Tag Archives: urban governance

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 February 2017

Focus on Implementing Policies rather than creating new ones

The Master Plan, MPD 2021 for Delhi projects a population of 23 Million (2.3 Crores) inhabitants by 2021. The World Health organisation(WHO) estimates Delhi having already reached a population of 25 Million. This is more than a 100% increase or more than double the population of Delhi in 1990.

As per 2011 Census of Government. Of India, Delhi Population stood at 17 Million (1.7 Crores) in 2011

The Area of Delhi is static at 1483Sq. Km.

The Population density, one of the highest in the world is at about 12,000 /Sq. Km

With East Delhi reaching 30,000/Sq. Km

These are humungous figures whichever source one chooses to believe and are straining the public services on roads, public land, health services, air and water quality, waste disposal, and education to their current limits. We have been unable to shore up municipal revenue, unable to deal with mismanagement of parking, footpaths, road hawking, encroachment on public land and other such challenges of the urban crisis in Delhi.

The Master plan for Delhi and many other policies made by the authorities such as Transit Oriented Development, Parking Management & Pricing policies created by UTTIPEC exist and it is not for us to quibble with them unnecessarily as these are policies made after much deliberation between experts, political executive and officers and are aligned with international best practices as well.

 However, it is evident that the optimum implementation and delivery of these policies has failed. The government does not have the wherewithal, even if it has the intention, to deliver

There is a lack of seriousness and reticence in implementing policies which are in place. The absence of the Government of Delhi from implementation and enforcement is creating serious problems for the city. Failure of implementation is being read as failure of policy itself

  1. The general belief of an inefficient bureaucracy is getting increasingly solidified
  2. The writ of the ‘State’ is being eroded leading to public indiscipline
  3. A natural disaster in Delhi can have terrifying implications

The problem is serious and ignoring such issues have implications of a ‘tipping point’ phenomenon where unbeknownst to us a series of consequences suddenly manifest at the same time leading to an unmanageable situation. We urge the GNCTD as well as the Central Government. to be mindful of this.

URJA has for long advocated a process driven Structured Consultation Mechanism which includes the Local Elected Representative, The Civic Authorities & The RWA. While it is true that local politicians do separately and privately consult their party workers, and a few RWA, there is no process for a structured consultation mechanism. We also advocate training for citizens as well as school going children in disaster response as well as training & protocol to help accident victims

The word ‘consultation’ need not scare the elected representatives and the government. We are clear that the ‘decision’ must be taken by those statutorily empowered or obliged to. Administrative decisions must be taken, only by the Government.  However, a structured process of communication and conversation is a very important tool in keeping a transparent & official record of community inputs. A well-structured and recordable consultation and participation process allows for a sense of community responsibility and ownership of civic works, and reduces resistance that often stems from an inbuilt suspicion of the officialdom & political class. The recent agitation by the traders of Connaught Place on the Vehicle Free Plan of NDMC could easily have been avoided had the Council followed a proper & transparent consultation.

This is not some newfangled idea. Structured and recordable consultative processes are practiced in Europe and the United States as well as African countries. These models are available and have worked for long. The 74th Constitutional amendment also speaks of them in its letter and spirit. For some reason our Governments have kept Delhi’s citizen away from the benefits and ease of governance that naturally follows from such mechanisms.

URJA hopes that the time and the atmosphere is right for our Lt. Governor and our Chief Minister to take note and act on this.

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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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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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