Most ward committees filled with non-participating people: NBF

Namma Bengaluru Foundation has submitted its objections and suggestions to the Karnataka Municipal Corporations Draft Rules (Ward Committee). This was done after an extensive study undertaken by the foundation.

Despite the right of representations in the development of the local neighbourhood as guaranteed by the Community Participation Bill, true spirit of community participation has not been followed by the corporators.  The existing selection of the ward committee members is not democratic and involves selective nominations from the corporators. The concept of Ward Committee (WC) is a novel addition in examples of people-centric governance. The ward committee is intended to create a platform for citizen’s participation from below the municipal level, thus bringing the electorate closer to their representatives. Responding to the call for suggestions to the Karnataka Municipal Corporations (Ward Committee) draft rules, Namma Bengaluru Foundation( NBF) through its Govern Right, Govern Responsibly platform consisting of over 600 RWAs as Members has specifically suggested for the following inclusions:

  • Transparent selection process
  • Regular meetings to be held
  • Documentation of all meetings held and the need to make the decisions taken public

According to the High Court Order dated 8Jan 2013, BBMP was given instructions to create Ward Committee ward wise within 15 days.  While the HC order ensured ward committees were set up in all wards, the process of setting them up, the procedures followed thereafter and the basic functioning is questionable.

Lacunae in Ward Committee representation and functioning:

While the order states that the Ward Committees are to be set up democratically with proper community representation, the true story is way different. Speaking about the process of choosing a ward committee member, N S Ramakanth, a civic activist explains ‘The corporators pick and choose his trusted followers into the Ward Committee. These members have no background into civic issues nor are they public spirited individuals who would contribute to making the ward better. Such nominations defeat the whole purpose and will see no interest in bettering ward facilities’.

Outcomes of study conducted by NBF

  • The process adopted to select the Resident Associations of most of the ward committees were not participatory in the truest sense and hence this has led to a scenario where the resident association’s representatives cannot really claim to represent the concerns of the majority of the residents in that ward.
  • Many of the selected ward representatives had no background or a body of community/civic engagement related work that would be necessary to function as an effective representative of a Resident Association (RA) member as listed by the act.
  • The present representation consists of members from Temple Development Associations such as Muthlayamma Devasthana Trust (C V Raman Nagar Ward), Income Tax payers Association (Hampinagar Ward), Cable Operators Associations, Hombegowdanagar Ward, Caste based associations such as Veerashaiva Welfare Associations (Garudacharplaya ward), Company workers associations such as Peenya Industrial Area Workers Association (HMT Ward) and members from  Companies  such as Aprameya Packaging etc who have nothing to do with the actual representation of community work as specified in the Act.
  • The official website of BBMP mentions that no residents associations existed in certain wards, where as NBF has records of more than one registered RWAs in the same areas. As seen in the case of Gottigere Ward and Jeevanbhimanagar ward where Federation of RWAs in the Bannerghatta Road Neighbourhood (BANA) and LIC Colony RWAs function respectively.
  • While the ward committee is supposed to meet once every month, records show that the “One” Meeting happened only at the time of setting up the ward committee.

“No ward committee meeting has been conducted ever since the committee was formed. This dilutes any little functioning power that people like us have” confirms Sumathi Rao, an existing Ward Committee member from the Malleshwaram Swabhimana Initiative, chosen to be the representative of the Malleshwaram Ward. Agrees Usha Varma, Member Hormaavu Ward Committee too that no meeting happened in her ward either. 

NBF had written to all corporators and the BBMP Assistant Revenue Officers wide registered letters on July 15, 2013 and waited till date to get details on meetings conducted and procedures followed. Of the 198 Corporators, NBF has received a written reply only from the Corporator of Herohalli stating that there were 5 meeting conducted so far. He has also sent across reports of all the meetings conducted so far, a practice that all ward committees must follow.

BBMP offices of 5 wards have also replied to the NBF letter. While 3 have given reports of meetings conducted and procedures followed,  one of the BBMP ARO’s reply attributes reasons of not conducting ward committee meetings to the election code of conduct that was applicable for MLA elections held in the month of May 2013. It is over 4 months since the new government is in place, but the code of conduct still applies!!

GRGR Platform Recommendations on the Draft Rules of Ward Committees

Recently the Karnataka Municipal Corporations (Ward Committee) Rules were published seeking suggestions from citizens. In view of all the existing loopholes, the Namma Bengaluru Foundation through its Govern Right, Govern Responsibly Platform has drafted specific recommendations to the existing rules. They are as follows:

  • Transparent process should be followed for the selection of the Ward Committee members; their profile detailing the body of community work to be highlighted on the BBMP website, the same to be present with the corporator who has the power to select them.
    • Verify documents showcasing that the civic representative or resident association are actively engaged for the previous 3 years. Verify if the association is registered or not
    • Issue based experts need to represent the various Ward members
    • Meetings need to be conducted every month without fail as per the requirement of the act.  It should be minuted and videographed; timelines for decisions taken should be met. The minutes and video graph to be available to public.
    • Dissemination /availability of information about the decisions taken at ward committee meetings must be available in public domain.

There is dire need to follow the true spirit of community participation law in the city while the “civic representations” in the ward committees in many instances in lip sympathy and fails to address the concerns of their area… There is a clear need for ensuring “area sabhas” become a reality and ensure true “urban decentralization.” says Mahalakshmi Parthasarathy, Director, Namma Bengaluru Foundation.

This article has been published on Citizen Matters through Msg Forward – a service that allows citizens and organisations to issue announcements to the public. This content has been provided by Divya Unnikrishnan of Namma Bengaluru Foundation.

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