Think, suggest, object; It’s your Ward Committee after all!

At the beginning of the year, BBMP finally started the process of formation of ward committees (WC). But many WCs remained only on papers. High Court intervened again on 27 August and asked the government to finalise rules for the committee soon. The state Urban Development Department (UDD) has issued draft rules.

Environment Support Group (ESG), an NGO that has, for many years, campaigned to establish local government or ‘Nagar Palike,’ organised a discussion to suggest revisions to the draft rules formulated by the state government for the formation and functioning of WC. An open discussion was held on 4 September 2013 at Ashirwad, near St Mark’s Road, Bangalore.

Leo Saldanha, Co-ordinator and Trustee of ESG, said: “WC is here to stay, now the government can’t escape. It is the right time to decentralise government and increase accessibility.”

Prem Chandavarkar, an Architect, who had previously worked with Citizens Voluntary Initiative for the City (CIVIC), joined Saldhana in the discussion. He said: “A common man doesn’t know where to go to complain or even suggest any changes in his area. WC will fill this gap.”

Currently decision makers at the top level, hardly have an understanding of what is happening at the ground level. WC will take suggestions from the people, and put it forward to the government. This will ensure direct contact with the government.

Leo Saldanha, chairman of ESG, speaking in the Ward Committee draft rules discussion. Pic: Nikita Malusare

HC unhappy with govt approach to WC

The Parliament of India had passed the Constitution 74th Amendment (Nagarpalika) Act in 1992 to create Ward Committees and Gram Sabhas. However it was never implemented. The Karnataka Municipal Corporation Act 1976 (KMCA) Section 13 has provisions to form Ward Committees, but it remained only on paper.

After the garbage crisis that led to filing of series of public interest litigations at the High Court (HC), the then Chief Justice Vikramjit Sen recognised the need to segregate the waste at source and thus it was made mandatory last year. Later the HC realised that segregation at source is not possible without regular monitoring at ground level. Therefore, HC ruled on January 11, that BBMP form Ward Committees immediately.

However, absence of rules to govern Ward Committees has delayed the functioning of WC. The apathy of the government was brought to court’s notice during a hearing on 27 August 2013. This infuriated the HC which sent a final warning to the Principal Secretary of the Urban Development Department, P N Srinivasachary. The HC asked Srinivasachary to draft the rules soon and publish it on the website, and in the newspapers, and seek public opinion. The bench also directed the BBMP commissioner to push the state government to speed up the process for approval of the rules.

‘WC can address all the problems’

It seems the draft rules for the WC have been published in a hurry. They focus on rules mainly related to garbage issues.

The ESG discussion threw light on the 12th Schedule of the 74th amendment of Constitution of India that lists the below as the functional areas of urban local bodies:

  1. Urban Planning including town planning.
  2. Regulation of land use and construction of buildings.
  3. Planning for economic and social development.
  4. Roads and bridges.
  5. Water supply for domestic, industrial and commercial purposes.
  6. Public health, sanitation conservancy and solid waste management.
  7. Fire services.
  8. Urban forestry, protection of the environment and promotion of ecological aspects.
  9. Safeguarding the interests of weaker sections of society, including the handicapped and mentally retarded.
  10. Slum improvement and upgradation.
  11. Urban poverty alleviation.
  12. Promotion of cultural, educational and aesthetic aspects.

The system should be such that the Ward Committee can be held responsible for poor condition of roads to the unmanaged electrical wires dangling in various places.

The discussion had participation from members of the Resident Welfare Associations of the city, policy makers, architects, writers, and many WC members. Bhargavi Rao, Trustee of ESG drew attention of the audience to the various aspects that citizens can suggest to the government that will make the neighborhoods look better.

  • Tighten rules and make it compulsory for each and every household to harvest rainwater.
  • Ensure pothole-free roads.
  • Check if Storm Water Drains are well-maintained and remain free from encroachment.
  • Have a regular check on the building bye laws.
  • Promote safe streets in every ward.
  • Promote safe cycling tracks.
  • Awareness on disaster management.
  • Create an online presence that will encourage youth’s participation.

