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A note to Abide...Post citizen consultation meeting

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Governance

I believe that the Abide process is a step in the right direction. I have gone through, right from the start, the documents on the web. I regret not being more involved earlier and hope can be of some help in future.

Unabashedly, I can say that some of my civic work elsewhere have not yielded the required results, but in the process, have learnt more on grass root issues and NGO /Civic organizations constraints, and the whole government machinery methods and madness.

I have had two long sittings with Prof Mahesh, essentially on governance model and a specific infrastructure/road widening project (hosur –lakshar road).Illuminating, but it did still leave some points of concern, hence this note.

The notes below are my own personal opinions and not of any organization I am part of.

I could have misread or misinterpreted some of the recommendations, but here are my inputs nevertheless.

1. Mismatch between governance model recommendations and specific verticals planning and implementation.

  • The main and fundamental thrust of Abide seems to be to push for legislation of the Bengaluru governance bill as close to the 74th amendment as possible.
  • The specific areas (transportation /urban poor /heritage etc) while important seem to be  going by “what can be done quickly”, and “what are the most obvious” measures. This statement is being made since in what seems to be the priority area of roads and transportation, the method of planning, decision making and implementation, seems to be at variance to the principles of the governance bill i.e. citizen centric and involvement,  plan consultations, municipal oversight etc.

Note: This is not a value judgment, and definitely not a comment, that the transportation and roads plans are not either good or in keeping with requirements, just that these plans seem to be going on a parallel stream and decision making methodology ,while waiting for the governance bill to come thorough. 

  • In a specific area that a few of us looked into, the lakshar-- hosur road widening project, there did not seem to be  
    • There does not seem to be any intention, need or direction to involve citizens on the plan or implementation, by the civic authorities. The reporting seems to go into Abide.
    • The fundamentals of pedestrian first /cyclists second did not seem to find its way into the actual plan that we got out. (Clarified by Prof,Mahesh , that it was a wrong plan.)

The simple point being made here is that it does Abide no good in the long run , when it looks at citizen centric governance , Citizen/RWE/neighborhood participation in governance along with disclosures ,while on the other hand in specific areas and projects , it is business as usual.

While one can sort of understand the constraints and considerations that have gone into this apparent dichotomy, it can open Abide to a fair amount of criticism.

Why not just practise the modes recommended in the governance recommendations in the projects that abide seem to be directly overseeing.

2. On the governance model and draft bill and accountability

It is doubted if anyone can really find fault with the plans and draft bill itself, maybe some nit picking here and there. However I am more concerned with what is left out rather than what is included.

My assumption: 

The governance model (while adhering to 74th as closely as possible), seems to place emphasis and therefore effectiveness on

  1. Organizational and therefore legislation strength to the MPC model, with municipality oversight.
  2. Transparency and disclosure provisions
  3. Contracting methodologies and monitoring.
  4. Post responsibilities( mayor /commissioner/councilor /convener etc) 

Also in-built seem to be qualification/disqualification criteria for elected members.

Note: All of the above are excellent and highly needed but one specific area of accountability seems to have been missed, namely the specific accountability of parastatals and the accountability of government servants/bureaucracy

Rationale: For many of us at the grass root level, the inefficiency, non accounatability, Non responsiveness of the government machinery is a prime issue. Elected representatives are at least approachable and in a way answerable and accountable through the electoral process, not so the beuraracy.

While disclosure, transparency provisions, and even the lokayuta strengthening in the governance recommendations, go a long way, ultimately it does not answer the question

“If someone does not do his work/is bad at his work what happens to him”

No amount of good planning, transparency and disclosure provisions will do much to a work force which is by practice and law immune to after effects of a job badly done.

A possible way forward

  1. A separate study/ paper by Abide on service rules, its constitutionality and changes that can be brought about.
  2. The internal departmental enquiries being brought to public domain, and right to ask for internal enquiry onto elected representatives.
  3. As already stated strengthening of lokayuta.
  4. In a parallel effort, to ensure system strengthening, bring in the right to recall provisions of councilors by wards citizens.
  5. Public hearing of projects be it a major one, or one at a ward level, finding an institutional recognition prior to works.

