Ward committees bring democracy to your doorstep, and give you a say in the planning and management of local work. The Nagarpalika Act, 1992, a central law, made ward committees mandatory for large cities. But this was not implemented in Bengaluru for long. It took years of citizen campaigning for ward committees to be formed at all.
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More recently, the High Court judgement in a PIL by the NGO Environment Support Group, and public outcry, compelled the Bengaluru Mayor to issue a direction to compulsorily hold ward committee meetings on the first Saturday of every month. Following this, the BBMP Commissioner issued an circular on the same. As a result, since last December, ward committees meetings started to be held in the city.
The citizens’ group CfB (Citizens for Bengaluru) estimates that over 500 ward committee meetings have taken place in the city so far. At these meetings, issues such as garbage management, street lights, drainage, and illegal parking were dealt with. Here is an account of one such meeting in Shantinagar ward.
MPs and MLAs are hard to access, and until recently, corporators used to be as well. But at ward committee meetings, your local elected representatives have to present themselves, and their ongoing work, to you every month. People who previously felt helpless when dealing with waste management or potholes now have someone to hold accountable.
You can voice your concerns, help plan and oversee public works in your ward, and submit questions for discussion at the meetings. Just as Panchayat Samitis have brought about local governance in villages, ward committees can bring better local governance to cities.
Of course, we cannot expect changes overnight. While some wards like Jayanagar have active ward committees, some others have not had their first meeting yet! Though the Mayor had instructed corporators to hold meetings every month, there is no disincentive to those who don’t comply. The only thing that can get corporators to show up is citizen pressure, and the concern that they may not get voted into office again if they don’t perform.
Here is a video on how you can make a difference through ward committee meetings:
Here are some resources: