BENGALURU: For months, residents have either been clueless about ward committees or haven’t been able to figure out how to apply for a spot. However, the situation seems to be improving, as at a recent public event, several Bengalureans gathered at the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike(BBMP)headquarters to submit their ward committee application forms to Manjunath Prasad, BBMP commissioner. Srinivas Alavilli, co-founder of civic group, Citizens for Bengaluru, hosted this public event in the hope that citizen voices be heard and represented.
“Being part of a ward committee does not put one in an authoritative position. It is simply a mechanism to involve citizens in local decision making. A 10-member committee will help bridge the gap between the people and the government.” says Alavilli.
He adds, “Fortunately, there are already thousands of people of all ages involved in matters related to their society. A ward committees will give them a formal way of engaging with the government.”
Overwhelmed by the response he saw at the event, which was held on June 16, Alavalli says, “It was magical. We often assume citizens are cynical and apathetic towards public affairs. If 100 people can show up at the BBMP office from across the city, it should reaffirm our faith in democracy. I hope ward committees get formed in a fair and transparent manner, bringing in a new era of urban governance.”
Mala, an architect from Indiranagar who was present at the event, believes that being part of a ward committee is an opportunity to participate in the most basic level of governance. Mala says, “I would like to see footpaths being made more accessible to senior citizens and the disabled. The footpaths in my area were raised by a foot, and when I requested the corporator to lower it, he refused to listen, saying that he didn’t care if no one used the footpath.”
Manjula, from ward 195 in JP Nagar, has been fighting to rejuvenate the Chunchaghatta Lake in her locality. “The lake smells and is filled with wet and dry waste. So us residents got together and cleaned up a part of the lake ourselves,” she says. She adds that rather than blaming the BBMP or the corporators, citizens should become part of ward committees and get involved in solving issues themselves.
Similarly, Geetha, from Rajajinagar, ward 107, tells City Express, “Corporators use the public’s money for their own needs, rather than for solving our problems. They ensure that their own cronies are nominated for positions on ward committees, making sure that citizen voices aren’t heard.”
Geetha has been trying to be part of a ward committee for the last 15 years, but was constantly rejected. However, she hopes that this time, she will get selected, and will be able to help tackle various issues.
Geetha says that she has been doing a lot of work in providing safety for women and girls in her area who are constantly being eve-teased by men. “This is one reason why the corporator is against me being part of the ward committee. Most of the time, it is his people only who are eve-teasing girls,” she says.
Despite repeated attempts to contact Manjunath Prasad, he remained unavailable.