URJA Editorial- July 2017

The Megalopolises of New York, London, Tokyo, Hong Kong, and others manage huge amounts of solid waste daily and effectively. In some cases the waste generation in these cities is much more than in Delhi.

Delhi fails in effective handling and disposal of all aspects of waste management. It fails in municipal solid waste management; it fails in C&D waste as well as electronic waste management.
A permanently staffed and educated state administration shows its lack of will & motivation to manage waste effectively, time and again

How it is, that Delhi is unable to manage its waste? Why such incapability in Delhi? How is it that other big cities of the world with high population density, multiple ethnicities, democratic discord, and large number of cars, people and limited boundaries have managed while Delhi administration is floundering?

Being totally unaccountable to the public the officialdom, safe & secure in their permanent jobs tends to ignore the task of daily administration. The attention in the media too is focused persistently on the odd statement of the elected representatives and the state functionary in the Government departments almost always gets away with impunity.

For years the citizens of Delhi were bombarded by that Government programme called ‘awareness campaigns’. From the safe environs of their offices the state administration ran programmes reminding people how littering and throwing garbage in public was bad. Even more programmes were run on lecturing about waste segregation. These programmes have had limited success and have passed their ‘use by’ date
‘Finding Sustainable Solutions’ is now the new mantra to keep the citizen guessing while filth collects around the Dhalaos and by lanes. After years of sustainable solutions being put out by various expert groups within and outside the government, after well known solutions that work everywhere have been proposed in India, and have been successfully implemented elsewhere, the State administration continues to rely on the excuse of looking for solutions to delay action on the ground.

This deliberate laziness, escapism and negligence on part of the Administration must be called out, pointed out and penalized. It is a pity that our judicial system has failed in providing compensation to the suffering tax payer. Without penalties imposed on officers for dereliction of duty, all residents get is to hear of yet another Committee being set up to deal with Civic Malfunctions . We go round and round in circles and the city residents suffer

The Media too has mostly kept its focus on the sensational and political aspects of waste and has ignored the abject bureaucratic apathy, and inefficiency on part of the state administration

Public spirited citizens must get this. They must raise their voice to protest this delaying tactic and escape route in the garb of awareness programmes and solution finding meetings being carried out by the administration.
There is much corruption in the business of waste and entrenched vested interests do not allow change easily. The pre existing economic model for waste has run its course and new economic models which are fairly well known must be made a part of the reform process

Citizens must turn their focus on the State administration and call its officers to account. Law enforcement on the public and making officers accountable for the failure to implement the SWM 2016 rules should be our demand. That would be the most effective awareness programme as well as the solution.

 Ashutosh Dikshit

CEO

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Hindus, Deluded by their own rituals

अन्धं तमः प्रविशन्ति ये अविद्दामुपासते

ततो भूय इव ते तमो य उ विद्दायां रताः

 andham tamah pravishanti  ye ‘avidyam upasate

tato bhuya iva te tamoya u vidyayam rataha

 Into blinding darkness proceed those who are attached to ignorance (darkness- heedless, lost pursuing materialism)

Into greater darkness, as it were, sink those who are wrapped up, steeped in and revel in ‘knowledge’ (ritualistic letter of the Vedas/repetitive spiritual process/activity/rituals)

 –The Isha Upanishad

This confusing verse appearing in the Isa Upanishad is a riddle. How can absorption in knowledge be seen as worse than absorption in wealth? Has it not been the case of wisdom literature to prefer spiritualism to materialism? This is a question the student of Vedanta may raise.

Knowledge; is an amalgamation of seeking, learning, rationale, disciplined practice and experience coming together in the form of wisdom or intuitive understanding. But individually none of these constituents by themselves, amount to knowledge.

Therefore revelling in any one aspect assuming it to be knowledge is misguided.

Many Hindus today see the religion as a mere collection of rituals which have to be intensified in their visual, public and volume form to achieve material or spiritual benefit. This verse states that ‘reveling’ in knowledge is worse than material pursuit. Indeed this is so. It is easy to see that our attachment to a car is less abiding than our attachment to a loved one, which is less abiding than our attachment to an avowed principle or ideology.  It is easy to deduce that greater the attachment, lesser the chance of our being able to operate objectively

It is difficult for a human being to be freed from attachment altogether and it is therefore important that that one examines with care what one is attached to.

Hindus have been a ritualistic people.  They still are. Despite warnings by their primary philosophical texts- The Upaniads, the indulgence of people in rituals and superstition has been endemic. The Bhagvadgita too, points to this disease (Ch 2- 42, 43)

The highest tenets and philosophical underpinnings of the Upanishads and the brahm sutras have been ignored while other dated rituals have been cast in stone by ritualistic Hindus. This behaviour has worsened in the light of pop nirvana made possible by larger disposable incomes. More education has curiously led Hindus to sink more than ever before into rituals, superstition, fortunetelling and wasting their precious time and money in unfocussed ritualistic activity.

This attachment to religious rituals as a panacea for ills or as a path to acquisition of more wealth is dangerous because it leads to failure in achieving the very objectives that the practitioner sets out to achieve. He will certainly fail and will sink deeper into a world misapprehended by a distorted mind. Human potential is realised by progressing from the gross to the subtle. This noisy and garish public display of rituals is just the reverse. If at all this is culture, instead of deepening its significance we are magnifying its meaninglessness.

Blindly following rituals brings neither fame, nor wealth nor Moksha.  Personal growth requires a keen intellect and a sharp mind and a commitment to a higher ideal.  A ritual can serve as a regular reminder of an objective but is useless in the absence of an objective.  Ritually numbing the individual mind and intellect with noise and high intensity optics is nothing but a waste of time, resources and mental ability. The Bhagvadgita insists that human beings employ their intellect (Buddhi) to move from knowledge (information/empirical) to wisdom (applied, intuitive). In other words, use sight and tuition, to arrive at insight and intuition. (Chapter 8 – Jnanavijnana yoga)

A brief examination of incessant whatsapp messages, social media posts, and nonsensical TV programmes highlighting silly folklore pulled out of discredited or non – existent ‘ancient’ documents is keeping people’s minds occupied without any sensible purposes in mind. Concocted occult practices are advised on social media on a daily basis and an aspiration filled people are not applying reason or logic and instead allowing them self to be led by the nose into wasting their time and money. What is worse they are wasting their own true potential.

This is a culmination of what has been building up for some time and over the years Hindus have become extremely noisy and disruptive in public space. Not a month passes without a mass and hysterical display of religion and not a day passes without some local noise filled religious function.

For days on end kanwarias disrupt the highway.  Every year, hordes of people on foot, cycles, motorbikes & loaded on trucks, play loud music, go rampaging across the countryside and make trouble for fellow citizens and travellers. Fetching Gangajal is only an excuse for this raucous jamboree.

While no one can argue with the right to be privately superstitious, a heedless public display through the entire year is a tamasha of visarjans, jagratas , mata ki chowki , chatt puja , holi, diwali, dahi handi , and whatever other noisy public expression one can find of in an ‘in your face’ display of mass ritualistic behaviour

Scores of other festivals have delirious crowds blocking traffic, sullying the rivers, bursting crackers, making noise till late night and screaming on loudspeakers forcing the unwilling to suffer this idiotic and medieval behaviour.

A vast majority of people believe this indulgence in rituals to be a spiritual activity or dharma. This notion is misguided and silly. There is nothing spiritual about superstition, noise and sullying the neighbourhood and destroying hundreds of productive hours in noisy public rituals. All religions define the spiritual quest as one meant to seek out the truth. That journey cannot begin with or be sustained by andhavishwasa

The argument that Hindus are a religious people and therefore this behavior should be found acceptable is the height of laziness. This is not religion. This is voodoo culture & zombie-ism.  This behavior must be challenged for the sake of religion.

Rituals are meant to set the stage, to establish a state of mind and collect mental energy and focus it towards a higher goal, a nobler ideal and objective. The ritual is a means to an end. It is not an end in itself.

The Bhagvad Gita’s doctrine of committing oneself to performing obligatory duties and choosing a higher ideal is very useful. Hindus can use rituals, even create new ones or discard the old ones and commit themselves on religious occasions to their personal growth, their environment, seek education, follow the rule of law, be sensitive to public health and hygiene. These are all noble goals that Hindus must commit themselves to, and act dynamically to achieve, in a spirit of sacrifice towards a higher ideal. Even if the goal is unalloyed personal gain, then too, the ritual can only play a limited role and the aspirant has to commit himself to proper action directed towards a pure material goal (Bhagvadgita Ch-8)

Each festival can be converted to a larger human purpose in actuality and not merely symbolically. It is then that Hindus will live up to the tenets enshrined in their highest spiritual texts.

Lao Tsu the famous Chinese Philosopher once said that ‘If you do not change direction, you will end up where you are headed’.  If Hindus do not consider this seriously they will become a populous community of the pompous. They will be treated casually & with disrespect, and the phrase ‘Proud to be a Hindu’ would have no meaning even among the faithful.

Ashutosh Dikshit 2015

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URJA Editorial- June 2017

Heedless Politicking is disenfranchising the citizen

In late 2012, some citizens in the Alaknanda, GK2, CR Park area of Delhi began to ask questions about DDA’s sanction of a Huge Mall in the middle of SFS flats. Un serviced by any major road and in the immediate vicinity of schools this project on community Centre land was clearly an ill-conceived project which would be detrimental to the quality of life and environment of the community

No sooner had the questions begun the citizens who had raised concerns began to be branded as belonging to this political party or the other. This attack came from sundry local level political activists and other vested interests associated with the politicians of the area. Since the group of citizens were professionals and had done their homework they were able to counter petty political attacks with facts and since they were a group of committed individuals they did not back down
However, standing up to political noise is not easy and not everybody has the mettle for it.

We often notice that in local area and municipal wards or assembly constituency any genuine concern or questions raised by a citizen is quickly branded as proxy questioning from one political party or the other. Apart from the general complaint on garbage and roads any question regarding policy, projects or quality of work produced by the authorities is quickly branded as political questioning.

The RWA, actively engaged in keeping an eye as well as assisting last mile too are concerned with this. Raising genuine concerns of the residents persistently often invites attacks from local political elements as well as some politicized residents.

This phenomenon is not new and worries the ordinary citizen about being falsely identified with a political party, thereby scaring him from raising genuine questions. This is problematic as it helps the corrupt and the inefficient within the system to get away with substandard work. Questioning a policy of the Municipal corporation, State Government or the Centre invites attack and accusations from the political party which heads the respective administration and results in abject failure of the policy when it reaches implementation stage. It breeds corruption as only a few people benefit from the contractor-official-politician nexus in projects that follow.

We all see the mindless, petty, and noisy announcements & protests daily by political parties. Opposition for the sake of opposing & creating a daily flutter for themselves and TRPs for channels is of little use for the citizen who finds herself in the same situation watching the daily antics of political activists and their cohorts.

Political parties do not always work in the interest of the people. They work in the Party’s interest by appropriating Government power through election by the people. Once in charge they resist any sort of questioning that may open them to questioning.

The Citizen as well as RWA executives, must not be browbeaten by the slants and petty pricking done by local political activists and their associates within the colonies.
This is not to say that the government must listen to every protest and objection. That would bring the administration to a stop.

The Citizen and the RWA should not be concerned much about motivated political activists accusing them. The citizen & RWA have a right to ask questions of the government and ask questions we will. An inquiry about the intention, policy, and quality of execution of public work is not an accusation. It is a question and Govts must answer the questions.

The RWA and citizens’ groups must repeatedly ask of their government. it is not only their right, it is also their duty

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URJA Editorial -May 2017

Monday the 5th June 2017, is world Environment day. On this day several government, public & private entities will hold events, ceremonies, campaign launches and media briefs to repeat the problems faced by Delhi as the most polluted city in the world. It will likely pass of as just another day of tokenism about the environment.

Delhi is enveloped by the foulest air on the planet, the river Yamuna is dangerously polluted with chemical and biological toxic agents, the rivers flood plains are ravaged, the city’s water bodies have dried or are overflowing with Debris and other such calamitous warnings are fairly regular in the media and from environmentalists.

