More positives: Ward committee members speak out

More positives: Ward committee members speak out

ara Krishnaswamy - Members of Citizens for Bengaluru demanded the BBMP officers to hold ward committee meetings regularly and involve the citizens also, along with the ward committee members at BBMP head office on Wednesday.

Since December 2018, over 60 wards have had their ward committees meet, giving a new direction to local governance. But two thirds of the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP)'s 198 wards are yet to kick off the process. DH did a reality check.

Ward committees have emerged as mediators between the civic agency and citizens. But awareness about these panels and how they function are still poor. For instance, many citizens and committee members are even unaware about when the meetings are held for the month.

Says a ward committee member from Shantinagar, R Purushottam: “The corporator chairs the meeting, so we receive a letter from his office informing us of the date and venue for the meetings. It might be any day in a month, not the first Saturday necessarily.”

Many residents welfare associations complain that although they represent citizens in a ward, they are not informed when and where a committee meeting will be held. “While officially it is fixed for the first Saturday of every month, we find that the corporator and the ward committee members too do not adhere to it,” notes M S Prabhu, member of Aicoboonagar Residents' Welfare Association in BTM Layout.

“This is an attempt to avoid and escape from any hard-hitting questions posed by the residents. The committee members too are called for the meetings selectively. The local corporator ensures the people who attend the ward committee meetings are only those who parrot away lines that claim there are no problems in the ward,” Prabhu adds.

BTM Layout ward committee member Krishnappa notes that the meetings had been keeping out residents of the locality. “We have been pressurising the corporator to ensure residents are involved while taking any decision related to the ward,” he points out.

However, Shantinagar ward committee member Mary says she was called by the ward office. The dates, time and venues of the meetings were informed well in advance.

On the ward budget and expenditure for works, most ward committee members are unanimous: None of them were informed about it. “We have no idea how much the Palike spends on our ward for works. We just watch them undertake various works required for the ward,” notes Purushottam.

Krishnappa feels it is the duty of the committee to raise such issues and pressurise the corporator and engineers to furnish such critical information.

Despite shortcomings in the committees, the members are, however, not disillusioned with their corporators. Says Mary, “The corporator ensured a new water line was provided in some places of Shantinagar that required better service. The drains are also being cleaned at present.”

Purushottam too had a few good words on garbage collection. “We see the pourakarmikas at work every morning, keeping the roads clean and clearing the waste.”

Krishnappa too did not see reasons for complaints. However, he had this to say: “Some members have been pressurising to get the roads cleared of encroachments by shop and hotel owners. The BBMP engineers generally seek police protection to go ahead with such clearance. They have said that they also have no authority to clear the shops.”

Resident Prabhu notes that many works in BTM Layout have been neglected. “We do not get a chance to mention anything about these as we are not called to the meetings,” he laments.

One silver-lining for the residents has been an improvement in accessibility the corporators, although there are exceptions. In Shantinagar, says a committee member, the corporator has been very open to receiving residents' grievances and resolving them.

But should accessibility of corporators be a question at all, when the local issues are to be tabled, discussed and sorted out in the ward committees? This, however, will gain in relevance only when a majority of the BBMP wards get real on ward committee meetings.