Tag Archives: Delhi

The Delhi voter’s role in his own disempowerment – Part 2, Scrounging on Property Tax- saving our backs, losing our spine

There is a claim that voters are paying tax by default on every purchase and therefore direct tax such as property tax can be ignored. This is fallacious. There is an advantage to direct tax which is empowering and which is why responsible governments as well as voters rely on it.

Insofar as impacting Governance is concerned;

  1. Indirect taxes load everyone equally and are therefore loaded against poorer sections. Direct taxes can be more equitable
  2. Direct taxes are openly visible and therefore discipline the Government by way of voters being able to question it on accountability

Now look at what we have done

Only 35% of Delhi’s residents pay property tax. So while some are paying higher taxes, on the average a voter pays about Rs 400 per month towards all municipal taxes in the South Delhi Municipal Corporation. Against this is expected 24×7 Municipal sweeping, free parking, park maintenance and waste management and public lighting, storm water drainage, Municipal Schools, Dispensaries and road seeping. This is the level of sense of freeloading and entitlement. PWD, Military, Paramilitary, Government hospital, Police Infrastructure, cost of elections; Government schools etc are not included in the above assumption.

For a self owned three bedroom DDA SFS flat, at its current value the property tax in London and in New York will be about Rs 3, 90,000 instead of about Rs. 2700 that is paid in Delhi. The extensive unauthorised colonies where more than 50% of Delhi lives as well as lal dora area and urban villages pay no residential property tax.

The AAP Government had, in the last Municipal election promised to waive off property tax altogether. Now almost a third of Delhi’s population would have been excluded from this benefit as the percentage of house-owning households in Delhi is less than the national average(2011 Census), a waiver would only benefit landlords and more so those who have bigger houses

The AAP tried to explain it away by using the indirect tax argument. This is precisely as explained earlier, disempowering for the resident. After all how much will you question if you get a scarce resource like water free, electricity subsidized and property tax waived.

The recent issue of sealing of illegal commercial establishments in Delhi would have had the Central Government give in (at least on the face of it) had the Hon’ble Supreme court not intervened.  The number of house owners is many times more than the number of traders. Then why do traders have disproportionate power as compared to residents? The relationship between traders and politicians is one of partners. The Relationship between politicians and voters is one of master and supplicant. The trader pays, and the voter seeks freebies.

The consequences for Delhi are self evident.  Year after year of voting for freebies,  pitting one party against the other for relaxation in bye laws, and seeking freedom from civic discipline the Delhi voter finds herself locked in a mess of her own making. A situation where no tough solutions can be implemented and no easy solution exists.

 

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , ,

Three solutions for Delhi

Implement, Implement & Implement

Vendor policy, Parking policy, Master Plan, Mixed use policy, Waste management policy, Rain water harvesting policy, this policy, that policy and whichever policy. Discuss policies and feel very intelligent, argue endlessly on policy like intellectuals and wallow in filth, traffic jams, overflowing sewers and chaos on a daily basis. Watch a bunch of politicians fight, spew stuff over social media, squabble on TV and watch it as entertainment and a cause for foolish politics, further arguments and discussion.  All discussion and no real administration is how the Government and politicians are passing their time. This also sums up how the citizens of Delhi have lost their way and are endlessly kept occupied by clever people into discussions.

A similar point was made also in an earlier editorial in Hindi (Oct 2017)

Every complaint on inaction of authorities can be subverted by diverting it into a political fight. Try getting a small encroachment removed from public land and before you know it local political activists will be creating a ruckus with the citizen looking askance and eventually getting drawn into idiotic arguments. Finally no officer takes action and we are back to square one, wallowing in the same mess and ready to squabble like fools the next day

Which is why, I urge residents to be very conscious of being drawn too much into policy matters. Not everybody is an expert (much as we may pompously like to believe) and not everybody has the wherewithal for surveys, maps, studies and the background required for making policy. This is not to say that all citizens should shy of commenting on policy, but it would help if most of us ordinary folk shift our focus on asking the local leader and officer this;

Whatever happened to implementation of your policy? When are you going to implement? Keep on harassing and asking. Build a union of voters, and harass the elected representative and officer with these questions;

Why have you not implemented, who is blocking you.