Delhi has the highest GDP among all cities in India as well as the highest per capita Income in the country. The most polluted city in the country is economically doing well but the money earned by its residents and taxes earned by the Government are being wasted as Delhi has the highest number of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and asthma cases that are rising steadily with specially amongst infants, the elderly & pregnant women.

The scale of this problem is so huge that nothing less than the Central government needs to step in with urgency to deal with this emergency. The Centre has rightly notified the graded a response action plan wherein the Min. of Environment and Forest has notified that….’Whereas high level of air pollution in Delhi and National Capital Region of Delhi has been a matter of serious concern and requires urgent measures to address the issue, particularly with reference to episodic rises in pollution levels;…

However, even though the average AQI for the two years starting from January 2015 to December 2016 has fluctuated between Very Poor, Poor and Moderate categories of pollution the notification by the center is not being acted upon

URJA maintains that pollution is a governance issue and its rising levels indicate nothing but poor Governance. Garbage, choked drains, foul air and toxic river are markers of bad governance.

To get an understanding of the situation please read this excerpt from the latest Praja report on civic services in Delhi (@praja.org)

‘The total number of complaints in the last three years for ‘Sewerage’ related complaints were 17,284 but only two issues were raised by Councillors (2014, 2015 and 2016) and two by MLAs on it (2015 and 2016).’ & ‘during April 2015 to March 2016 the BJP has raised only one issue on environment/pollution, although the topic was mentioned in its manifesto. This is particularly worrisome as Delhi has been grappling with record-breaking air pollution in the recent past. ….’

If the representatives of the people are not raising the concerns and hazards faced by residents and are neither bringing up the failure of what was promised in their manifestos, then something is very seriously wrong!

The Deliberative wing of the Municipal Corporations & the Delhi Assembly is where the people elected by us are meant to ask questions and implement corrective measures.  If the chief concerns of the citizens are not even being raised there it shows an abject failure of representative democracy.

The Delhi Clean Air Forum in its second phase (DCAF2), set up by URJA last year, intends to address this issue.  Beginning with its first meeting in the India International Centre it extended the program outreach to Schools starting with a detailed presentation to the Students of Sanskriti School, Delhi.

Now the DCAF2 is likely to be attended by all major educational and religious institutes, MLA, MLC, Zonal sanitary in charge, environment & youth groups, key RWAs, MTAs and their important members and representative of Delhi Police.  Beside these, DCAF2 will also witness a large number corporates actively working with urban communities.

It must also be said that, the political class has also voiced its frustration with Delhi’s citizenry. That too must be put on record. The elected leaders feel helpless against the public indiscipline, habitual law breaking, littering, rampant public urination, spitting and encroachment on public lands/footpath etc. Even posh colonies of South Delhi have so called educated residents throwing household waste and garbage filled in poly bags into their back lanes. . Restaurants discharge untreated grease and kitchen waste into sewers in some top South Delhi markets placed within residential area and community centers. Construction & renovation leaves dust flying all around and Malba dumped in public places.

Privately URJA has been told by political representatives that, given many political parties and therefore a variety of political choices available with a large percentage of voters they simply cannot risk annoying even a small section of the citizens. This simply results in leaving residential areas to their own devices with no elected leader taking any decisive stand and only making pleasing promises.

This will not do! We urge the RWA, NGOs and citizen’s groups to declare that sullying our neighbourhood will simply not do and people indulging in such activity will be named and shamed or reported to authorities. On their part, the authorities must act decisively with the full force of the law to punish/penalize law breakers if any improvement in Delhi’s deplorable and critical state of affairs is to be expected.

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URJA Editorial-April 2017

This edition of the newsletter was delayed as we waited for the results of Municipal elections in Delhi

The BJP, through its strategy of shedding the baggage of bad governance by shedding its own sitting councillors, and inducting a fresh batch of candidates to contest, has paid off electorally. The AAP, which comes a distant second has clearly been subjected to public displeasure. The congress which tried very hard failed to get much public support as the public see it as a party of dated ideas and uninspiring leadership.

The question we ask in URJA is; Does this change anything at all?

The AAP is still in Power as the State Government in Delhi and the BJP is back in the Municipal Corporation which is no different from the situation prior to these elections

It has been called a referendum on the Chief Minister’s performance in Delhi. Does it mean, by the same yardstick that it is a referendum on the MCDs performance as well? Surely the latter cannot be true.

But was this a vote on Delhi’s festering issues at all? Perhaps not. It was a vote on choosing between the leadership style of the Prime Minister & That of Delhi’s Chief Minister. Since there is a stark difference in both leadership styles, it was only natural that the public would be sharply divided in making their choices.

What should be said at this point is that the people of Delhi are failing to see that merely replacing one elected by another will not change things.  Good governance in Delhi has little to do with democratic representation anymore. Delhi suffers from excessive politics. It is full of elected representatives, political players, party activists and several other political creatures who harm Governance more than they can help. Delhi requires a smart and accountable administration. Delhi has a Master Plan, the MPD 2021, it is a statutory document, which is meant to be used as a road map for the city’s development. Delhi’s RWAs should push for its implementation and question the different departments if they have failed in implementing the provisions of MPD20121. The National vector Borne disease control Programme(NVBDCP) has a policy for fighting Dengue & Chikungunya. Fogging is not really recommended for fighting this Scourge. The RWa Instead of running to their Councillors for the annual drama of fogging to mislead the people, should instead put pressure on the Lt. Governor and the Municipal health officers responsible for this.

Delhi’s problems are vast and the administrative mechanisms inadequate. The state administration is conservative and mired in red tape. However, Delhi has an advantage. Being the country’s capital it also has some of the topmost experts in the field of technology, waste management, urban planning, environment, policing & security, and other disciplines that Delhi so desperately needs inputs from. Delhi also as an interested citizenry which is politically aware and socially active

We urge the new Municipal leadership as well as the Municipal and state Bureaucracy to be open to building collaborative mechanisms with Resident Welfare Associations(RWA), expert groups and other citizens’ collectives to work together to Renew Delhi.

A young lot of corporators has come into the municipal corporation and we hope that the state leadership of the BJP will be able to direct their energies positively and not let them get jaded and cynical as has often been the case in the past.

 

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URJA Editorial March 2017

The Municipal elections are due soon. Once again, after 5 years the task of electing the 272 municipal councillors will take place. The councillors represent the public of Delhi to the Municipal corporation in local issues such as parks, garbage and solid municipal waste management, internal roads, StreetSide hawking, Primary health care & education, and parking as well as sanction of building plans

The Municipal Corporators form the bed rock of representative democracy in the city and it can be easily said that the status of a municipal ward is significantly impacted by the Municipal councillor. Over the years much has been said about corruption etc., yet at the local level corruption does not seem to matter much. Corruption is very much a daily part of life in India and citizens themselves are participants in it in varying degree thereby making it a less important issue as compared to getting the Municipal Officers to work.

The public is concerned with efficiency and delivery of services and how they can go about their lives and pay their taxes, educate their children, and earn a living without broken roads and footpaths, overflowing garbage, inadequate lighting, dirty parks, the annual scourge of dengue and chikungunya and other such local issues which no political party has been able to resolve and get the officers in the various departments to deliver.

There is no data available with the public that can verify to it if any promises made by all political parties were fulfilled even minimally. However, RWAs have long memories and remember the promises made by parties in their last manifesto.

URJA has written to the election commission more than once that;

‘To begin with, we urge you to consider adding a column where a candidate who contests an election more than once, files an affidavit with the commission declaring the extent to which the promises made by him through his party manifesto in the past were fulfilled and provide ‘sufficient’ and ‘verifiable’ data to the commission to buttress his claim.’

So far, the election commission has not acted on our request but we shall continue to push for this.

We also have data* through RTI which shows us clearly that the questions raised by Municipal councillors in the house were very often not about the local grievances recorded by the Municipal corporations

The RWAs must make it a point to be more aware of facts and data and should duly bring it up with the councillors as well as candidates

The practice of carrying forward LAD funds from one year to the next and adding cumulatively has been used to deprive citizens of tax payer’s money allocated for regular use. We hope the voter will question this practice

The sudden spate of internal road work, multi Gym and park development that is taking place close to elections begs the question. What were the officers in the Govt. departments doing for the whole year? Why were citizens and voters deprived of these facilities throughout the year? How is the coming monsoon going to different for mosquito breeding? How can we ensure Government officers do their job?

