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Want solutions to civic issues? No dearth of routes to finding them, now.

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Praja related

On a single day, you have announcements of the commencements of two more "grievance redressal platforms" - one by 'Janaagraha', called "ichangemycity.com" (read the New Indian Express report on it here), and BMTF (Bangalore Metropolitan Task Force)'s web-site which is also claiming to offer similar services (read the New Indian Express report on it here), though going by the report, the Inspector General of Police, in charge, Mr R P Sharma, has himself admitted "that they are facing the problem of inadequate staff. Sharma said that BMTF has 76 sanctioned posts, of which 30 per cent are vacant".

Apart from these, you have BBMP's "Spandana"; the Information Commission (RTI); Nemmadi Kendra's; Bangalore One kiosks; Sakaal; and of course the LokAyukta. The efficacy or otherwise of many of these have been commented upon on PRAJA, on various blogs on various occasions.

There is also the BBMP's Global Project Management System (GPMS) developed by the Indian Centre for Social Transformation along with Karnataka State Police Housing Corporation, about which Prajagalu where not quite impressed, going by their comments here, apart from in other related blogs.

Another newbie in the picture is "http://bcity.in/" promoted by Dr Ashwin Mahesh's "MapUnity".

I don't know how many more there are.

Whatever, with so many platforms available now to find solutions, the city may even run short of problems soon - that will be the day :))).

In the midst of all of these, I was trying to figure out where PRAJA (praja.in) stands. And, I came up with the following write up trying to position ourselves. I trust I have done justice.

A note about PRAJA:
"praja.in" (PRAJA, for short) is an e-platform of over 8,000 (regd) citizens, largely 'techies' of Bangalore, engaging in informed debates over various civic issues, and thereafter arriving at solutions (where possible, some of the solutions are then pursued on ground through PRAJA-RAAG - research, analysis, advocacy group).

We call PRAJA a virtual hall for debates. Over the years, it has become clear that many senior level bureaucrats are looking into PRAJA on a regular basis, and, one of them (Mr Manivannan), apart from blogging openly on it, has even gone on to spell out the eventual goal for it of becoming the debating platform of the "upper house" of the city/ state/ country.

PRAJA as such has no specific opinion on any subject; it is just a platform for debates. Anybody is welcome to join it, and put his/ her blogs/ comments. The moderation is only in the case of inflammatory writings, judged by a panel of editors, if users report abuse. There are no dominant voices; there are only more prolific bloggers, less prolific bloggers, the odd commentators, and the browsers.

RAAG (which is proposed to be registered as a trust) will be the owner and supporter of PRAJA, though, any set of Prajagalu can independently pursue any given project, like in the case of the Kadugodi ROB project (check this), even without the direct involvement of a RAAG member.

Advantage of PRAJA: Now, within about a year after taking over as the MD of BESCOM, Mr Manivannan has opened a 'facebook' account in the name of BESCOM, gradually ensured that all his officials become net-savvy, and readily responsive to complaints and grievances posted on the BESCOM wall. Simultaneously, he has also engaged a professional to update the BESCOM web-site. The web-site came in for some comments on PRAJA, to which Mr Manivannan himself responded requesting that the comments be posted on their wall. To this, one of the PRAJA members has now made an offer to continue collecting the comments on PRAJA itself, and thereafter submit a summary on their facebook wall, his reasoning being "The advantage of PRAJA interface is that the topics will not get lost once they become inactive as in facebook. However, since BESCOM is using facebook for their public outreach, it is hard for them to go to every forum. That is a very valid point. So let us have a discussion here and then I will transfer a gist to facebook, just like we did with the RITES report".

Similar are the constraints when a discussion happens through e-mails or even mail-groups.

Well, everyone today is aware of the work done by us in promoting "Namma Railu". The core team here comprised of Mr Sanjeev Dhyamannavar, Mr Sathya Shankaran, who are both residents of Bangalore, and Mr Khader B Syed , who resides in Washington DC, and Capt Naveen, who is in merchant navy and is half his life on the high seas somewhere across the world interacting on PRAJA through satellite linkage.