Drawbacks of Ward Committee draft rules

1) There no specific rules laid down in the draft rules for the appointment of the committee members. The termination of the Ward Committees depends on the term of councillors. If because of any reason, the councillors term terminates, WC will also be terminated.

2) The rules fail to address how will Ward Committee be accountable to the Area Sabhas and how will they interact with the government and other citizens.

3)  The drafted rules give powers to the Secretary of the committee to form agenda in consultation with the chairman. According to the rules, Secretary is a designated officer  appointed by the under Sub-Section 4 of section 13H of the act, while the chairman is none other than the councillor. But participants felt that citizens should be able to suggest or complain to the WC members and accordingly agenda of the meetings should be drafted and not vice versa.

Many other such suggestions were made at the discussion. Saldanha suggested everyone to put it in writing and submit it to the government.

Saldanha remarked that the Babus are unwilling to take the WC forward, as they are fully aware that it will hamper their interest. The same unwillingness has failed to notify people about hearing or to open an online submission.

Where do you send objections/ suggestions?

Anyone  who has ideas to make these WC more transparent and accountable can suggest / object to the Ward Committee rules. Send your suggestions or objections to Draft Rules for Karnataka Municipal Corporation (Ward Committee) Rules 2012 in written format, to Principal Secretary to Government, Department of Urban Development, Vikasa Soudha, Bangalore- 560001. You can post the suggestion, or give it personally.

Alternatively, you can also mail the suggestions to principalsecretary.udd@gmail.com. You can also take directions on mailing the suggestions, by calling 080-22035096. Last date for the submission, according to UDD officials, is 27 September, 2013.

What about Area Sabha?

The Constitutional 74th Amendment (Nagarpalika) Act also talks about formation of Gram Sabha or Area Sabha. The purview of WC spreads over an entire ward. Area Sabhas will narrow the purview and act like a Gram Panchayat in the rural areas, thus ensuring efficient, responsible, quality work from the government.

Currently, the draft rules doesn’t talk anything about Area sabha but Saldanha believes that once WC is formed Area Sabha will also get formes sooner or later.

Veto power heats the discussion

The points mentioned in Section 13 H clause 7 of the Karnataka Municipal Corporation Act (page 65) sparked a heated debate. The section says that “Decisions of the Ward Committee shall normally be taken by the majority of the nominated members of the Ward Committee: Provided that the Chairperson may exercise a ‘veto’ over any decision by giving reasons in writing. The decision of the Chairperson shall be final and binding.”

Nowhere does it state that the it can be challenged. “Since this veto power is already a part of the constitution, one cannot change it. At present we need to concentrate on rules,” says Saldanha.

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Ward Committee Rules give more power to citizens
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BBMP Corporators ‘support’ Ward Committees in their own way

About Nikita Malusare 109 Articles
Nikita Malusare is a Staff Journalist at Citizen Matters.

2 Comments

  1. Suggestions regarding Functions of Ward Committees and its Members
    by
    Vasanthkumar Mysoremath, Social Activist and Environmentalist
    Cell: 9845950440 – mail: vasanthmysoremath@gmail.com.
    sent to Environmental Support Group and to the Principal Secretary, UDD
    Ward Committees are welcome since they provide an opportunity for citizens to voice societal concerns and ensure bottom-up approach through participatory democracy.
    The gazette notification on Ward Committee formation and functions is skewed and cites garbage management as the main function for citizens participation and needs to be elaborated further for making the WCs take part in a manner that suites the inclusive growth of the wards, its occupants with the changing times and the city’s growth.
    The following suggestions are with reference to draft of Karnataka Municipal Corporation (Ward Committee) Rules 2013. and may be considered and included where necessary.
    1. Rain water harvesting – Government is the largest land holder in India. Whereas even 30X40 feet sites have been under RWH rules, why there is laxity in making RWH compulsory on existing vacant lands held by Govt? Ward Committees must survey their area, identify suitable government lands and propose RWH, however small it may be so that the runoff of rain water can be diverted to pits excavated with JCBs. Similarly, arid or semi-arid or waste lands with good gradients in rural areas can also be prepared with pits in a garland shape with connecting mini canals from top to bottom so that soil at upper reaches can have enough moisture for plants to grow. This kind of storage facility will enable percolation of some water for replenishing the diminishing ground water. Diverting SWD water harvesting with pits is a good proposition and has to be implemented through Ward Committees / Area Sabhas.

