Only 26 of Bengaluru’s 198 wards have made the proceedings of their committee meetings available on the BBMP website for August 2019.
Swamy, secretary of the Anjanapura (ward 196) committee informed The Observer: “Usually, the proceedings of the meetings are written down and photos taken. The minutes are signed by all members of the ward committee. Sometimes there is a delay in uploading the proceedings if any of the members is absent. We wait till all members, including the absentee members, look at the minutes and sign it.”
Another Anjanpura ward committee member, Anand Yadwad, who is the managing trustee of the Alahalli Lake and Nerehore Adivrudi Sangha, said: “Our committee holds meetings regularly. We have representatives from government agencies like BWSSB and police…. We have also held some meetings in schools as today’s children are tomorrow’s ward citizens. Their grievances, such as eve-teasing, have been addressed in the meetings.”
Ward committee meetings provide a platform for citizens to directly engage with their corporators.
Bangalore Mirror reported on September 8 that residents of Horamavu (ward 25) marched to the BBMP office as their corporator did not take action regarding the poor condition of roads in their ward. On September 16, it also reported that the residents of east Horamavu did not know when and where the ward committee meetings were held, and the corporator did not respond to their calls.
Sathyanarayana VV, chairperson of the Kengeri ward (No. 159) committee, said: “In August, a meeting was not held. Consequently, the proceedings have not been put up on the website. But when meetings are held, around 50 people attend it. The minutes are written by the secretary. It is the responsibility of the secretary to send it to the head office.”
Gurumurthy Reddy, corporator of HSR Layout (ward 174), said: “Ward committee meetings are held on the first Saturday of every month, and the recorded proceedings sent to the assistant revenue officer of our ward. The ARO is responsible for uploading them to the website.”
According to the Karnataka Municipal Corporations (Ward Committee) Rules, 2016, all minutes and notices of ward committee meetings should be published on the corporation website. As on September 19, 2019, the BBMP website showed that 33 wards had uploaded their minutes for July, and 38 wards had done so for June. Less than 20% of the wards have published the minutes of committee meetings on the website.
The rules regarding ward committees say it is the duty of the corporator to inform the public about ward committee meetings, which serve as grievance redressal mechanism for citizens.
But some rules are not followed. For example, Disaster Management Cells have not been set up in the wards. A seven-day notice along with the agenda is rarely circulated among committee members and attendees.
Srinivas Alavalli, co-founder of the civic group Citizens for Bengaluru (CfB), shared: “In some cases, meetings are not held, and sometimes, the minutes are not published. Whoever we ask, they say they have sent it. They say the problem lies with the BBMP IT department.”
According to news reports, BBMP’s decision to delegate powers to special commissioners and zonal commissioners is seen as a right step towards decentralization. It is expected that this will help in better functioning of the ward committees as decisions can be taken at the local level instead of awaiting approval from the top tier.
About this, Alavalli said: “Zonal corporators’ meetings are not taking place right now. The idea of delegation of powers to zonal commissioners will ensure political accountability. Ward committees are the best places to hold elected representatives accountable.” The meetings provide for governance at the grassroots level.
The 74th Constitution amendment Act, 1992, states that urban local bodies are “vibrant democratic units of self-government”. It provides for the constitution of committees at the ward level for areas with a population of three lakh or more.