Tag Archives: AAP

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-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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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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The Political gamble of demonitisation

I really do not know for sure, how much or in what way, demonetization will affect the economy or black money in the long run. But I do think that The Government of India will not back off from this move. On the contrary it will get even more aggressive on it and other such steps. It will just tweak some operational stuff to ease short term pain.

The National English TV media is not a very good indicator. Political parties, in poll bound states, are careful about how they attack the Government’s move. It is the political units with no stake in the forthcoming elections that are making the most noise. The congress in Punjab has avoided this issue and deftly continued its focus on SYL.

I suspect that the virulence of the opposition attack can also be seen as proportional to their discomfort with the political advantage the BJP can garner from this move. AAP will be particularly negatively affected as its vote bank is not caste or religion based and this move of the Centre may appeal to poorer sections of society that are angry at being left out of the benefits of economic growth. Worse, AAP woke up somewhat after congress workers started assisting people in long queues with water and tea etc.  Maken was quicker than Kejriwal in seeing that ‘on street’ advantage. There are murmurs that the poorer residents of the city are ‘not that angry’.

In a few days the people will forget the discomfort that they are currently going through and will remember this as a decisive move by Narendra Modi, against black money held by the rich. It is a big bold gamble NaMo has taken but a lot will depend on the BJP’s state units in the coming elections.

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Beyond Odd and Even

The odd even rule has politicized the atmosphere and this is good. It will also be the cause of much idiocy ensuing in the coming days that will be utilised by the political class and the bureaucracy. A squabble is not an argument, much as we may confuse between the two. The media will as usual resort to the former and make it sound like the latter

It is currently in vogue to state that odd even rule results in traffic reduction and not reduction in air pollution. It is not possible to immediately decipher a liner mathematical relationship between traffic reduction, emission reduction and air pollution. But it would be strange to assume that a significantly lesser combustion of fossil fuels will not result in lesser air pollution. But it’s best not to get too involved in this debate till clearer data can be sieved out from motivated data.

In any case, odd/ even is a short term measure and will stop after a week because it causes inconvenience to the public, particularly those who do not come from multiple car owning families or own a single car. While excessive cars are to blame for some of the air pollution problem one must be careful not to make the car owner the only culprit as car ownership is completely legal. Moral lectures will not stop car usage.

A long standing problem in India is the habit of the bureaucracy to not act upon existing laws, and slowly nudge the political class and the citizen into making new laws or going to court respectively.

I draw your attention to some clear and brazen violations of the rule of law which are commonplace and have contributed enormously to the current situation. The existing laws should be enforced to significantly help reduce air pollution. If they are not enforced the officer in charge should be severely punished.

Parking- Car parking is possibly the most subsidized of all commodities as it comes minus the cost of stocking. It is more expensive to stock potatoes as compared to cars. Three times the space for parking a car is provided to a car owner as compared to a hawker, totally free of cost. This includes free lighting and municipal cleaning of the area.

Despite the high powered committee of the MoUD suggesting differential parking to make car usage expensive nothing has been done. Car parking on tarmac is illegal on several roads, yet no fine is levied. Illegal parking and hawking generate thousands of crores of illicit revenues collected by mafia with the connivance of officers in the Municipal Corporation of Delhi.

Free parking is a clear and present danger to any policy of enhanced public transport. Free car parking adds to traffic jams, choked drains and road accidents.

Building material & Construction & Demolition(C&D) Waste (malba) – The city of Delhi generates more than 3000 TPD of C&D waste per day. The Supreme Court and the NGT have specifically asked for heavy fines (Rs 50,000/-) on the open stocking, trade and transportation of building material and C&D waste, but still this is visible all over the city, stocked on roadside, on footpaths, next to municipal garbage dumps and blocking traffic but hardly anyone has been fined. At URJA we see regular complaints made by citizens to the Municipal commissioner, Deputy Commissioner and area SDMs but nothing is done. The officers collect their part and a hapless citizenry starts looking for new elements to blame.

Burning of local waste- The Govt refuses to enforce minimum wages for security guards and make it mandatory for security agencies to provide protective gear, gloves, overcoats, jackets etc. This is one of the reasons why a poor and overworked security guard lights up twigs and leaves. The Delhi Police has clear rules on private security agencies. They completely ignore the rules and bypass the law. Some misguided but well meaning element have as usual made emotional appeals to provide blankets to security guards. This is foolish. A crisp and ready security guard is unlikely while wielding a blanket. As usual the real responsibility is evaded by officers in the labor department and the Delhi Police while guarding agencies exploit poverty at will.

No effort has been made by the Municipal corporations to compost fallen leaves & kitchen waste. This can be easily done within corners in all municipal parks. While removal and cleaning is shown it does not really take place. The staff burns it. Nobody responsible is punished.

Footpaths- Studies have shown that a significant portion of vehicle usage over short distance is avoidable if safe footpaths exist. The law states that car parking on footpaths is illegal (to Rule 15 of the Rules of the Road Regulations 1989). Complaints to the Police are of no use. They cannot tow away vehicles due to shortage of space but they can fine the owners. Hundred of complaints have been made to the traffic police but nothing gets done. A massive amount of air pollution is generated within a local area if people take to cars instead of walking to the market half a mile away. There are clear instructions in the recent Supreme Court judgment to repair and make good all footpaths but the PWD is doing nothing about that. The Officers in The Govt just do not do it.

The Lobby – Lobbies exist we all know that. It is convenient to complain about corporate lobbies and giant multinationals while saying nothing about crores wasted on so called cleaning of rivers, lack of provision of clean drinking water by successive governments and a collapsing sewage system. The brazen connivance of the officers of all governments is ignored by the public and we find it easy to see corporate conspiracies as we rave & rant for new regulations while the ones that can still help are being flouted.