When is SWM2016 going to get implemented?

When is the Vendor Act going to get implemented?

When is the Parking policy getting implemented?

Why are you not towing away illegal vehicles?

Why is plastic all over the place when banned?

Why are you not penalizing defaulters?

How will incompetent official staff be punished?

Don’t waste time with policy. Obsess with its lack of implementation and harass your local MP, MLA, Councillor, and Commissioner and so on and so forth. Flood them with petitions, complaints, Letters, RTI. Do whatever it takes but keep on questioning on implementation alone. A system which has the active participation of RWA should be set up to evaluate and report the functioning of Government departments

Do not let the Government, draw you into a policy discussion. Be the power to demand implementation.

 

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Sealing & FAR: Politicians can see what the media and the older generation have missed

Every now and then I get to one of the much maligned’ commercial’ spaces in Delhi. Currently under attack from some RWA members these commercial spaces could be in CP, GK2, GK1 markets or Khan Market, or on mixed use streets mostly within my radius of regular commute.  I meet up with friends for coffee; I land up to listen to some blues, enjoy some bookshop browsing, savour some new cuisine, or I buy myself some stuff.  I am struck by the preponderance of the young in such places. Cheerful, dressed lightly and laughing they are mostly oblivious to the ‘commercial doom’ being forecast.

I don’t see older people at Delhi’s commercial spaces, simply because they are not designed to be older friendly. Traffic jams, no safe footpaths, being forced to walk on the road along with trucks, unregulated traffic and messy parking all contribute to an unpleasant experience for the older generation

This is perhaps why it is not the young, driven by work, growth and entertainment that are opposing ‘commercialisation’ but the older RWA members who feel sidelined and insecure in the melee.

It is not the commercial spaces that are the problem but the management of the environment around them which irks the elderly. Rightly so. Not only commercial, many other facilities such as metro stations, small nursing homes, eateries, playschools required by the young and aspiration filled population of Delhi are troublesome because of parking problems and traffic jams because the periphery is badly managed or because restaurants put untreated waste into their sewers. The distinction between commercial activity and its fallout(‘externality’) has to be clearly seen to be managed. It has to be taken into account by policy makers, planners and by implementing agencies

This is a point the few older RWA people, fail to get as they attack commercial establishments and traders. This is a point the Media has not considered in it’s otherwise widespread coverage

Does that mean unbridled conversion of residential to commercial? Certainly not.  It’s not a ‘this vs that’, black vs white proposition. Youngsters, older people, women, traders and residents are not separate or disparate entities. They are connected socially, economically and as members within a family.

Changes in population also require corresponding changes in supporting facilities like affordable commercial and office spaces too. As prices for commercial spaces escalate and there are only those many jobs in comparison to the increase in population. The ordinary entrepreneur who seeks to fulfill her ambition finds herself at sea. As businesses move to a greater orientation towards services this middle class ‘start up’ finds no legitimate space available at an affordable price. There are no SFS offices unlike SFS flats. There is a dire shortage of planned office space in virtually all areas of Delhi. Choked and pushed into a corner for survival the entrepreneur seeks to find a place in urban villages, in residential areas, or wherever else she can to create a livelihood. This too escapes the older citizens who can’t seem to empathize with the young and the restless. The politicians know this but it has escaped media attention.

I am not arguing for an unbridled increase in FAR or providing amnesty to those who resort to unauthorized residential and commercial activity. All I am making a case for is to shed the paranoia of increased FAR and shift our attention to a keener, more active regulation and oversight of how residences and commercial establishments conduct themselves in society in relation to waste, untreated effluents, fire safety regulations parking in public spaces and pedestrian movement. Densely populated and successful cities do not trivialize those conditions.

Any planning model has thresholds beyond which known formulae fail. This is precisely what is happening here. The authorities are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of people. Add to that, the desire to maximise profit through land has compromised DDA’s ability to plan in public interest. When profit through land is staring an organisation in its face it is very hard to plan for those who can only pay less.