    2. Roads – There is an urgent need for changing the tendering process for road works. After the BBMP budget is passed in March/April, process of ward-wise identification of repairs/works of roads is undertaken in May/June and depending upon the condition of the road and taking into account the Corporators’ preference (vote bank politics), then allocation of funds takes place; depending upon the money allotted, tenders are called for in June/July; process of finalizing of tenders is completed by July end and work orders are issued (at the whim and fancy of the Corporator) by which time the rains would have started. Either the works are executed during the rains or there is a waiting period for rains to stop. Roads are destroyed by rains and life of citizens becomes miserable. Another clever method adopted is that the work orders are split and piece works are created and awarded to overcome financial power limits of various officers in the hierarchy. This paradoxical situation can be overcome by re-scheduling the tendering process to enable works to be executed during dry seasons say by February/April/May so that better roads that will withstand the rigors of sunshine and rain can be created. During road repairs and laying of tar and bitumen, Ward Committee members and volunteers from the wards must keep a watch to see that the thickness, heat of the mix and the camber are correct, also proper rolling is done at periodical intervals and rock powder is spread and final rolling is done. Citizens must get involved in social audit of works completed, check whether the tendered work has been completed in all respects and quality control checks and balances have been gone through before the bills of the contractors are paid and also by withholding a percentage of the money for performance guarantee in case of short comings because it is their money that is being spent. Another bad practice is that the road laying is done in the nights when no official will be present or in connivance with the officials. This must be strictly avoided and WC members must ensure this.

    3. Greening the city/saving the existing roadside trees: Crores of rupees are being spent by BBMP in the name of greening the cities in urban and by Municipalities in towns and village areas but without tangible results. Ward Committees must identify areas where area school children may be involved for Vanamahotsava and also for citizens participatory greening effort. Secondly, Ward Committees must also survey existing trees on roadsides and make arrangements for providing soak pits of 2 feet diameter as per the Indian Road Congress rules for percolation of rain water for better growth of trees. At present, there appears to be a cynical plan to choke the trees to death laying of slabs or while repairing roads by pouring hot tar mixed bitumen up to its base so that the tissues die and growth is stunted at the base and one fine day the tree will fall. There are various court orders on this subject. Ward Committee members must involve themselves, get volunteers and undertake shramadan to render yeomen service to these life giving green trees.

    4. Storm Water Drains: Removing silt and muck from the SWD bed, depositing the same on the footpath or road side for months without carting them away is a heinous way of ensuring that the silt gets back into the SWD and the work contracts continue to flourish and be exploited. This vicious circle has to be put an end to by Ward Committees members by supervising that the silt removed is carted away on the same day. The WC members must also inspect and ensure that the side drains leading to SWDs are not choked from street swept waste that is cleverly pushed into these inlets by the Poura Karmikas sweeping the streets.

    5. Efficient, accessible and effective public mobility: While agreeing with the suggestions, Members of Ward Committee located in Central Business District must ensure that the pedestrians have proper walkways/footpaths, road crossing facilities in terms of Indian Road Congress Rules. The Members must be in touch with Traffic Police to ensure safety from errant vehicle owners, etc. Such facilities must be friendly to people and disabled – examples of ill-conceived road crossing facilities at huge cost: Majestic circle and near Maharani College. These overhead pedestrian crossing infrastructures are a pain for people particularly elders, women and children and are totally under-utilised. Tragedy is, people on foot have to undergo these inconveniences whereas authorities bestow more attention for people who travel on roads in vehicles by providing smooth and comfy roads by even encroaching upon the foot paths. In some streets, underground pedestrian crossing/sub-way facilities are provided but are under-utilized/ misused by anti-social elements and for urinating/defecating by people or are occupied by hawkers. Providing escalators for peds to reach the height, crossover and come down to ground level, have to be demanded by WC members.

