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Citizens try to fight ‘ward’ woes

Ward Committees will ensure accountability of civic agencies and officials. However, ambiguous
rules are derailing their formation

Published: 02nd June 2017 10:48 PM  |   Last Updated: 03rd June 2017 07:18 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

BENGALURU:On April 25, the Karnataka High Court ordered the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) to set up ward committees in the 198 wards in the city by May. A month has passed since the HC direction, however, concerned citizens and resident welfare associations (RWA) point to the lack of cooperation from their respective corporators and ambiguities in the selection of members of the committees.

“All the KMC Act says is that the “corporation” will nominate such members. It does not specify whether this means the Mayor, the Council. There is also a danger that the ward committees could be politicised by nominating members favourable to particular corporators,” says Katyayani Chamraj, executive trustee of NGO Civic, who has been fighting for the setting up of committees for several years now. While the deadline to form ward committees further extended by two weeks, there seems to be no end to the confusion. It is little wonder that very few ward committees have so far been formed.
“Only 68 wards out of 198 have sent in their applications for formation of ward committees. Despite the bench having changed since the last hearing, we have persisted and asked the court to take into account the 250 applications that have been sent, to which they have agreed,” says Chamraj. She was present at the court hearing on Thursday.

Chamraj also maintains that according to the rules, citizen groups interested in being part of the ward committee must submit their names directly to Manjunath Prasad, commissioner, BBMP. However, since there is no formal procedure put up anywhere on how to register, and most of it being done via word of mouth, citizens have a lot of questions on the status of these committees, and have been going to their local corporators for answers.

No Info, No Cooperation

City Express spoke to RWA members from across Bengaluru,most of whom say that the corporators, in their respective areas, have taken up the responsibility of nominating members of the committee without properly involving citizens. This has added to the confusion.

Puroshotam Venkatraman, president, RWA, Halasuru Lake, says, “Immediately after the announcement was made, we approached our corporator Mamata S. She however isn’t too involved in anything,” he says. It seems as if the corporator does not not want anyone but their own illiterate goons to be part of these committees, he adds. Saravanan, spokesperson for Mamatha S, corporator, Halsuru, says, “We have given the list last month to the commissioner. We don’t have any members from the RWA. We can’t go to their door steps and ask them. Whoever came first, got on the list.”

‘Not on the List’

In Kumara Park (West), no RWA member has even been put on the list, says Dr Harish Kumar, vice president, Kumara Park, RWA. “Our RWA is almost 15 years old, so my name was put forward to be part of the committee. However, I’ve learnt that no other member of the RWA is part of this list.” Sampath Kumar, the Vasnathnagar, corporator, says that he wasn’t involved in creating a list of RWA members to be part of the committee, and that they formed it themselves.

Prasad Shivarudrappa, president, RWA, Shanti Nagar, says that he submitted his name to be part of the committee six to eight months ago. “The Shanthi Nagar corporator Saumya Shivakumar’s husband is the one handling these issues. But like most of these things, nothing has been done so far. They don’t want the committees to be formed.”

Shivkumar, spokerperson for Saumya Shivkumar, claims that the committee has already been formed. “We have already formed the ward committee, which has two members from the RWA. We actually submitted the list six months ago, and re-submitted it now,” he says.

Somyaji KVR, secretary, JP Nagar RWA, says,  that in the first week of May, the RWA gave a letter to the commissioner and got an acknowledgement. “But after that we don’t know what has happened and whether the committee has been formed or not. If we don’t hear back, we’ll file an RTI. We didn’t go via the corporator route because we knew there would be problems with that.” Lakshmi Natraj, corporator, JP Nagar ward, maintained that the committees have been set up already. “The complaints by residents are all lies,” he says.

BBMP Lacks initiative

Chamraj says that the reason why confusion prevails is because of the lack of initiative by the BBMP to put advertisements, make public announcements or put up rules for registering online. She says that citizens groups, like hers, have been trying to spread awareness, but a lot of people still need to come forward and register. “We need to ensure that this is a democratic process. We actually suggested that an impartial committee be formed that would be in charge of selecting people who are right for the job, so that influence from the corporators side is reduced,” says Chamraj. She urges more people from the remaining wards to come forward in the next two weeks and register themselves for ward committees

(Inputs from Bincy Joseph and Madhura Rajkumar)



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