Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Your neighbourhood’s foot soldiers

Your neighbourhood’s foot soldiers

Chitra V. Ramani
Why corporators in the civic body are important for local governance
Corporators are in direct touch with the residents of the ward

In the absence of corporators, MLAs are flooded with complaints

Bangalore: For the past three years, Bangaloreans have been denied a role in the planning and development of their areas/wards, thanks to the delay in holding elections to the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike’s council.

So what is the role of councillors/corporators who are the area elected representatives?

Councillors are the one-point contact for residents of a ward.

They also represent the ward in the BBMP council. According to Section 70 of the Karnataka Municipal Corporations Act, 1976 councillors/corporators have the authority to draw the attention of the proper authority to any neglect in the execution of civic work, any waste of BBMP resources, or to the needs of any locality, and may suggest any improvements which they consider desirable.

Gururaja Budhya of Urban Research Centre, an organisation that works in the area of urban governance, said corporators are very important as they not only are in direct touch with the residents of the ward, but also represent the city.

“They work at the local level as foot soldiers. Without councillors to represent them, the citizens are left with no other choice but depend on the bureaucracy. It is especially difficult for the urban poor.”

The absence of corporators over the past three years has disadvantaged groups that have had little political engagement, said Vinay Sreenivasa, an activist.

Their absence has affected the city’s development, as people’s voices in the development process have not been heard.

“If there was an elected council in place, there would have been debate about development works carried out, at least at the individual ward levels,” he added.

Empowerment
A working paper for CASUMM (Collaborative for the Advancement of Studies in Urbanism through Mixed Media) by Zainab Bawa on “Rethinking Governance: Strategies for Promoting Pro-poor Development in Cities” (August 2007) argues that elected representatives must be empowered with real powers.

At present corporators are given only executive functions while the real power is vested with state agencies.

There is a need to carry out a campaign to ensure that corporators and standing committees are strengthened.

Mathew Thomas, general secretary, Citizens’ Action Forum, said with the absence of corporators, the MLAs are flooded with complaints. “However, the role of a legislator (MLA) is to make laws and not make roads or monitor garbage collection. But these activities give them (MLAs) visibility and control over execution of works.”

He also said the purpose of the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments and Article 243 of the Constitution was to make local urban bodies vibrant institutions of self-government.

The 74th Amendment has laid down in the 12th Schedule the functions for the municipalities in addition to “planning of economic development and social justice”, he said.

“The council must be vested with the powers vested in the 12th Schedule, Article 243 (w) and section 503 (b) of the KMC Act. By not doing so, they are violating the Constitution itself,” he added.

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