October 07, 2006

Socially-committed citizens as councillors for the city

How many of us really know which Corporation ward we belong to?
Ward 122 or ward 144 or ward 155?
Does it really matter to us that this city has an elected council and that its members are elected from wards and that these wards fall under zones . . .
If we still have not given these and related issues a thought perhaps on the eve of election to our local bodies like the Corporation of Chennai, we may want to do so.
There are some positive developments that have taken place this time around in some neighbourhoods, though all of them relate to the municipalities and panchayats on the fringe of the city.
Residents' associations, community welfare groups and social activists have chosen candidates from amongst them and encouraged these men and women to file their nominations and campaign hard.
In Ambattur and in Avadi, in Valasarawakkam and in Alandur, people are waking up to the fact that grassroot issues - roads, water supply, sanitation, street lighting, public spaces - can best be raised and pursued in democratically-elected bodies.
And that people who live in the areas and have been dealing with them as activists or socially-committed citizens are more qualified to pursue them than those who are candidates for all the wrong reasons.
And yet, of the little that I have managed to witness in neighbourhoods, grassroot politics seems to simply ape bigtime politics.
Tearing autorickshaws or manic jeeps transporting candidates and their supporters, piles of handbills dumped into mail boxes and fuzzy posters stuck on public walls . . . .
Could we make space in our parks and playgrounds to arrange for informal meetings with people of the area who may want to share points on local issues that need attention or ideas for a project that the neighbourhood can promote?
Could we gather together on our terraces and, over a cup of tea and biscuits, chat with our candidates and get to know them better even before the first ballot is cast?
Could we formulate a common programme for the ward and get the candidates involved in informal chats so that, once the election is over, we are not gifted a gym that costs a couple of lakh of rupees and functions on the odd days of the week. Because it is not a gym that the ward required but better drains?
Postscript: Ward 153 can have one councillor elected from this place.
But why do divisions 153 and 153A exist?
The best answers will get lollipops!

No comments: