Ward Committee meetings in Bengaluru have turned into grievance forums and these grievances are not even registered.
A noisy, crowded room, people talking over each other, stacks of papers and files, the ward corporator nodding along to fresh concerns, and committee members presenting their seventh draft of the same complaint. Such are the ward committee meetings in Bengaluru.
The Softcopy attended the Hemmigepura ward committee meeting and found that the residents of the ward expressed their concerns and grievances for most of the meetings. The Karnataka Municipal Corporations Ward Committee Rules mention that the ward corporators must discuss new development plans for the ward in the monthly meeting. But the corporator merely noted down the concerns and grievances and assured the people that action will be taken.
The grievances that are raised by citizens in a ward council meeting are not given tracking numbers or are registered on any traceable platform. The ward committee rules state that the corporator must ensure follow-up of the grievances and “Action Taken” reports should be presented.
The rules also state that a ward committee meeting should be announced a week before the meeting, but this is not in practice,. The Hemmigepura ward has held its most recent meeting on a Sunday, when the rules state that a meeting should be held on the first Saturday of every month..
The Karnataka Municipal Corporations (Amendment) Act of February 2011 states that a ward council is supposed to prepare the ward’s development plan, monitor the ward’s in-progress works and ensure efficient use of funds, none of which were followed in the Hemmigepura ward committee meeting.
A resident from the Hemmigepura ward, Jyothi Hegde said, “The committee members and welfare association leaders bring up the same concerns in multiple meetings, which are meant to keep track of these concerns. New concerns are not given much heed as there is no feasible way to record them.”
Mr. Kumaraswamy, assistant to the former Hemmigepura ward councillor Mr Arya Srinivas, said that several wards in Bengaluru don’t conduct ward committee meetings and those which do, conduct them infrequently. “The meetings have become less efficient. We note down all the problems presented, and work towards solving them,. But the work they needs coordination of various departments, where we get stuck,” he said.
“These meetings are a way of connecting to the locals and being updated on what the ground reality is,” he added.
R Padmavati Amarnath and Kusuma H, the Corporators of Chowdeswari Ward and Vidyaranyapura ward respectively, said that most meetings are conducted on the first Saturday of the month, while some may be postponed due to absenteeism. They addressed the chronic problems of their wards and said that these problems stay unresolved due to failure in coordinating with other departments like BWSSB and BESCOM.
R Padmavati Amarnath said, “Some issues have been unresolved for more than two years, like drainage and encroachment from private organisations.”
Kusuma H said, “Generally, concerns are addressed in our meetings and 50 percent of them are solved by the next meeting. Our ward’s have chronic problems like laying the gas line pipe that needs coordination of BWSSB and other departments, in order to be finished.”
Lalitha Bhatti, the President of Chenamma Gardens Welfare Association said that these committee meetings should be planned in an organised manner. “Political instability and lack of coordination are the main reasons why committee meetings are inefficient. Ward corporators are also dependent on outside factors and grievances may not be solved due to the involvement of too many partners,” she added.
Harshitha Venkatesh, Program Lead – Political Engagements, Bangalore Political Action Committee (B.PAC) said that digitalisation of the meeting proceedings would help keep track of resolved concerns. She also stressed on the importance of citizen engagement and participation. “People don’t have a will in helping the BBMP. As citizens, if we don’t participate, we are giving them a leeway to be careless. We are living in ignorance. Accountability comes only when there is someone to question,” she said.