    6. Wasteful investment: (1) While on the subject of mobility, KSRTC/BMTC stand out due to their recalcitrant attitude towards prudent investment of JnNURM funds made available by Government of India. Karnataka is the only State that has drawn the entire tranche and utilized the same in the first phase of JnNURM funding between 2005-2012. A critical analysis of its investments of JnNURM funds reveal that this monolith public sector undertaking has totally neglected its vision and mission and commuters in providing economical, fast and sustainable public transport to majority of urban commuters. KSRTC had the distinction of being the only public transport company making profits until 2010 but subsequent years operational and investments have resulted in huge loss. Example: By introducing Volvos, Mercedes and other hi-end air conditioned buses that are not suitable for pot-holed bad roads in Bengaluru and other towns, it has stratified the commuting experience for ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’. These hi-end buses have been bleeding KSRTC/BMTC right from the day of their introduction. Except in a few routes where these buses are breaking even, most of the buses on inner city routes are running with hardly 8/10 people on an average. If only a survey had been conducted among travelling public, as to their future needs/ requirements, people would have clearly said ‘No’ to introduction of ultra-tech Volvo (cost: Rs.85 lakhs) and other hi-end buses and would have resoundingly voted for quick, efficient, clean and economic ordinary low floor buses (cost: Rs.20 lakhs) for their commuting experience. (Latest info from a Volvo Conductor on 7/8/2013 – B,

    (2) KSRTC/BMTC with a view to utilizing the JnNURM funds took upon itself the Real Estate route, constructed huge posh multi-storied Transit Travel Management Centers (TTMCs) in different parts of Bangalore and other towns under the guise of providing comfortable waiting lounges for people. KSRTC must have understood that people travel for reaching their work places and getting back as quickly as possible and not to picnic in such TTMCs and that buses run on ground and not on buildings. Most of these posh TTMC facilities were lying vacant for years and in a desperate bid, recently they have been rented out at low rents creating losses; paradoxically huge arrears of rents have piled up due to complacency in enforcing terms and conditions of lease/contract for recovery thus resulting in under collections; also KSRTC/BMTC will have to spend huge amounts for compulsory annual maintenances. These TTMCs have become high level carbon emitting centers thus creating a climate change around their area.

    (3) Bus shelters (hi-tech or ordinary) are being erected and maintained by BBMP on its own or through Public Private Participation. Here again public money is being squandered due to illogical erection and bad maintenance, particularly in extensions. Most of them are in pathetic condition and there are multiple bus shelters at one bus stop/bay – example: RC college bus stop on Race Course Road has 3 bus shelters side by side.

    (4) GPS/GIS enabled public address system in buses: Crores of rupees have been spent in enabling these gadgets in buses. Ninety per cent of these LED scrolling boards and voice enabled announcing facilities are not working and the staff of BMTC themselves are highly critical of this – so called facility. In Mysore City, GIS enabled large boards meant for informing the waiting commuters about the arrival of the next bus have been fixed in most dilapidated bus shelters and are non-operational right from the day they are placed. Example: Silk Factory Circle in Ashokpuram slum area.

    7. Building byelaws and Akrama/Sakrama: There is a cynical pattern behind this corrupt practice. After a building plan is sanctioned according to byelaws, the Engineering staff of a ward keep a close watch on construction activities of such buildings. They seldom perform their duty of spot inspection during construction activity and warning or advising the owner of any breach of the plan. Instead, after the owner has spent considerable money and cast the roof, these officials appear, conduct inspection, point out lapses in off-sets, encroachments etc., collect some illegal gratification and allow the owner to commit more illegal constructions. This vicious circle continues till Government proposes Akrama/Sakrama plan and by becoming a partner in such Akrama through collection of one time graded fines. There is an urgent need for Ward Committee members to keep a watch on the activities of these Engineering staff and also on citizens violating the bye laws and for ensuring city’s orderly growth.

    8. Disaster Management /Issue of Completion Reports for buildings. This is another grey area where despite committing serious breaches of building byelaws and other rules and regulations, like insufficient setbacks, non-provision of parking facility for vehicles of occupants, unauthorized excess floor area construction and exceeding heights of buildings, non-provision of fire-fighting equipment/smoke sensors/retardants, fire escape/exit outlets and water facility, completion reports (CRs) are issued by competent authorities in total violations of the laws. ( Ex: The Hindu dtd.8-9-13, pg.4 – report – In Frazer Town, Bangalore, a car caught fire in the basement of a 39 flats apartment complex and more than 150 people including elders, women and children had to be vacated through the smoke filled staircase in the absence of fire-exit facility). WC members must keep observing such violations in their wards, point out such acts of omissions and commissions by the citizens/ concerned officials and report the same to higher authorities without fear or favor. Solution: As and when building plans are sanctioned, particularly hi-rise buildings, copies must be sent to the Ward Committee and also to the Fire Control authority, for information. GPS/GIS enabled maps of a ward / area must be made available to WC, Police and Fire Stations of an area so that in case of disasters like fire, terrorism, etc, they can handle emergencies in a systematic way and also by cordoning off the area well before people can gather and create problem.

    9. Waste Management: Please find attached a .doc file containing Vision Statement 2020 on Solid Waste Management as Member of JnNURM Committee on SWM of Mysore City Corporation. The paper deals with all wastes management including e.waste and emphasis is on uneconomical transporting of SW in this era of galloping fossil fuel prices and how the finances of MCC would get eroded if worn out trucks are used just to dump its contents in the front yard of villagers on the outskirts of urban areas thus committing social injustice. A few components of this Paper are being implemented in stages.

    10. Environmental issues: ESG has already initiated commendable action with regard to protection, preservation and conservation of Lakes. My experience in schools/colleges environmental awareness programs has proved that the present day youth are not sufficiently sensitized about the degrading environment aspects, climate change, carbon emission and global warming of the world they are living in. Ward Committee members who are good as HRD Resource Persons on environmental issues may visit the schools/colleges in a ward, conduct workshops, take the students around the ward, make them study their surroundings, garbage dump spots, bad roads, clogged drains, flora, fauna, heritage sites and species of road side trees, draw a map of the street and document their presence so that it could serve as a data bank for the Ward Committees for future environmental programs planning, in addition to creating awareness among the youngsters about waste segregation and clean environment..

    11. .Livable Wards: Ward Committees of Central Business District areas have higher responsible roles to play to avoid various pollutions due to floating populations irresponsible attitude. WC members may study such areas and suggest to the town planning/BBMP/Police-Law and Order and Traffic authorities the possibility of creating pedestrians only areas to avoid air pollution through high level carbon emissions and green house gases with suspended particles and noise pollution from vehicles that just pass through such CBD areas in large numbers from either North to South or East to West and vice versa. Examples: Ananda Rao Circle to Mysore Bank Circle, Brigade road – MG Road junction to Rex theatre, Commercial Street stretch may be considered to be pedestrians only area between 9 AM and 9 PM. For helping the disabled / senior citizens and shoppers to carry their purchases, electric mini-vans may be made available up to their car parking area. Traders may use the roads for replenishing their wares between 9 PM and 9 AM and one time sweeping around 8 AM would keep the area clean and green. CCTV cameras may be used for monitoring littering people and fines collected. Ward Committee members may ensure necessary litter boxes at convenient places. Traffic Experts may make necessary plans for deviating the movement of vehicles by creating one-ways etc.

    Vasanthkumr Mysoremath – ESG 8 Sept.13

  2. Most of the time what happens in these ward committees are people who are selected as WC members is MLA, corporator who works only for their allies and priorities. Unless we have fair representation from the community against party background will never bring transparency and efficiency in their functioning.

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