Instead of blindly dismissing the increase in FAR we need to pause and think slowly. This auto-conditioned response to ‘commercialization’ must stop. The needs of the many must be considered before surrendering to the fulminations of a few.

 

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Densification is the way to Decongestion.

The drive initiated by the Supreme Courts’ monitoring committee and the subsequent sealing followed by changes to the Delhi Master plan has kept many of us in URJA engaged in several discussions. The DDA has increased the FAR for commercial units in residential areas and has faced opposition from several public activists in Delhi

Bluntly put, there is no choice but to increase FAR in many areas. Delhi has a booming economy with one of the highest per capita income among all states in India. There is the massive population of Delhi with spending power, fuelling the demand for goods and services. The demand supply dynamics coupled with a burgeoning young population of aspiration filled voters will simply prevail. Over the years the UD ministry has failed to create adequate commercial space which is accessible to the ordinary entrepreneur. Expensive high end mall space just does not do it.

The idea of TOD(Transit Oriented Development) and Densification which planners (including the DDA) have envisaged for Delhi is the need of the hour. But the operational departments of the DDA as well as other Government departments, Police, Municipalities etc. involved in managing the city have failed to achieve this planning objective

There is no ‘elsewhere’

A conversation about exporting our waste, traffic and migration to elsewhere and making exclusive enclaves, returning Delhi to some city of yore is unrealistic.  The original idea of Delhi was based on a planned city where there was an ‘elsewhere’. Buses could be parked far away, sewage could be discharged untreated into the flowing river, Municipal waste could be taken to Landfills, people could live in NOIDA and Gurugram while Delhi’s planned colonies and SFS flats remained pretty enclaves of peace.

It didn’t quite work out like that. Delhi was allowed to metamorphose into a dense cluster of unauthorised colonies deprived of basic amenities, motorized vehicles reached unimaginable numbers, urban villages became vote banks as well as concrete jungles, landfills overflowed & collapsed, the parliament legitimized all past illegal construction and then; outlying rural areas refused to take pampered Delhi’s waste and Haryana started to deposit more and more sewage and draw more water, along with Delhi, into the Yamuna making it into a filthy drain.

Appealing to the rule of law with unclean hands

After having had the law on FAR changed to their own advantage as well as resort to illegal encroachment on public land and build unauthorised dwelling units, it is somewhat disingenuous of a few residents to take a holier than thou attitude towards increased FAR for commercial activity. Residents forget that they are the consumers of the same commercial services that have made their lives ‘convenient’. Residents forget that they park their own cars on footpaths and buy cheap from illegal vendors on footpaths. Civic agencies and the police have been simply incapable of law enforcement or timely implementation of policy. Violations should be punished but moving forward, the city has to plan for itself differently to remain sustainable

Densification for Decongestion; Managing chaos is the way forward for Delhi

Best be rid of the idea of decongestion by offloading our mess onto some other place. There is no scope for it

A municipal ward/assembly constituency cannot remove commercial space from its geography and ask for it to be taken elsewhere. Which other ward will accept it? They have enough troubles of their own!

Now that we have reached this urban crisis the intelligent thing to do is to look at what opportunities we can find here and turn this to our advantage. Economic growth and the availability of a large range of goods and services, which would otherwise not be viable, have now become possible. Cheap radio cabs as an option to owning cars, delivery of a wide variety of services including multiple cuisines, delivery of online retail purchase are some of the services that become viable and accessible only at scales higher densities provide. Properly done, densification appears to bring about economic & lifestyle benefits and vibrant places with amenities close by.  Mixed use areas provide more dwelling diversity & densification comes in many shapes other than just high rise.

There are many options which are beyond the scope of this article but businesses benefit when a diverse, multi-generational population has amenities close to home. Mixed use areas can reduce our dependence on automobiles by building in bike lanes, pedestrian-only streets and easy access to rapid transit. These multi-modal transport elements help to manage traffic congestion and reduce parking issues. These are well known ideas practiced in cities with high population densities. This may require redevelopment or retrofitting and remodeling for change but it does appear to be the best way forward given where we are now. Transforming ageing infrastructure is also an economic growth opportunity.

