Ward committees only in name, panels mostly yes-men

Ward committees only in name, panels mostly yes-men

Are ward committees, constituted after much prodding by the court, really meeting regularly, or do they exist just on paper? Conversations by DH has revealed big gaps in the system.

C M Subbaiah, president of the Kalyannagar Welfare Association, notes, “The idea of ward committee is good since it gives representation to people. But, even when meetings are held, attendance is very low. Besides, there is nepotism and favoritism. The corporator chooses those who will listen to him as members.”

Subbiah, who has been handling waste management and segregation in his area, notes that attending the committee meeting is not the issue. “You can go and be part of the meeting. But they do not announce when and where the meeting takes place in advance. The public should know,” he says.

Majeed Pasha, joint secretary of the Nagawara Residents Welfare Association says, “One member of our association is part of our ward committee, and he attended last month’s meeting. But not everyone knows who are the committee members. This is a disadvantage.”

Ward committees could achieve a lot if they function well. Pasha talks about the problems that could be fixed: “Our goal is to get a ground for waste segregation unit and another for children to play. A lot needs to be fixed, like we don’t have a Bangalore One office.”

Kathyayini Chamaraj, member of the Shantinagar Ward committee, explains the shortcomings in the pane’s working: “In spite of reminding them, no meeting has been called since February. The same thing is happening everywhere,” she says.

But she cites a positive move by the BBMP commissioner, who, following the court’s directive, issued a circular that all committee members must be trained. Civic, the organisation which Kathyayini represents, was tasked with the training.

She recalls, “Civic, along with zonal commissioners conducted training sessions in seven out of eight BBMP zones. But the attendance was very poor. Most of the councillors didn’t attend, and we had to cancel many sessions when there was absolutely no attendance.”

During the training, members were told that in case meetings were not held, letters had to be submitted with the secretary’s seal and signature that could be shown to the court. “But we have received none. It shows that many committee members are also apathetic. However, there were a few who would attend promptly. In one ward, we heard that the councilor had asked members not to attend the meeting,” says Kathyayini.

Rajendra Babu, president of a residents welfare association in Koramangala, has this to say: “I was a member of the committee last year. They are not conducting any meetings although the rules clearly state that they should be held regularly.”

Whether there is a committee or not, he feels the residents have to fend for themselves. “We are managing from our pockets. Last year during the rains our councilor didn’t turn up. We ran around and got things done.”

Madan Raj Perumal, an engineering manager and a concerned citizen, says he would encourage ward committees provided they are taken seriously as per the court orders. The roles and the responsibility of the members should be clearly defined. “This will make them more responsible. Councillor’s family and relatives as committee members will not help the ward but themselves,” notes Perumal.

For a globally connected city like Bengaluru, he says, the ward committee should set a benchmark, compare with other cities, think globally and have long-term plans. “But if the councillor is not serious, members would be making a fool of themselves. They would be simply atteding the meeting and doing nothing,” he cautions.

Perumal also suggests that there should be some sort of penalty, so that citizens are not taken for granted. “There should be more transparency in selecting the committee members. Members’ names and details should be properly displayed in a website so that they could be easily contacted by the common man.”