Tag Archives: MCD elections

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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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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