This is not possible for the authorities to achieve without a public buy in. Just putting out a public notice inviting comments will not do. A time frame should be fixed and a comprehensive plan to engage with the residents through local political leaders, RWAs and Market Associations, religious institutions and public spirited citizens should be carried out to plan for the future management of the city.

It must also be stated very clearly that densification and TOD, in Delhi’s context require finely managed urban spaces. This includes heightened monitoring and intervention by the DDA, Municipalities and the police for compliance. But all this requires up to date and very accurate maps that take into account the truth from the ground with the minutest detail being reflected. Many maps in the master plan are outdated and inaccurate*.

Good urban design with detailed physical planning and design is essential for a better city. It cannot be left to happen on its own.

There is little room left for the authorities to abdicate their responsibilities any longer. Any new plan for Delhi absolutely must have a special provision for penalizing and punishing officers if they are found to have obviously ignored a violation of public spaces and environment laws. Dereliction of duty is no longer an option. Thus far and no further; bureaucratic unaccountability should not be acceptable to the public.

Any violation of  public spaces by citizens too, must be dealt with swiftly.

The resident of Delhi must pull herself out of the rut of old thinking which, unfortunately is being reinforced by a few noisy voices. The citizens have no choice but to be open to change. We cannot keep thinking about the past. Nostalgia is good but the future has to be better.

Note

  • The Residents of Alaknanda found this to their horror when it became evident that some officers in the  DDA had facilitated the sanction of a giant mall in the middle of DDA SFS housing based on traffic movement on a non- existent road as well as by violating the provisions in the MPD.
Tagged , , , , , , , ,

The brouhaha over commercialisation in Delhi

Recently there were several news articles in the press citing the views of Delhi RWAs over DDA’s proposal to increase FAR for shops and commercial establishments in residential areas on payment of conversion charges.

At the very outset, it should be pointed out, particularly to press reporters that there is no such thing as a common view of Delhi’s RWAs.  Any person or group claiming to speak for all RWAs is misleading the press as well as the public. Several RWA federations exist, but given Delhi’s diversity, no two RWAs are alike and all have a different view on different matters. Federations usually work by collectively leveraging for common area development even as their members differ on various issues. At times some RWA may express a common opinion but to lay claim to an all encompassing view of all Delhi’s RWA is simply not true

Coming to the issue of this purported denouncement by few individuals from RWAs, of DDA’s proposals to increase FAR, the least that can be said is that their position is morally untenable, politically immature and technically unsound

Demands like providing additional infrastructure before increasing FAR show a lack of understanding of how retrofitting ought to be done when densification is the need of the hour. Delhi’s population density has increased 500% since 1980 and its RWA simply cannot afford to dish out the same stock statements, unchanged, since the 80’s

It is indeed surprising that residents who have over the years resorted to large scale illegal construction in Delhi’s posh colonies and DDA SFS flats, fought and lobbied to have their own FAR enhanced under the grounds of genuine need,  today take a faux moral position on the same need of commercial establishments. RWAs comprise of member  residents who have built builders floors, converted one house into multiple apartments and basements, parked 10 times the cars on pedestrian walkways, occupied the back and front service lanes and made crores by selling and renting their own properties for commercial gain, are now crying wolf over when someone else is seeking to enrich himself commercially!

It is my view that if the tables were turned by the Supreme Court’s Monitoring Committee, the same residents of posh colonies will be running for their lives when bulldozers come looking for illegal construction/encroachment in residential back yards, front/back lanes and roofs or tow away their cars that have ravaged the footpaths forcing pedestrians to risk their lives. Crores worth of public land has been taken over by these worthies. RWAs do not write to the MCD or the Government reporting the illegal acts of its own subscribers (they should, for the sake of our city) but some of them have been rather shrill in denouncing commercial spaces.

Delhi has a shortage of commercial space and excessive illegal and unauthorised residential space, so the position taken by some people in RWAs is untenable. Delhi needs densification, transit oriented development and an increase in FAR. We will need to find ways and means to co-exist with an increased pressure on existing infrastructure through an intense management of spaces, traffic, parking, water and air rather than hope that the problems of high migration, multiplying families, economic boom can have their after effects exported to some far flung area.

