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'Upper Houses' for cities

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Mr Manivannan, IAS, Dy Commissioner, Mysore, made the following remarks in his recent posting on PRAJA (http://praja.in/en/blog/m...), leading to the interesting comments listed further below.

We, at Mysore are also experimenting with an informal 'upper house', like the 'council' at the state level, having the heads of professional and social organisations as members, across the cross section of the society. (from slums organisations to Rotary/Lion).

Fortunately, the CII, Mysore chapter is fully involved in this, as this 'Upper house' fits their 'stake holder committee' under their 'India@75" programme. We  meet every Saturday at 6pm. If the tempo is maintained, it has the potential to increase the efficiency of the government departments/institutions. I just wanted to share this information with you, to elicit your opinions. It may contribute in refining our 'upper house'. For further information you may contact Shri. Sabreesan, president, CII, Mysore. (will inform his contact once i take his permission for the same)

I responded with:
Your initiative of forming the Upper House in the City Council is indeed commendable. Bangalore would do well to follow the example. I am sure the industry captains here will take note.

Mr Vasantkumar Mysoremath added:
Very good initiative, Mani Sir! It is an appreciable initiative to have such 'Upper House', an enclave of think tanks.  The aim of bringing to the table the leaders of slum organisations, to make them feel they are equal partners in the Administrative efforts,  understand the plans and strategies in a holistic manner and put them across into practice at grassroots level i.e., the 'bottom to top' approach is a highly workable solution in the present day context of political jingoism. This will help them see the progress, understand, touch and feel the change that is happening for their well being. This move will eliminate the syndrome that whatever is being done will end up in the lap of 'haves' and when something is planned for the 'have nots', it is eaten away enroute. Once this syndrome is conquered, other initiatives aimed at the well being of all sections of the society will have smooth sailing.

Mr.Murali can think about the subjects for discussion since problems in Mysore are distinctly separate and have to be tackled with different parameters. Some common issues need common solutions irrespective of geographical areas involved. Once this novel initiative is put in place, Praja can carry it further on an all India basis.

I further added:     
Rather than just the industry, I feel the civil society in Bangalore should be providing the lead in this. Industry should certainly be a part of it. Let's see if PRAJA can initiate some action.

May be this can be an issue in the forthcoming Corporation elections.

Muralidhar Rao

Comments

murali772's picture

perhaps institutionalise it?

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The Kasturi Rangan Committee has already recommended wider engagement with acknowledged experts and civil society members on the basis of the Metropolitan Planning Committee concept for cities.

With the Council elections yet to take place, an interim body in the form of ABIDe has been instituted, the constitutional validity of which has been questioned by many.

Whether ABIDe or Metropolitan Committee, while they engage with the elected Corporators on the one hand, they can simultaneously engage with representatives of the Civil Society, Industry, Social service organisations etc, on the other, through this upper house.

Perhaps this arrangement could even be instituted, rather than keeping it just informal.

And, the medium for this engagement can be PRAJA.

Muralidhar Rao

Muralidhar Rao
Vasanthkumar Mysoremath's picture

ABIDe is nothing but old wine (BATF) in new bottle.

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Dear Sirs,

At grass roots level, we have village panchayats, gram sabhas, zilla panchayats etc.,  but cities do not have such a facility for citizens to voice their demands and grievances except to contact their corporators or MLA.  No doubt there should have been ward sabhas but they exist in skeletal format and few nominated members invariably are the henchmen of the elected reps or 'local rowdy sheeted authorities' who will dictate terms to the implementing authorities of service providers.

With proactive administration interacting between the man on the street and implementation authorities duly guided by industry/knowledge think tanks, it augurs well for the society that is not so vibrant as in Mysore city.    

As an invitee member for two BATF sumits during 2001/2002, I have seen the lively interaction that takes place at the sumit about Bengaluru city, its problems, infrastructure, presentations of seven service providers with loaded statistical information regarding their efforts to make citizens' lives that much comfortable albeit with constraints galore.  Unfortunately, BATF was unceremoneously burried.  That is another story.

