members per ward will make it 1980 ward committee members — how do you plan to manage the large numbers without proper bye-laws, rules and well defined roles and responsibilities for the ward committee”, Reddy said. “Without this, the committee thus formed may turn out be a ‘Naamkavaastha committee’’

<a id="ptestid" href="#" onclick="show_popup('popup1', 'ptestid', 'Functions of a ward committee', '13I. Functions of the Ward Committee.-
(1) The Ward Committee shall discharge the following functions,namely:-
(a) prepare and submit Ward Development Scheme to the corporation for allotment of funds;
(b) ensure proper utilization of the funds allotted under ward development scheme in the ward.
(c) approve the list of beneficiaries for beneficiary oriented schemes of the Corporation submitted by Area Sabhas falling under that ward;
(d) scrutinize list of ineligible beneficiaries submitted by the Area Sabhas and submit it to the Corporation;
(e) supervise all programmes and schemes being implemented by the Corporation in the ward;
(f) ensure timely collection of taxes, fees and other sums due to the Corporation;
(g) ensure water supply maintenance in the ward and finalize location of new public taps and public wells;
(h) ensure sewerage system maintenance in the ward;
(i) ensure proper solid waste management and sanitation work in the ward and finalize location of new public sanitation units;
(j) ensure maintenance of street lighting in the ward and finalize location of new street lights;
(k) ensure maintenance of parks, open spaces, greening of area in the ward;
(l) ensure afforestation, and implementation of rain water harvesting schemes;
(m) mobilize voluntary labour and donation by way of goods or money for implementation of Ward Development Scheme and various programmes and schemes of Corporation;
(n) inform the Corporation regarding any encroachment of land belonging to the Corporation;
(o) perform such other functions as may be assigned to it by the Corporation as per its bye-laws.
(2) The procedure to be adopted by the Ward Committee in the transaction of its business shall be as may be prescribed in the rules. ‘, 350);return false;”> What are the functions of a ward committee according to the KMC (Amendment) Act – click here to popup the points.

Corporator M.K. Gunashekar (Congress, Jayamahal ward) also raised some issues about the powers and functioning of the ward committees.While the ward committee’s role is defined, he was doubtful if it will have enough powers to effectively do its job. He was referring to the fact the devolution of responsibility to the municipality as per the 74th Constitutional Amendment has not been accompanied by transfer of revenue sources to support its autonomy. The BBMP is dependent on state government approval for changing tax rates or or introducing new charges.

Gunashekhar also pointed out the discrepancy in the act which had left out the nomination of a Backward caste (OBC) member in the committee. Fellow corporators from his party including K Chandrashekar (Hanumanthnagar ward) and Nagaraj M (Nandini Layout ward) were quick to add that the corporator could use his discretion to select a person (or more) from OBC.

The opposition parties, Congress and JDS used the opportunity to point out that it reflected poorly upon the commitment of the ruling government to be functioning under the directives of the HC on more than one occasion.

Gunashekar said, “We need a strong Ward Committees – therefore responsibilities, financial, executive and obligatory powers should devolve to the ward level.” With the Amendment Act coming into ruling in 2011, the Karnataka government did not make  any sort of commitment to bring it into force. “We should’ve discussed this and should have had all required bye-laws in place by now” he pointed out to the Mayor.

<a id="ptestid2" href="#" onclick="show_popup('popup2', 'ptestid2', 'Why 74th Amendment', 'Urban Decentralisation needs to empower ULBs with many more powers and functions to operate as independent levels of government.
Such increased autonomy also needs to be complemented by appropriate accountability. This accountability needs to be directly to the citizens themselves, rather than to another level of government. Hence, formal mechanisms for such citizen-centric accountability need to be created, along with reforms in urban decentralisation.
From the citizens’ perspective, there need to be more opportunities to participate in local governance at many levels: in budgeting, planning, land use and zoning issues, and so on. Creating this opportunity to participate also complements the accountability issue mentioned above.
A consistent mechanism for participation, planning and decentralisation across urban local governments will enables easier coordination at the regional planning level, through the District Planning Committees (DPC) and Metropolitan Planning Committees (MPC) that have been envisaged in the Constitution.
Strong accountability mechanisms are also required on financial and operational management of the ULBs: budgeting, audits, presentation of financial statements to the public, performance measurement indicators and so on. Here again, the primary focus of these instruments needs to be citizens and users of public services, rather than other levels of government: i.e. accountability outward to citizens, rather than inward within government.
Source: Draft Final IMPLEMENTATION OF THE 74th CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT: State Level Reform under JNNURM ‘, 350);return false;”> Why implementation of 74th Constitutional Amendment is required – click here to popup an explanation.

Corporator K Chandrashekar (Hanumanthnagar ward) warned the government, that BBMP will be unable to avail of central government grants if they failed to implement the 74th Amendment Act. “It’s mandatory and it will have implications if not brought into force at the earliest. We should not further delay this and ensure its formation as per the High Court’s ruling, before the 21st of January”.

M Nagaraj (BJP), the council’s ruling party floor leader, said that the government will carry out the HC order and that Ward Committees will be formed in all wards by Jan 21st. The special session resolved to gives its consent to the formation of Ward Committees as per the High Court order. The resolution also requested the state government to review the act to consider nomination of OBCs to the Ward Committee and the framing of rules for the Ward Committee and bring it to the notice of the High Court.

Who is in and who is not?

Citizen Matters spoke to a few corporators including B S Sathyanarayana (Basavanagudi ward), former BBMP opposition leader M Nagaraj (Nandini Layout ward), K Doddanna (Athiguppe ward) and Padmavathi Srinivas (Shakthi Ganapathi Nagar ward).

The standard reply to the question “What procedure did you follow to select the members in the list?”, was that the lists are prepared as per rules and that they select people with a background of social service – it has to be a well known person with some credibility.

"What do they mean by socia
l work?” asks an irate Madhu Sudhan, a BTM resident (ward 170). He says he called and messaged the corporator (Munisanjeevaiah) for an appointment to talk to him about the ward committee, but didn’t get any response. He complains, “I have done social work but my corporator is not even ready to listen to me.” Madhu Sudhan feels an RTI should be filed to verify the whether the nominees really have a social service background.

Munisanjeevaiah says he does not know Madhu Sudhan. He says, “I prefer meeting the person (face to face) . I do not read SMSes.” He said his list included party workers, the local Youth Congress president and some others nominated by local NGOs. He reiterated that only people with social work background are eligible.

Subramani Deshkulkarni, another WC aspirant, who presented a formal application in person to his corporator Anil Kumar (ward 143). In his application along with his credentials, he also mentioned the social work he had done within the ward and the reasons to be considered for the candidature. Deshkulkarni says his his corporator said he will consider the application however the selection will be done by his party workers, and the chances that Deshkulkarni will be a part of the EC is unlikely.

In an exception, in Bellandur ward, citizens were able to get into the ward commitee. The local federation Forward 150, nominated eight active residents, and submitted the list in a formal letter to Babu Reddy, Bellandur corporator. Reddy accepted four of the proposed names.

BBMP is to work with RWAs and NGOs and frame the byelaws for the ward committee functioning. It remains to be seen what the rules will be and whether this will truly lead to vibrant and active local citizen involvement.

About Shamala Kittane Subramanyan 24 Articles
Shamala Kittane is a freelance writer and avid cyclist.

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