At this point, most RWA as well as citizens are left wondering; what are permanently commissioned officers in pensionable jobs doing in their offices?

 

* Source- Praja.org

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URJA Editorial February 2017

Focus on Implementing Policies rather than creating new ones

The Master Plan, MPD 2021 for Delhi projects a population of 23 Million (2.3 Crores) inhabitants by 2021. The World Health organisation(WHO) estimates Delhi having already reached a population of 25 Million. This is more than a 100% increase or more than double the population of Delhi in 1990.

As per 2011 Census of Government. Of India, Delhi Population stood at 17 Million (1.7 Crores) in 2011

The Area of Delhi is static at 1483Sq. Km.

The Population density, one of the highest in the world is at about 12,000 /Sq. Km

With East Delhi reaching 30,000/Sq. Km

These are humungous figures whichever source one chooses to believe and are straining the public services on roads, public land, health services, air and water quality, waste disposal, and education to their current limits. We have been unable to shore up municipal revenue, unable to deal with mismanagement of parking, footpaths, road hawking, encroachment on public land and other such challenges of the urban crisis in Delhi.

The Master plan for Delhi and many other policies made by the authorities such as Transit Oriented Development, Parking Management & Pricing policies created by UTTIPEC exist and it is not for us to quibble with them unnecessarily as these are policies made after much deliberation between experts, political executive and officers and are aligned with international best practices as well.

 However, it is evident that the optimum implementation and delivery of these policies has failed. The government does not have the wherewithal, even if it has the intention, to deliver

There is a lack of seriousness and reticence in implementing policies which are in place. The absence of the Government of Delhi from implementation and enforcement is creating serious problems for the city. Failure of implementation is being read as failure of policy itself

  1. The general belief of an inefficient bureaucracy is getting increasingly solidified
  2. The writ of the ‘State’ is being eroded leading to public indiscipline
  3. A natural disaster in Delhi can have terrifying implications

The problem is serious and ignoring such issues have implications of a ‘tipping point’ phenomenon where unbeknownst to us a series of consequences suddenly manifest at the same time leading to an unmanageable situation. We urge the GNCTD as well as the Central Government. to be mindful of this.

URJA has for long advocated a process driven Structured Consultation Mechanism which includes the Local Elected Representative, The Civic Authorities & The RWA. While it is true that local politicians do separately and privately consult their party workers, and a few RWA, there is no process for a structured consultation mechanism. We also advocate training for citizens as well as school going children in disaster response as well as training & protocol to help accident victims

The word ‘consultation’ need not scare the elected representatives and the government. We are clear that the ‘decision’ must be taken by those statutorily empowered or obliged to. Administrative decisions must be taken, only by the Government.  However, a structured process of communication and conversation is a very important tool in keeping a transparent & official record of community inputs. A well-structured and recordable consultation and participation process allows for a sense of community responsibility and ownership of civic works, and reduces resistance that often stems from an inbuilt suspicion of the officialdom & political class. The recent agitation by the traders of Connaught Place on the Vehicle Free Plan of NDMC could easily have been avoided had the Council followed a proper & transparent consultation.

This is not some newfangled idea. Structured and recordable consultative processes are practiced in Europe and the United States as well as African countries. These models are available and have worked for long. The 74th Constitutional amendment also speaks of them in its letter and spirit. For some reason our Governments have kept Delhi’s citizen away from the benefits and ease of governance that naturally follows from such mechanisms.

URJA hopes that the time and the atmosphere is right for our Lt. Governor and our Chief Minister to take note and act on this.

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URJA Editorial January 2017

We wish you a very happy & prosperous new year.
Many older citizen’s reminiscence with nostalgia the glorious days of the full UT of Delhi. Unfortunately, such memories serve no useful purpose. Delhi is a mixed bag that can either become a fine example of how National Capital territory ought to be Governed or it can slide into become becoming an example of how a city can be destroyed.
We are inclined however, to see the glass as half full. At the level of local neighbourhoods, Resident Welfare Associations(RWA), Market Trader Associations(MTA), Citizens’ collectives and several other community groups start the day with much enthusiasm.

