Tag Archives: RWA

Minimum Government, Maximum Governance in Urban India- Myth & Possibility

All governments, regardless of their political inclination will fail to deliver till they fix the administrative mechanisms that are meant to deliver on Government policies and plans. A rickety & flawed system will always beat a ‘Visionary’ or ‘well meaning’ (there have been more than one) and the Current PM is no exception. I had mentioned this in earlier blogs as well in an earlier blog. That the Prime Minister has turned out to be a great politician winning one electoral victory after the other is accompanied by what is a failure in Governance related to health, Security, Education, Municipal Management and of course Economics

The catchphrase Minimum Government, Maximum Governance sounded good but would have failed anyway.

India requires sustained, daily, repetitive ‘Maximum Administration and Maximum Governance’. The Prime Minister’s much repeated maxim is of no real use as Minimum Government and Minimum Governance is what we have lived with for years. The phrase ‘bhagwaan bharose’ is known to most Indians.

Look around you. Do feel the presence of the Government, Do you see public service utilities functioning, do you feel secure against lumpen elements, do you feel your grievances  are addressed in time, do you feel courts deliver justice quickly?

Do you feel help will come quickly if needed? Do you think you will get timely justice in courts?

If the answer to the above is No, then how will an absent Government be minimum and maximum at the same time?

We can of course trudge along like this as we have for the last 70 Years. But trudging along like this will not help much.

Prompt delivery of state services, public health, security and justice is not possible through a Minimum government in a diverse and a severely overpopulated country

Much of Minimum Governance is seen as keeping the inspector away.  There is excessive legislation, & rules and regulations which allow a small number of Government employees to exploit a vast population of powerless people. But the opposite of Inspector Raj is not abandonment Raj. A shortage of Courts and a lumbering Judicial Administration provide little succor to 1.30 Billion Indians at the receiving end of, socio economic disparity, bureaucratic apathy and a shortage of Public health services , education, prompt delivery of basic minimum civic amenities & security

Let us look at some figures

There is a shortage of 1400 IAS, & 900 IPS officers

There is a shortage of 5 Lakh Police Personnel

There is a shortage of 5 Lakh Doctors

2.8 Crore Cases are pending in District Courts even as a shortage of 5000 judicial officers

There is a collective shortage of 10 Lakh teachers in India

These are figures from the admissions made by the Government itself often in reply to questions in the parliament

The Number of MPs/MLAs & Municipal councillors as a percentage of the population is way less than what are required. For example U.K has one M.P to represent 93 Thousand people (in 2009) people while one M.P in India represents 20 Lakh people

These are all signs of Minimum Government & Minimum Governance. There is no maximum Government. It is a myth.

But the reason for this illusion is as follows; if you were to see 100 scattered people with sticks, and only 10 people with machine guns protected with battle gear and armored vehicles who would you notice more? The Government in India is not ‘Maximum’, but a small number of peons, clerks and officers protected by an Armed State have an overwhelming and unaccountable power over the people. And their transgressions are virtually un-punishable.

The Indian state is distant from the people, aloof and its officers maintain a barrier from coming into contact with society. This comes from a colonial tradition of the white sahib maintaining a distance from the natives. The State appears at the time of mass distress with doles and rescue operations or through state violence in times of mass upheavals.

The Indian State is not Hobbes’s Leviathan; it is an occasional bully and a careless protector

Which is why, we are faced with an utter crisis of governance.

Every Indian today seeks a reassurance from the Government on Security, equality before law, Justice Clean Environment, Health care and education. Yet the Government is trying to achieve all this through awareness programmes and appeal to the good sense of people. It just won’t work. There is no evidence for it.

India is diverse, with multitudes of poor people often separated by ethnicity, religion, caste, language, dialects and many more subdivisions which are not replicated in any other region of the world

A chaotic, emotional and often undisciplined people steeped in superstition and tradition is unlikely to self regulate themselves into a law abiding society. It simply will not happen.

We are a rapidly overpopulating nation. More than one Crore (10 Million) lives are added to the country through births alone. A meager Government cannot achieve Maximum Governance.

If indeed the Prime Minister wants to achieve Minimum Government, Maximum Governance, without increasing the size of the higher bureaucracy/ other Government employment, he will have to figure out

  1. How the Government will structure the role of non Government entities in such a manner that a decentralized model of urban local self governance can be created.
  2. How the Government’s General Financial Rules (GFRs) which are a compilation of rules and orders of Government of India to be observed by all Departments and Organisations under the Government and figure out how to involve Resident welfare Associations and other civil society Organisations in the urban governance.
  3. How to reduce direct taxation and promote municipal service providing through non Government entities.