3. Some minor observations at the “consultation” meeting.

  • Most of the citizens attending have been to “consultation “ meetings before, be it for the Masterplan,JNNURM plans, Sakrama etc .and have also participated in feedback/objections on bills /legislation etc.One hopes Abide, will takes a departure from these earlier exercises and does truly become a consultation model.
  • It was not too surprising to note the absence of non BJP leaders in the forum. That is the political game, however nonpartisan one’s intention is. However I and many others were surprised at the absence of “eminent citizens” appointed onto Abide (RK, Prof Mahesh being the only ones present, not counting Mr. .Ravindra).

I sincerely wish the process all success and take my hats off to all who have brought the papers to this stage. And I hope I can play some small part in the future.

Vijayan Menon

(13/July/2009)

Comments

kbsyed61's picture

Quality begins in mines!

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Vmenon Sir,

Thanks for this nice posting highlighting the ABIDe's efforts and its goal for a better governance. You have rightly pointed out that, best thing ABIDe should do is just follow the recommendations it had made for governance. ABIDe must define its public consultation process and follow it to its letter and spirits. My experience is most people are shy of discussing public importance things in public, though they constantly complain of their opponents not being transparent. Transparency doesn't appear just like that. It is to be made happen.

This reminds of Microsoft story on its one of the software Versioning application product called 'VSS'. When the date for its market launch failed many times, MS initiated a study/investigation from external sources to find the reasons for launch failures. The investigating team started the work and first thing they asked the development team was "How many of MS's SW projects, VSS is used for version control?" The answer was none. Then asked the VSS product dev team, do their team at least use VSS for its own version control? The answer was NO. These answers they got was reason enough for Microsoft to change some of its product launch preparations. The lesson from this story is you need to practice what you are trying to preach. You need to have immense faith and conviction of your ideas and suggestions, that you would demonstrate that on some of the ongoing projects. Otherwise, you will see Toyotas and Hondas in GM plant's parking lot. In Indian context we see BSNL officer's using Hutch or reliance mobile services.

In my early days of quality assurance, I used to fascinate by one quality slogan from Matasushita (Panasonic) - OUR QUALITY STARTS IN MINES. This is a powerful statement and shows the commitment that matches with the real products.

I am 100% with you on your 5 point suggestions made under the heading 'A possible way forward'. Also needed is standards that governing body would follow for all its public works quality. Just want you to browse these photos published from BBMP. According to BBMP these works are complete. Are they really complete.

  1. http://www.bmponline.org/advertisement/photos.pdf
  2. http://www.bmponline.org/account-dept/progress.shtml

Hoping that ABIDe sticks to its non-partisan and non-political agenda. Also it practices what it preaches.

 

 

Vasanth's picture

BMTC officials should use BMTC buses

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Reading the above post I felt, BMTC officials should use BMTC buses and not private vehicles to get the best routing and design. They should not use luxury cars to reach their Shanthinagar office.

Vasanthkumar Mysoremath's picture

All service providers must eat what they cook and serve topeople

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It is not only BMTC officers who should travel by the buses they are making available to commuters, same yardstick should be made applicable to Minister for Food must eat the rice cooked from supplies to BPL families, Minister for Transport must travel daily by ordinary blue/white line bus from Varthur to Vidhana Soudha, Minister for Housing must stay in a house at the recently created layout, etc..

This must be made compulsory to all concerned for one week in a month.

Another proposal is not to have permanent government servants who should be paid sambala/gimbala, pension, gratuity, TA,DA , insurance, from public money because anyways, they are not delivering and are found shirking responsibilities from all kinds of reports from public and anyways are not transparent and accountable.

As and when some work comes up we can simply outsource because even those outsourced ones are not transparent and accountable.

- Vasanth Mysoremath

 

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