October 23, 2011

Let's work with ward councillors

Why is your 'Letters' page so dull and boring?
It was a question from a well-wisher and reader who resides off the East Coast Road.
'Every time I turn to that page it is always full of letters on garbage and bins, roads and flooding, mosquitoes and barking dogs', he continued.
The easy way to defend myself would have been to suggest that most readers assume that the 'Letters' page is meant exclusively to highlight civic and local problems.
Or perhaps, our readers do not get inspired enough to share an experience of a walk down the Elliots Beach in Besant Nagar or on 'discovering' stone craft inside the Kapaleeswarar Temple in Mylapore.
Or perhaps, readers believe that posting civic issues in widely-circulated and respected newspapers could get some attention.
Whatever be the content, letters are always welcome and given priority at our Desk. And we do know that they trigger some reactions, sometimes positive.
As the results of the elections to the Chennai Corporation council come in and a certain trend seems clearly evident even as I write this, I am trying to see how letter writers and local area councillors could play a more pro-active role in the five years ahead.
There is a community of people which shoots off complaints or throws suggestions and expects the elected and the officials to get a job done.
And there is a community which does not care a thing.
But for the people of our neighbourhoods who do care a bit, there is an opportunity to get involved in many different ways in your area.
Most people who have now become councillors of your wards may not have even raised a finger in community life. Some may be people who got the ticket and the 'yes' vote because the ward is reserved for women and the man who aspired for the ticket did the second best.
In many wards, you are going to have councillors who have little to do with grass root politics and are hardly aware of a councillor's rights and responsibilities.
And yet, if a few good men and women in each ward step forward today and form a group which can work alongside the just-elected councillor, things can change.
Discussing key local issues, drawing projects, lobbying for funds, creating links with local communities and auditing civic projects and services are some of the many things that people of a ward can do.
It is one thing to dash of a letter to the councillor asking him or her to get the garbage at your street corner cleared and another to be part of a group that draws up a garbage clearance plan and helps to keep it in place.
Imagine the positive impact a neighbourhood group and a councillor working together can have on local affairs.

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