January 15, 2012

Interact with the ward councillors

Every month, the elected councillor of your Ward submits proposals to the Chennai Corporation.
These are generally projects that your area requires for its development.
Relaying roads and streets, maintenance of parks and equipment for gyms, painting the sidewalks and repairing public toilets and the like.
Lakhs of rupees are budgeted. And lakhs spent.
For many years now, as part of our commitment to local journalism we have covered local council meetings closely - observing the discussions and publishing the plans of our councillors.
One of the proposals listed against the name of councillor R. Boomi of Ward 125 intrigued us when the list of last month's meeting reached us.
There was a proposal to erect medians on a main road in San Thome for the 'Independence Day' event.
The budget - Rs.1,00,000.
The proposal sounded out of place so we called the woman to check.
"Is that so?", she replied. " I did not know it was a proposal against my name and for my ward."
"But it is listed here clearly", we told her.
"Then I will check with the Corporation official," she said.
Councillor R. Boomi has not got back to us yet.
Elected local reps and civic councils are great examples to hold up for what we claim to be a vibrant democracy. But do we know what really happens at the local level?
Many previous councillors I have interacted with have told me that often, they are warmly coaxed by civic officials to submit projects which mean little to a Ward but sit nicely in their bigger plans.
So you get a string of gyms or a set of public loos or play equipment for the local park listed for all the Wards.
I suppose it makes it simple and easy to execute them in one go though they may not be useful or required in our Wards.
Do our councillors then really have a voice?
And does this voice echo the needs of a neighbourhood?
In the zones we cover, most councillors are women and many do not have even basic political and civic experience.
You can imagine the situation when their responsibilities roll.
I still have not heard of the Corporation hosting training programs for them or exposing them to the nitty-gritty's of local administration.

I still have not seen many councillors taking initiatives to interact with their communities.

In some Wards, activist-residents have set up face-to-face meetings and are planning follow-ups. This is positive news.

More will have to be done.

Engage your Ward Councillor. Take a look at local civic proposals. Keep an eye on them.

Your responsibility does not end with the casting of the ballot.


Navaneethan Santhanam said...

Hi Vincent,

I don't have any experience with budgets or proposals, so I'm wondering why this particular idea (for the medians) seems so strange to you. Is the budget for it too low, or is it just not feasible? Also, does this road already have a median?

Vijay said...

The article suggests that the median proposed, is a temporary structure, FOR Independence day. Knowing the level of public gathering for National days - the requirement itself is non-existant.