There is something about voluntary groups that has a unique energy.
We observe that political change at the helm of Urban administration in big cities has not had much impact in changing the quality of Governance and most citizens have reluctantly come to accept the fact that the enforcement of the rule of law, effective implementation of policies and rules are somewhat alien to our model of Governance and officials will leave people to their own devices till a crisis erupts. The role of the RWA and community groups therefore becomes paramount in such a situation.
Resident welfare Associations remain the most effective and viable bridge between residents and the political representative/ the bureaucracy. For the last decade URJA and our RWA network has demanded laws to regulate as well as empower the RWA to ensure better delivery of services and redressing grievances.
URJA has connected experts and welfare associations and bought them together to address the disconnect between expert formulations and the reality at the electoral booth level. This has been a very useful experience. Our programmes on connecting premier research organisations and think tanks with RWA and local Politicians across Delhi has helped us understand the fault lines and imagine solutions. Urban Planning, Traffic Management, Air Pollution, water harvesting and recycling, Solar Power and Data analysis are disciplines where we have assisted as well as connected institutions with the RWA and Citizens Collectives.
URJA has been asking for a process of a structured, recordable, and regular consultation mechanism to streamline last mile governance. The Ward Committee comprising of the RWA, MTA, Political representatives and officers is an effective first step that should be taken in this direction. Ward committee in each Municipal ward is a sure shot way of immediate transparency and accountability in local administration. The Political class is wary of such initiatives but we are convinced that this must be done and political parties in Delhi must come around and accept it
The National Capital Territory of Delhi has a new Lt Governor. He comes with a lot of administrative experience and knowledge of Delhi. It is hoped that the New Lt. governor as well as the incumbent Chief Minister will work together to tackle urgent and impending issues. URJA will extend its cooperation wherever needed through our members spread across the 272 Municipal wards in Delhi.
We urge the residents of Delhi to involve themselves more proactively in the health of their neighbourhood. If you have a complaint with civic services immediately complain in writing to the concerned department. This is very important. Do involve yourself with your RWA and other social groups to help tackle problems of parking inside colonies, step out and chat with your neighbour, prevent burning of waste and push for segregating and composting, Help and support the young with sports and free play in neighbourhood parks, support community solar power projects and refrain from patronizing illegal commercial enterprises.
For those who want to extend themselves for their neighbourhood there is never a dull moment.
May 2017 bring you Joy.

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RWA should be cautious on the Manifestos of Political Parties for MCD 2017

RWA should be cautious on the Manifestos of Political Parties for MCD 2017

Once again Political parties are out with their manifesto and each section of society offered one thing on the other is examining them with mixed hope and cynicism. Some of these promises simply would not be actioned off as there are no laws to support them.

RWA have on various occasions demanded more accountability from the Officers of the Corporation as well as an increased share of RWA participation in local area decision making. Equally every manifesto before elections, makes it a point to placate the RWA in some way through adding one or two points directed to them.

Let us have a look at some of the points raised by the Major parties(in alphabetical order)

The AAP manifesto promises that payments to contractors will be made after verification by RWA. Such promises have been made before

The AAP says it will consult and take approval of RWA regularly on how councillor funds are to be spent. However, AAP has not done the same with their MLAs. Broadly most elected representatives seek public opinion quietly on what most people want. Seeking popularity is for them the natural thing to do. Getting approval is however, a clever usage of words. Further, This contention would be believable and made sense had they been doing the same with their own MLAs. The other contention that payment would be made after approval of RWA may sound exciting but is unlikely to pass muster. A move like this requires statutory backing, the absence of which will make it a nonstarter.

The BJP has said that monthly meetings with Municipal councillors, Officials & RWA will be held. Beyond that the manifesto offers little and the Councillors meet with RWA regularly Anyway. The BJP had set up ward committees in the erstwhile undivided MCD much to the chagrin of their own Councillors. Subsequently all they have made, is empty promises on RWA participation. Were they to restart the Resident ward committee(RWC) it would be worth congratulating, but from all accounts the centralized nature of BJP’s Governance model seems to militate against this expectation.

The INC has a more detailed Manifesto as compared to other parties. They promise a return of Bhagidari and empowerment of RWA in collecting revenue from parking. While the original Bhagidari was propelled through the then CMs office, this would be a reduced initiative in comparison given the limits imposed on the Municipal corporation.