Again, on the issue of parking the position taken by some RWA members is sullen and cynical. That does not help. The State simply does not have the wherewithal to chaperone and/or punish a population opposed to the rule of law. RWAs will have to clean up their own act before throwing stones at others from their own house of glass. The demand raised that the Government ought to provide “adequate parking for residents in their vicinity” is disingenuous. It is tantamount to saying that an owner of 10 cars is entitled to be provided parking by the Government. By that logic parents of 10 children are entitled to housing in their neighbourhood and that all shopkeepers are entitled to warehouses for their goods. This kind of ridiculous argument gathers momentum among unthinking people and public pressure through civil society groups produce a master plan based on false precepts. This must be avoided.

It is correct that impelled by greed and pressures of competitive & partisan politics, the city has made a mess of things but moving forward the Resident Welfare Associations and Market Trader Associations will have to sit across the table and very honestly admit to their own complicity in aiding and abetting Delhi’s slide into this catastrophe.

The Government must punish those who have violated the existing law and those who have broken existing rules. But moving forward, laws will have to be changed to accommodate mammoth changes in the city’s migration, politics, demographics and economy

There is no such word as ‘decongestion’ and ‘purely residential’ in a highly populated, extremely dense and politically surcharged city. We will have to organise within this chaos, and there are ways of doing it if resident as well as market bodies stop having double standards and brainstorm to get their act together. Else be prepared to have politicians continue to manipulate and retain their hold over a crumbling city

______________________________________________________________________________

The views expressed by the author are personal

Tagged , , , , , ,

Emergency response needed for Air pollution as experts & Politicians debate

Once again the Specter of air pollution looms large upon us. Delhi is polluted throughout the year with the situation exacerbating in winters.

This is not Delhi’s problem alone as large swathes of land in the indo gangetic plains suffer this scourge
Over the last 2 years URJA and the Delhi Clean Air Forum has held several meetings and conferences with the best organisations and researchers in this field. Our zonal level meetings have conferred with religious leaders of all faiths and politicians from all parties, MLAs, Municipal councillors as well as school teachers.
With the disappointing response of top political leaders including the Environment Minister (BJP) and the immature conversation of Chief Ministers of Delhi (AAP) and Punjab (Cong) on social media it is evident that the air quality situation is not solving anytime soon


The only respite may be courtesy the weather Gods
Clearly the air pollution crisis is not going away some for some years in Delhi and we should therefore prepare our self for the long haul and a long siege while politicians squabble and experts pontificate.
At several meetings RWA and ground level activists we are coming around to the view that the state administration should increase preparedness for a constant emergency like response rather than look to the weather or Punjab or coal powered plants outside Delhi for solutions


The administration should have a rapid response in terms of sprinkling of water, authorised by local MLA and councillors who should be empowered to take this decision based on air monitoring in their area
The RWA should be entrusted mandatorily to report to the DC MCD zone and SDMs any waste burning or construction which does not follow norms and RWA should be penalized if they fail to do so. The RWA can also be penalized for illegal construction, dumping of malba etc. This will go a long way towards empowering them and justifying their intervention to the perpetrator


The air around us is finite and today large scale open air HEPA filtering machines are available to clear air in parks, hospital compounds and public places. There is no reason why the ordinary citizen should not be offered public filtration of air when he cannot afford in house filters
The State should tender for large procurement of face masks for all that are available at cheaper rates and provided by the state on no profit.


URJA is not demanding free services but is demanding the provision of emergency services to the taxpayer
Too much of discussion and argument on awareness, solutions etc has kept people occupied without respite
We need daily succor from this poisoned air. If the state has to provide giant filters, masks and empower MLAs and councillors, jointly with RWA to authorise sprinkling so be it. People are not prepared to die on account of the argumentative expert or politicians. Enough is enough

Tagged , , , ,

URJA Editorial-Some Governance Basics

Every time the matter of garbage and bad governance comes up in our meetings, there is often the common comment that the

  • ‘Citizens are to blame also’ or that
  • ‘We have no ‘civic sense’,
  • ‘We must not ask of the Government but must also do it ourselves’

On the face of it statements such as these sound reasonable and create a sense of temporary guilt and shame in the mind of the citizen and taxpayer. This type of discussion in public meetings usually ends the discussion with people simply feeling helpless as if they are no good.

