September 07, 2007

Addressing local issues . . .

Mohan Das Vadakara is a freelance photographer and videographer.
So 'free' that he does not mind shooting an engaging Thamizh street play in Saidapet at length or clicking pictures of a wandering minstrel in George Towne.
So 'free' that he may shoot a performance you assigned him but not bother to hand it over to you even if you wanted to pay him!
Working out of Triplicane, known as the city's 'market of mansions' for bachelors, Vadakara is perhaps the city's chronicler of cultural events.
He has footage nobody possibly has.Every now and then we team up to work together.
So, during the 2006 Chennai Corporation elections we worked on a documentary film which focussed on a single day's campaign of a local woman candidate, who used to be a councillor of a ward in Mylapore.
As it turned out, the day's campaign was through a slum colony called Lala Thotam and through Pelathope, a single-street colony, once the most important address in Madras because it was home and office to the city's leading lawyers.
Though we are amateurs in film making, Vadakara and I edited the film and screened it at the 'Madras Day' docu-films fest which was held last weekend ( has all the details).
And the feedback we received was educative.
How do we engage with a local councillor on local issues?
Where is the space to discuss such issues?
How do we ensure that a councillor does not nod his or her head for projects that really do not mean much to the neighbourhood?
How do we work together with our local rep and ensure better civic management?
At our newspapers, we have tried our best to report on the meetings of local councillors and report on local projects.
But the task isn't easy.Recently, a senior officer of Zone 10 of Chennai Corporation asked us rather curtly, why we were very keen to get copies of the minutes of the monthly meeting of the councillors and why we went about publishing all the major projects which they had proposed.
'And why should you publish the costs of each project?,' he asked.
The media can play one role.
The community has to play another.


Anonymous said...

Hello Vincent and everyone,

I truly appreciate the thought that a council's decision on a specific project has to be transparant since it amounts to spending the tax payer's money. The government's accountability to the citzens is imperative, but is hardly practised...neither does anyone want to exercise his rights to information....

But, I think I understand. The common man is convinced that he should rather stay away from the rulers and their counterparts in the administration or the police or even the judiciary.

Indu Jagannathan

Vincent D' Souza said...

Keeping away from 'rulers' is going to be dangerous for us.
Engaging with local level councillors is simple, easy and doable.
There is a positive side to this engagement . . .
Often, I have heard councillors say they would like to hear from people on things that they can do for the area.
Is there a ginger group in Adyar which can engage with the local MLA? Why not?
Isnt there a role for retired IAS officers, the businessmen and the professors?

Anonymous said...

Councilors who are open to suggestions are a blessing. Yes, I did read about an actor turned councilor inviting suggestions for the Mylapore area. But, I always thought that such people were more an exception than a rule....

The onus now lies with the public to play a participatory role.

Talking about retired professionals....I hope I do not end up hurting anyone.... Very often lots of them withdraw into shells because as retired personnel they kind of lose their identity and feel lost about their role/function in society. A few of them do dare to start all over again as simple individuals and end up doing very big things (like may be even starting newspapers? or taking care of the environment).

Yes, retired people would still have a decade left in them, which they could give away if they would only be ready to start all over again as unassuming, simple, and responsible citizens.

Indu Jagannathan