Reluctance to constitute panels
Even after two years of the new elected body coming to power in the BBMP, the ward committees have not been formed. The exercise to form the panels at ward level began only when the residents of Rajajinagar filed a public interest litigation and the Karnataka High Court rapped the BBMP for the delay.
The division bench comprising Justice Ashok B Hinchigeri and Justice K S Mudagal sought to know why there was a delay in the formation of the committees during the hearing of the matter on April 24. In turn, the BBMP filed an affidavit, saying that in one month it will form the committees.
Already, 12 days have lapsed, but the exercise is yet to gain momentum. In the BBMP Council meeting on April 27, Mayor G Padmavathi had asked all the corporators to form the ward committees in their respective wards.
According to sources in the BBMP, so far corporators of 26 wards out of 198 have responded to the call. They have sent the list of members of their respective ward committees to the BBMP Council. The same list will later be forwarded to the mayor and BBMP commissioner for approval.
The moot question is why are the corporators averse to the idea of ward committees. These ward committees will have access to the decisions taken in the standing committees, resolutions of the council, ward-wise budgetary allocations and details of ward-wise corporation properties.
In the monthly meetings at the ward level, these ward committee members will point out the problems in the wards, complain and give suggestions too. The secretary will have to maintain the minutes of the meeting.
In 2013, when the ward committees were constituted first, most of the members in almost all the wards were the friends and followers of corporators. They ensured that ordinary citizens demanding transparency in the functioning of the BBMP do not get into the committees.
Rajya Sabha member Rajeev Chandrasekhar says the BBMP delayed the formation of ward committees because these panels would bring in transparency and accountability in its functioning.
“The administration in Karnataka, including BBMP, does not want citizens to be empowered. They force citizens to approach the court seeking for basic rights. This is the reason that people had to approach the court seeking implementation of the ward committee regulations,” says Chandrasekhar.
Mahalakshmi Parthasarathi of Citizens’ Action Forum (CAF) says the formation of ward committees would bring procedural clarity in the functioning of BBMP, which the elected representatives do not want.
“In Bengaluru, officials and public representatives are scared of empowering citizens because the citizens’ groups are very active. Transparent functioning of BBMP would land the people in power in big trouble. This is the reason that ward committees were never encouraged,” says Mahalakshmi.
Vijayan Menon, a member of Koramangala RWA and CAF, suggests that mere formation of ward committees will not do. “There should be provision for anybody to attend the monthly ward committee meeting. These meetings should be recorded and minuted,” he says.