Over the years this thinking has been reinforced by the State Administration and the officers as it suits them to shift the moral blame on residents for their own administrative incompetence and corruption.

Recently in a posh area of south Delhi, no less than the Commissioner of SDMC, an I.A. S officer, made a ‘surprise visit’. A day before this ‘Surprise’ visit many encroachments were temporarily removed. During the course of his visit the Commissioner noted, that residents had thrown kabaad in their back lanes and covered their drains leaving them difficult to clean. The Commissioner pointed out that residents were responsible for the problem and should introspect, & the suitably embarrassed the RWA wrote a note chastising the members that they must themselves ‘introspect’ on this

The situation remains the same. The encroachments are back, the back lanes remain dirty

On similar complaints, the Municipal councillor landed up with a whole team, touting ‘swachh bharatabhiyan as motivator, joined by party colleagues and cleaning staff. The whole lot including the Councillor started sweeping.  Many Residents were all excited and started clapping. This was a major photo opportunity; the photo etc. was shared in whatsapp groups. At the end of all this tomfoolery, things remain the same

This is an example of how misled we are and how much it suits the officers and the politicians to perpetuate this thinking. It also shows that a combination of ignorance and laziness can keep even educated residents trapped in the same place.

This is important to understand, that ordinarily most people are law abiding but as a corrupt and lazy administration allows a few people to get away, more and more people take to breaking the law.

Please do not believe that residents in other countries are better human beings, but please believe that other countries punish law breakers and there Civic responsibility becomes reward able

Let us have a look by way of a table of what is happening and how we are misled into believing that are bad citizens, when in reality our officers a lazy and inefficient.

The distinction marked below can be applied to almost all areas of public administration

 

Wrong Way- Delhi will remain a Filthy city Right Way- Delhi will be a world Class city
SDMC Commissioner lecturing that Drains should not be covered The Commissioner ordering  immediate demolition/or penalties as per law and ordered an inquiry upon his officers for letting this happen
This not lack of Civic Sense This is illegal
SDMC Commissioner lecturing  that Kabaad should not be thrown in the back lanes

This not about lack of Civic Sense

 

The Commissioner ordering fines and penalizing the builders as well as residents for violating the law and relevant provisions of the DMC  act

This is about punishment for illegal activity

The Municipal councillor, no matter how excitable and sycophantic he is, is not meant to begin municipal work himself

 

The job of the councillor is to take civic problems to the corporation and get the Departments to act. He is not a Govt officer (even if he likes to think so) and does not have to perform Municipal roles designated for Municipal officers or staff
Councillor Sweeping back lanes are an aberration & example of very bad Governance should not be applauded by the public and there is nothing good about this activity to be shared on whatsapp. This public behaviour is harming the public

 

Public should have criticized him for failing to get the Government to work and not take the Voter for a ride by doing childish stunts. The public should have demanded that he ensure MCD action. This behaviour helps the public
This pattern of behaviour will result in remaining in garbage and filth, broken roads and encroachment. This is how our ‘Administration’ and misguided residents behaves and we remain a backward city

 

This is how Administration in USA, UK, France Tokyo, and Hong Kong would have behaved and that is why they are advanced Cities. This is how their officers behave and their residents demand for being taxpayers.
Officers will be paid for sitting in office and making money out of corruption &Indian taxpayer will be fooled continuously & will be blamed for not having civic sense. This wrong attitude shown above will ensure that Delhi will be a filthy city Delhi will be a clean city, The Tax payer would be rewarded and provided with services, the officers will have to work for their salary, & corruption will come down. Delhi will be a world class city

 

Tagged , , , ,

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

Tagged , , , , , , ,

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.

 

Tagged , , , , ,

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

Tagged , , , ,