In-depth study, and problem-solving thereof, based on team-work, largely through the net - that is typical of what PRAJA can do.

Muralidhar Rao

Comments

murali772's picture

Mother of all think-tanks

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As cities become engines of creativity and innovation, a logical extension of that is think tanks that reflect the energy, culture and profile of the city.

- - - Bengaluru's citizens have become increasingly willing to involve themselves actively in public affairs, and that translates to a greater number of people wanting to look at careers shaping the way governments act.

- - - "There definitely are more people interested in public policy. This is good because an informed and engaged citizenry is always good for a democracy. The increase is also because people who have a 'professional' education believe they are naturally good at policy-making, without having an idea of ground realities. The problem we have is that policy making is becoming 'expert-led', with many so called 'experts' not being grounded in the work they are doing. The people actually affected by policy have a lesser say in policymaking and this ground is being taken over by international and local consultants," says the Alternative Law Forum's Vinay Sreenivasa.


- - - Think tanks prefer motivated fresh graduates, or at the very least, people without too many preconceptions or self-styled experts, people willing to learn. And in contrast to Delhi - where politics or policy are obvious career choices given the structure of institutions of the city - Bengaluru's think tankers seem to be driven by a desire to make a change.

- - - Their number is only likely to increase, as more and more people - intelligent, highly qualified people - leave their jobs and try to make a real difference to the world they live in, something that politicians and corporators seem so incapable of by themselves.


For the full text of the thought provoking article captioned "Is Bengaluru the next Think tank hub?" by K Narayan, in the ToI, click here.

What we are aiming at "PRAJA" is to become the debating platform of the "upper house" of the city, and thereby the mother of all think-tanks, incorporating the positive aspects of all think-tanks, while being constrained by nothing whatsoever. I do believe we have a good thing going.

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

relevance of blogging

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58 users have liked.

The number of blogs is getting fewer and fewer as people shift to social media. However, blogs are still great for making nuanced arguments and having in-depth discussions that are not usually possible on Facebook and Google+.

For the full text of the report in CatchNews, click here.

In fact, blogging helps "separate the wheat from the chaff", as compared to most other forms of social media, I would like to think, and hence its relevance, and of "praja.in", the mother of all think-tanks (check my post of 1/9/15, scrolling above).

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

we try to do our bit

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54 users have liked.

"While public sector is required to keep our institutions running and guarding our borders, etc. private sector provides the nation with wealth and employment. Civil society is the conscience of the country and it should make both public and private sectors honest. What is required is a properly functioning and transparent media, which is not the case now," said Guha.

For the full text of the report in the ToI, click here.

Shall I say, we try to do our bit.

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

platform for sane deliberations

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We cannot carry on the way we are. If we want to do better as a nation, we will have to face the truth and change the structure of the discourse in the country. Our public discourse is crippled by several disabilities. The first is the fear of admitting the truth in public because then we might look poorly to others. The second is the blame-game. In our competitive politics, debates promptly descend into fault-finding and finger-pointing. The third is the absence of platforms for sane deliberations. Debates on TV are designed to create sparks and entertainment, not to produce insights and agreements. The conversation on social media is even shallower.

‘Nations without vision shall perish’, says the Old Testament of the Bible. The force to change arises from a tension created by acceptance of the truth of where one is, and its distance from the aspirational vision to which one is committed. There is too little impetus towards change when the truth about current reality is obfuscated by the fear of looking small, or when the goal is set too low. To get out of the rut one must reach for the stars.

Having the fastest growth of GDP is not enough. India’s leaders must facilitate a new discourse to produce a balanced score-card to guide us and an integrative vision to unite us.


For the full text (emphasis added by me) of the column by Mr Arun Maira, a former member of the Planning Commission, in the New Indian Express, click here.

Praja has been instituted to provide that "platform for sane deliberations". I'd like to believe we are doing a fair job.

Muralidhar Rao

Praja.in comment guidelines

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