Not everybody wants to participate regularly in the local Governance process. An overwhelming majority of people want to pay their taxes and go about their lives. A small minority, There about 100-150 active community members in any Municipal ward (60K Voters) who are keenly interested in participating in the affairs of their ward. The Government should consider tapping into this energy.

 

To understand this better, take a look at the New Urban Agenda formally adopted on 20th October 2016 at Quito in Ecuador

 

 

Guiding Principles

 

Actions

 

Leave no one behind, ensure urban equity and eradicate poverty

 

Providing equitable access for all, to physical and social infrastructure – Adequate housing and shelter at the center of the agenda – Public spaces as an enabler of socio-economic function of the city • Recognizing and leveraging culture, diversity and safety in cities • Enabling and strengthening participation and enhancing live ability and quality of life
Achieve sustainable and inclusive urban prosperity and opportunities for all

 

Enhancing agglomeration benefits of urbanization and avoiding land speculation, • Fair and equitable employment creation, productivity, competitiveness, diversification and • Innovation through a sustainable economic development
Foster ecological and resilient cities and human settlements

 

Driving sustainable patterns of consumption and production, • Protecting and valuing ecosystems and biodiversity, and • Adapting to and mitigating the impact of climate change while increasing urban systems resilience to physical, economic, and social shocks and stresses

 

 

At first glance, it would be apparent to the reader that the current Governance Mechanism cannot achieve even one of the aforementioned goals.

 

If at all the idea of Minimum Government and Maximum governance has to succeed the Government will have to re-design urban governance.

At this point the Government of India or State Governments are unwilling to change.  Though the 74th Constitutional amendment mandates it for Urban Governance and India is a part of UNCHS- Habitat 2000, and Now that India has been elected President of UN- Habitat, it is time for some quick moves towards ensuring Maximum governance. The Political System as well as the Bureaucracy has been impervious to change insofar as exercising adequate imagination to address the urban crisis. Time is short and the Political Class and the Bureaucracy will be left with declining options.

 

*The ideas on re- imagining urban communities for Good Governance will follow in another article

 

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URJA Editorial- June 2017

Heedless Politicking is disenfranchising the citizen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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URJA Editorial March 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

* Source- Praja.org

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URJA Editorial January 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Union of India Vs Aedes Aegypti & Ors

Today’s newspapers carried pictures of friendly politicians beaming into cameras with their colleagues from opposition parties. Jointly they will fight the scourge they claimed. Sorry to burst your bubble friends, but all politicians jointly trying to fight the armies of Aedes mosquito is akin to a group of sulking colleagues holding hands and shouting slogans in front of a battle tank.

For almost a decade the Government of NCT of Delhi has tried to contain this menace but failed. For almost the same time the politicians have promised that they will do all they can and promised to do it. They too have failed.

It can be believed, given the benefit of doubt, that the Delhi Administration is genuinely interested in fixing this problem. It can also be confirmed that they will fail. They do not have the army required to fight this menace

The Garbage situation in the city though unconnected with the Aedes mosquito is in a similar phase. The Government does not have the wherewithal, expertise or the gumption to fix it. At best the three Municipalities can pull out a global tender and ask a big concessionaire to carry away the waste. That too will fail. Despite it being the Prime Minister’s initiative, despite the Municipal solid Waste rules being notified, despite everybody paying lip service to swachhta and despite the big ads not a single municipal ward out of the total 272 in Delhi has been able to segregate and compost its waste. Big talk, zilch delivery

It is no longer a question of the Government’s intent or of that inexplicable expression ‘political will’ it simply means that the Government and the Political leadership are incapable of dealing with these crises even if they want to. They just don’t know how to.

The problems are so widespread that they require an unprecedented and extensive mobilization of local communities, school children, teachers, doctors and NGOs at the ‘every colony and block’ level to achieve any significant result.

The RWAs of Delhi, which form the key elements of last mile governance, have repeatedly asked the Government and Municipal corporations to deal directly with the RWA at the ground level with support to mobilize volunteers, local activists, experts & doctors at the local community level. All requests have fallen on deaf ears. The Bureaucracy hides behind ‘busy in meeting ’and ‘gate passes’ kind of distancing and the politician just does not know what to do. All he is certain of is; that no empowerment should happen further down the food chain.

The residents are miffed that all sorts of taxes and cess are collected from them, all sorts of central funds are allocated but not a single penny seems to be coming down to the last mile for fixing health and sanitation challenges of the most basic kind

The Government, at the centre and state (regardless of political party) will have to work with the RWA of Delhi to even begin to make a dent. Without the RWA the Government does not stand a chance. Not at least with waste and mosquitoes.

15th Sept 2016

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