Monthly Archives: June 2017

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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