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People-Centric Projects

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Governance

Execution of policies with strict timelines, policies reframed to involve people in civic affairs and balanced urban development are A Ravindra’s top priorities. The former chief secretary, has now been appointed as adviser to the chief minister on urban affairs.

When asked "Citizen participation is often spoken about, but there’s little explanation on how they can be effective participants. How would you look at it?" his response was
"It’s too early to explain. But one thing is certain — my focus is mainly on the ‘how’ of it".

For the full report that appeared in TOI, click here

With ABIDE, Vision Group, Regional Imbalances Correction Panel, Knowledge Commission, and I don't know what else, a lot of 'thinking' is already supposedly happening. But, the problem area clearly is effective citizen participation, very much as Mr Ravindra has correctly identified. The answer may perhaps lie in Mr Manivannan's idea of the 'upper house', with 'praja.in' providing the medium for citizen engagement - check this 

Muralidhar Rao
 

Comments

silkboard's picture

Perfection is not possible

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What is not possible?

  • Using a single channel to reach out to all sects of people. There would be multiple channels to reach different sects of society
  • Keeping everyone happy - crib artists will always find a way to say "I was not consulted"
  • Reaching out to 100% of population.

In terms of depth of reach, elections are the biggest participatory exercise. whether its solely our fault or not, most of us (esp middle class) belittle this exercise (dont vote based on issues, don't chase representatives for their promises).

Beyond that, there has to be an effort from both sides to reach out to people for planning and budgeting process. Issue arises

  • When governments reach out to people or groups in non-transparent fashion
  • When tools of participation are designed are designed for those who are better placed to give time. Majority population, who is young, and working, is simply kept out of a lot of a lot of this.

Whatever tool or group local governments use to reach out to people for engagement should itself have some deomcratic and representative nature to its operations.

There might still be a need to reach out to 'acknowledged intellectuals' beyond just nominating these type of people for Rajya Sabha and Legislative Councils. As long as this type of 'reaching out' is done transparently, with well published inputs and outcomes of each engagement, why would I or anyone have a problem?

There are two keys to starting on the route of effective citizen engagement. And our city cuts a sorry figure on both these counts

  1. Decentralized governance (Regional Governance Act, Kasturirangan like stuff)
  2. Real pro-active disclosure of information from government systems

Things are expected to improve on #1, though the delay in solving that problem (toothless and inefective BBMP, overlapping jurisdictions etc etc) has taken our dear city dangerously close to the point of no return.

Part of #2 will be solved with #1 - because then we would know who exactly to pressurize for release of what information. But beyond that, it will take a lot of e-governance work that our state was pioneering in late nineties but lost track thereafter.

There is a lot more to this topic. But I will keep myself only to this much right now.

Lets start Mr Ravindra, you would find a lot of support and encouragement from unexpected quarters. Don't be mis-guided by the sceptics and critics amongst currnet bunch of activists, there are a whole lot of younger and enthusiastic folks waiting for well designed channels of participation. We just have to make them jump in.

silkboard's picture

Hopefully, yesterday is a lesson

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Anyone who hopes to perform meaningful interaction via events like yesterday's abide interaction would have noted some lessons. Mr A Ravindra was present himself for the most of it, we sincerely hope that he'd do some thinking on this monstrosity of expectations called "citizen participation".

What I mentioned in #2 above - regular and pro-active outflow of information - is critical and necessary first step. No other thing can succeed without people knowing some things without asking for them. I mean things ranging from

  • Why is JP Nagar ORR flyover stuck, where as Agara flyover is moving at fast pace
  • Why is Whitefield railway station flyover stuck for ages now?
  • What is happening to pending monorail proposals?
  • What is the progress on citys lakes. Between LDA, BBMPp and BWSSB, who manages which all lakes?
  • Why is soil testing happening so late in the game (its July) when Metro Phase II DPR is due in August? Are we running late there?
  • What is the impact of all the money B-TRAC project is spending? why did they have to launch a tender of Rs 3 crores to buy "services" to manage their blackberries?
  • What is the status on BWSSB's massive projects in erstwhile CMCs - what happened after tenders were floated?
  • What is the plan for junction improvement on Big10 corridors that Abide is "championing". Work has already begun - where are the designs, names and phone numbers of people who we can give inputs to?

Make your list of 100 such things. And most questions people will ask will be answered. All these answers can readily be made available online.

Add an online RTI system (which should come after you have put a lot of information online), and an online complaints system, and 70% of "citizen participation" job is done.

The last 30% would be harder  - doing meaningful interaction with a good cross section of citizens via multiple channels. But the first 70% will take a lot of noise out of this interaction ecosystem.

Shall we begin? And here is the "Walk the talk" bit. I am willing to jump in to help design an online RTI system (aka a content digitization and management system) for state and city government departments if I am approached for help.

cheers,

SB aka Pranav

Naveen's picture

Citizen Participation - Information is the Key

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SB,

You are correct - I agree with the problems that you mention & will most certainly be encountered with "Citizen Participation", in it's present, nascent or non-existent form.

An example of how this sort of "disconnect" between the various interest groups was overcome by a UN body, the IMO (International Maritime Organization) was through "Tacit" acceptance :

A change in a law or a new law was promulgated & announced across various means & member nations were given a time period to file their comments or objections, if any. If the majority accepted it (tacitly, by way of not answering or not filing any objections /replies), the law was passed based on the fact that it had been "accepted" though no yes-votes were actually registered !

This did away with the delays that had been experienced previously when member nations had to file their consents or objections - & many would do neither. Presently, the system is working well as most nations have become more conscious & have realized that if they had any concerns, the only way out was to file their objections or comments. They may do nothing only if they are in full agreement with the change.

In our elections, everyone is given a chance to vote, but only from votes actually received, are our parties or leaders chosen. Many urbanites do not vote at all.

Citizen participation would have to evolve in it's own way - it would become too cumbersome & will be a large /extensive exercise for each decision if easy methods are not found that result in a system that includes citizens' participation that also does not pose unnecessary obstacles from one or a few interest group/s, which leaves out the majority opinion.

An example for this is the CMH traders association who had posed many hurdles for the Metro alignment through CMH road - this had been overcome, partly by a signature campaign in Indiranagar from the residents, most of whom supported the Metro through CMH road.

This is a topic that needs further debate from prajas - ideas on how citizen participation can be inculcated easily need to be explored.

The key is of course, distribution of information through various, inexpensive means - BMRC had made a start, though now they seem to have fallen in line with other government agencies with the pressures building up around them, I guess.

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