The Car parking initiative can be path breaking of course, and can be possible through PPP schemes or revenue sharing.

No manifesto mentions anything of the accountability of the officers in the MCD nor does it mention any compensation to the tax payer on deficiency of civic services.

It would not be out of place to mention that URJA has written twice to the Election commission of India on the issue of Political Party Candidate being held to account for promises made in their manifesto and the Hon’ble Supreme court to has made observations on the same.

All said, URJA suggests, that the RWA and their different federations proceed with caution on taking the self-congratulatory path early in the day

That said, URJA will make it a point, to pursue with, whichever party wins, on the promises made to the people of Delhi.

 

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Walking in the Park is not just that simple

The colony park is a very important place. Large parks have a walking track and I go there for a walk in the evening. Sometimes I am accosted by Seniors who love arguments and politics. That is the easy part.

Sometimes one gets tangled with things more difficult than politics.

Here is a sampler. Accents have been neutralized.

Names have been changed, to save my own skin.

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  1. I am walking one evening and Mrs. Chakraborty stops me as a I overtake her after carefully juggling from left to right…..

Me: ‘Good Evening Mam’

Mrs. Chakraborty: ‘Nomoskaar, how is your mother?’

She stops. I stop too.

Me: ‘She is fine mam’

MC: ‘why is she not coming out to walk, is she ok?’

Me: ‘Yes mam, thank you she is Ok, she has been busy’

MC: ‘I asked you about her last time also, did you tell her ?’

Me: ‘No Mam’, I responded, somewhat tentatively, my robustness turning into a cringe. ‘You asked me how she was and I said she was fine.’

By now I am getting the sense that I have done something wrong….

MC: ‘But you should have told her I was asking’

Me: Looking apologetic; ‘Mam, you didn’t say you wanted me to convey anything….’

MC: ‘Of course you should convey that I was asking about her’.  ‘I was hoping you had told her. Very bad this is’.

Me: ‘Sorry mam, will do definitely, ….promise,… as soon as I get home’

So I trailed off and continued on my round. However, I had clearly lost Mrs. Chakraboty’s trust, So when I entered our house, My Mother asked me. ‘Ladies have been asking after me?’.

It is difficult for me to explain that tone. My Mother can say many things in one sentence. It can play out any which way. One has to exercise extreme caution in responding.

Me: Oh ! so Mrs. Chakraborty called you

Mother: ‘of course,’ -With that ‘you think I can depend on you’ look;

Me: Exasperated….But it was not ladies maaaaa…, only Mrs. Chakraborty. That is one lady

Mother: That means several ladies my boy, and you haven’t told me. What sort of public dealing do you do …

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2. This exchange is from around Pooja time

Mr. Sharma, very interesting person. Mercurial, and can shift stands readily. He is also highly adversarial and a very tough one to handle at 70+. Usually he accosts me, this time I had caught up with him to get even.

Me: Sir, I do not understand every year you people make big moorti and pratima of Durga and Ganesh, then you pray to them with such fanfare, then you go dancing to the river on a truck and throw them into the water…Just like that… I don’t understand

Mr. Sharma: ‘Not throw, it is called Visarjan’..

Me: Ya Ya, same thing

MS: It is not same thing’

Me: ‘Why,? you are throwing into river, just giving it a Sanskrit name does not make it any different.’

MS: Dikshit I can’t believe you are saying this, you have no knowledge of why all this is done!!??!!. What sort of a Brahmin are you?

Me: ‘Why?’ I said, clearly intending to provoke him  ‘What is this knowledge? Knowledge knowledge lagaa rakha hai

MS: Arre Kamaal hai, ‘you are childish’, he said, raising his volume ‘Our Rishis were wise. They devised these plans symbolically to explain the passing away and renewal of all things’. or something to that effect.. ‘They made these rituals so that the simple uneducated could understand. Also, they wanted illiterate masses to remember God through these regular rituals’

Me: But we are not simple and uneducated or illiterate masses. So why are we doing this every year in some unthinking haze?

MS: Looking at me most suspiciously ‘Dikshit are you a leftist?’

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