Mani Sir/Mr.Murali, If I may submit, the name '....... house'  reminds us of something, from which we all may like to keep away from (remember LS-MPs-Questions-money bags); may I suggest 'City Council'?  Also, there are a few NGOs/RWAs/Concerned Citizens etc., who are active in pockets in Mysore City although it does not have a vibrant civil society at grass roots level.  It may be worthwhile to take all of them into this novel fold, create a collective atmosphere of bonhomie without egos and one-upman-ship syndromes; but with one theme - Not to convert Mysoru into another Bengaluru.  This lacunae has to be streamlined to make as many citizens as possible to become proactive.

-Vasanthkumar Mysoremath

 

murali772's picture

Public consultation - the how of it

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The following are some of the excerpts from the petition made out by Hasiru Usiru addressed to the Chief Minister on the Laxman Rao park issue:

a) Over the past week protestors have come out in large numbers throughout the week to demand public involvement in redesigning the Metro

b) The Metro is about serving the public for now and into the fuure. The public have had no role whatsoever in shaping the process of Metro design, alignment and development. This is in blatant violation of various laws and policies that mandate public involvement in decision making.

c) Much against the claim of Namma Metro there has been no statutory public consultation whatsoever in consonance with applicable law (in particular the Karnataka Town and Country Planning Act). This has denied those directly affected with the right to Prior and Informed Consent and caused serious disruptions in their lives and livelihoods. Equally serious has been the impact on parks and open spaces, with the Bangalore Metro authorities arrogating to themselves the right to apportion such lands to the Metro without due public consultation or adopting a transparent approach.


The government and BMRCL may claim that they had indeed been engaging with the civil society in debates, citing the ABIDe meeting held on 28th June,'08, immediately after the BSY ministry took charge, amongst others. Now, firstly, the 28th June, '08 ABIDe meeting was not focussed on this issue alone. Further, even if the government (or the agency directly concerned) does come forward to engage with the civil society on these matters, decisions can evolve only over a series of meetings, particularly given the complexity of projects being undertaken today and the impact they have on various aspects of citizen's lives.

Given such a scenario, perhaps the suggestion made by Mr Manivannan (DC, Mysore) of having an 'upper house' for the city assumes considerable significance, with PRAJA becoming the medium for all debates involving net-savvy members of the public on an ongoing basis. In fact, the upper house members can be elected from amongst the contributors to debates on PRAJA, and its constitution can vary from project to project, or sector to sector. The permanent members can be the top bureaucrats from the respective sector/ department, the MD of the operating agency, and a few chosen experts from IIM, IISc, etc.

The engagement with the non-nett savvy section of the public can also go on simultaneously in the conventional way.

Can this be the effective route forward?  

Muralidhar Rao

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

Exchanges on the subject on Hasiru Usiru

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Leo Saldanha responded to the above, excerpts of which was posted on the HU yahoogroup with:

Hi Muralidhar

Net savviness must be a tool for mobilisation perhaps, and not taken as a forum for representation. Deliberate democracy is not a product of technology, instead it is based on a dialectic of prior and informed consent, especially reaching out to the illiterate, who are otherwise knowledgeable. Technology causes distances, that breaks democracy. So we must use it, but not rely on it.

Having said that, I am appalled that you are supporting the "upper house" concept of Mr Manivannan. I am not sure what has gone wrong with his understanding of the Indian Constitution, by which he has sworn to join IAS. But surely he knows this much: that a House is constituted not by bureaucratic appointees (as his illegimate upper house is), but instead it assumes the honour of due representation only when its powers flow from the Constitution. Ask him please to stop talking such nonsense. Further, ABIDE is Ananth Kumar's "upper house" as BATF was S M Krishna's.

From a not so tech savvy, but certainly deliberate democracy savvy soul.


I responded with
The full text of my posting on PRAJA on the matter included the following:

In fact, the upper house members can be elected from amongst the contributors to debates on PRAJA, and its constitution can vary from project to project, or sector to sector. The permanent members can be the top bureaucrats from the respective sector/ department, the MD of the operating agency, and a few chosen experts from IIM, IISc, etc.

The engagement with the non-nett savvy section of the public can also go on simultaneously in the conventional way.