To ensure that the laws are followed we will have to divert our attention from the political theater and instead demand it from the right people.

The corporates are not obliged to serve our interests. It’s also not about the BJP & AAP politicos; they are obliged to play politics for their very survival.

The most protected species, the officialdom is statutorily bound and obliged to uphold the rule of law. Turn your attention towards him. That is where each and every demand should go. In hard copy with original signatures!

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Governance in Delhi requires an urban lexicon

The other day I was struck by a news item about a Member of Parliament in Delhi suggesting that Resident Welfare Association (RWA) can work with him through a RWA ‘chaupal’

Why use the word chaupal, which means a meeting place in a village. Delhi is not a village.  It’s not the M.P in question alone, other urban organisations too opt for such expressions; often using words like panchayat for meetings or gatherings which are purely urban community affairs. Take the word mohalla sabha – which has come to be the phrase being used for meetings held by MLAs in their constituencies, it suffers from similar deficiencies owing to the impression they create.

Examine the verbiage in an FIR used by the Police. The Persian words, Moharrir, insdaad jarayam, deeda danishta, aarinda, translated as the following: records in charge, prevention of crime, knowingly, reporting person respectively, make an FIR seem like a parchment from a medieval Iranian alley. Surprisingly, the Police training school still instructs the common beat constable in these words. There is no other way he could have acquired this vocabulary. I tried to find Persian – English translations for the 130 odd words the police use in their FIRs only to find the mystery deepen.  I have learnt that a lawyer has now filed a PIL questioning the use of such words in the high court of Delhi.

A FIR (First Information report) should be intelligible, relevant and contextual for the citizen. We are a country of diverse languages and it is very important that the language used for basic urban governance, assists in the complete understanding of a situation rather than impede.

The other terms to junk are Camp, and Junta durbar

It is unthinkable that the Capital of one of the largest economies in the world organizes property tax camps or police grievance camps. The idea that a Government department needs to compensate for its lack of accessibility by categorizing the citizen as a refugee or a prisoner of war or some variant of a destitute is inappropriate in what is meant to be a genuine outreach programme. Using the word durbar for handling public grievances in a republic is avoidable

Once again it is not something the department does deliberately. It is a colonial term that we continue to use. These terms inadvertently reinforce how the leadership and the Government view the voter. Worse, this communication ensues, back and forth thereby solidifying an idea that is both unworkable and unwelcome in a modern city

Delhi is burgeoning with migrants who have left their villages because the politics there dissuades modernization. This city is brimming with a young population that is not looking for a chaupal or panchayat. It wants to be a part of something different from what a mohalla signifies and it certainly does not want the urban marketplace to look like a village haat. It wants a responsive police which registers her complaint in an intelligible format.

Delhi may be classified as urban but it is not urbane. Delhi is a megalopolis and there is a need to evoke a sense of urban usage of space, time and mobility which is recognizably different from a village or small town.

We require a fresh prototype for dealing with the load on civic infrastructure. The use of an urban dictionary for identifying public spaces, mobility, architecture, and social communication can be a beginning. There is a need to contemporize and consciously work towards change, rather than expect a purely organic evolution which will not serve the ends of modern governance.

Cities, unlike villages, have to develop models that can allow strangers to go about their business depending upon systems that do not require a friend. Rural verbiage seeks to suggest an altogether different construct that is unviable for a sustainable city.

Generation after generation we are only acting out of what has become a habit in our cities, to somehow romanticize urban governance by using simplistic rural terms.

I absolutely support the idea of RWA interacting with the elected representatives. As a matter of fact the erstwhile undivided Municipal Corporation of Delhi had initiated a scheme called Resident ward committee (R.W.C). The scheme failed precisely because of the rural mindset of the Municipal councilors who see themselves as feudal gram pradhans and the Municipal ward as a village.

Delhi has many villages which influence its politics. The demographics have changed with migrants renting houses and population within urban villages and unauthorized colonies has grown manifold. Delhi’s politics has been & will continue to be deeply influenced by this voter. It is therefore even more important that communication related to governance depicts modernity & equality by helping to foster an atmosphere that promotes thinking for the future. Rural terminology, I’m afraid, will not help at all.

This is all the more important because, the idea that Delhi can be a collection of chaupals, mohallas, panchayats locally, but collectively metamorphose into a modern city, is romantic but irrational.

If urban dwellers were so taken up by rural imagery they would migrate to a village.

I am not speaking about exclusively using Hindi or English or Urdu; I know that language can be easily politicized and a gullible public totally misled into questioning the motives of policy makers instead of questioning the urban disarray the citizen lives in. It would be intelligent that urban civic vocabulary relies on common parlance.

It is not my view that these chaupals or panchayats, mohalla sabha, or haats should be given English names, or the Persian names turned into pure Hindi or Sanskrit.  I would suggest nomenclature that reflects an urban character to effectively communicate what is relevant and useful insofar as government schemes and public work is concerned. Private projects can be named after sub Saharan Africa or Luxembourg

As an example the mohalla sabhas in Delhi could preferably have been called   nagrik sabha. The first evokes a sense of medieval insularity the latter perhaps signifies something more urban. Instead of RWA Chaupal it could be a RWA Baithak or RWA Committee or RWA Samiti

I am not making the point that that only changing the language helps. However, in the development and expression of ideas, language and imagery play a vital role. It is of strategic importance for us to draft new words through which we can communicate effectively among ourselves towards building a modern city.

Ashutosh Dikshit- August 2015

 

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