Can this be the effective route forward?


Yes, I admit, if stated without this bit, it can have dangerous implications. In my anxiety to keep the 'foreword' to an off-line discussion (as far as this group is concerned) short, I omitted it inadvertently. .

With this added, I expect, nobody should have any objection to the idea. It's after all going to be making the debates more intense and inclusive - inclusive of sections like members of HU, whose complaint today (which you have very well articulated) is that they were not consulted.

The idea of the 'net debate' is to thrash out all aspects of a project in full detail (as to what extent of detail is possible can perhaps be guaged from    http://bangalore. praja.in/ blog/naveen/ 2008/11/08/ tagore-circle- underpass- %E2%80%93- moving-bottlenec ks-basavanagudi   ) and possible consensus arrived at. Thereafter, a final round of physical meetings can happen to formalise the recommendations. These can then be placed before the council for adoption (or rejection).

I can't think of a more inclusive and democratic process.


Shaheen Shasa came in with:
Hi Murali,

The proposed to solution is according some preferential status to the net-savvy people, saying they will be part of the council and will hold consultations with the non net-savvy people. I don't see any way in which these net-savvy people have to be given priority or precedence in being the primary stake-holders or something of that sort... It looks like the net-savvy people along with the bureaucrats will discuss the details and then take the recommendations to the non net-savvy people and discuss those recommendations and then come up with a solution... I don't see why the non-net savvy people should be able to discuss the details as well and come up with recommendations and why those recommendations should not be discussed...

I think neither the council representation nor the scope of detailed discussions should be limited to net savvy people... Equal opportunities should be available for all... I think, a more democratic setup would be where the council has elected representatives from communities that are net-savvy and otherwise... and public consultations should be where all communities discuss the details and/or bring in recommendations and the decision making body or the council (as the case may be) does due diligence on all of it and makes a final design/plan which addresses all concerns as genuinely as possible...


I responded with:
Hi Shaheen

The suggestion I have made is for furthering the consultation process with the nett-savvy people, which process does not even exist today as alleged in the petition. Nowhere does it say that the recommendations made have to be given any priority over those made by the elected council. Very much like in the case of the Parliament, there's no denying that the elected representatives are the ultimate authority in any democratic set up. And, if there's a convergence of view between the lot, nothing like it.

Again, I can't figure out where you got the idea that I may be suggesting that "the scope of detailed discussions should be limited to net savvy people". Let the discussions in the council, and those between the councillors and the public, carry on as they are doing now. Or, if you have suggestions for improving upon them, please put them forward. I don't, and therefore, I am not offering any suggestions there. My agenda here is limited to providing for the inclusion of citizens, who, while very much interested in having a say in the decisions regarding their city, have difficulty attending physical meetings, for whatever reasons.
 

H R Murali came in with:
Also i feel discussion should happen in Kannada  so that locals can get it in the form of books later We r doing the same in http://sampada. net; http://cyclejangama .net

Sharing info in local language and discussing is more meaningful. Infact i am of the opiniion that online forums become more effective when they also meet face to face occasionally and  not discus forever on net.


I responded with:
Hi Murali

Please do go ahead and set up your discussion forums in Kannada. In fact, we, in PRAJA, are thinking of doing that ourselves eventually, though presently we don't have the necessary resources.

Again, we also believe in "meeting face to face" whenever possible, and not just go on "discussing forever on net". However, we are more and more finding that we are able to cover a lot of ground over the net, and keep the physical meetings to the minimum, which given the increasingly difficult mobility scene in the city, is after all a good thing.

Muralidhar Rao

Muralidhar Rao
shas3n's picture

Kannada on Praja

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Murali Sir,

(sorry for the off topic comment).

About creating Kannada content on Praja, I am not sure what you meant when you said we dont have enough resources. I presume you meant we dont have willing people to write in Kannada on these topics.

Praja has technical capability to handle Kannada content. (see examples here and here). It might be a good idea to invite people like Murali to write Kannada content on Praja.

We do indeed need people who can write about civic issues in easy to understnad manner in local launguage. Mr. Murali and his friends surely have the intent right and it would be good to substantiate that intent with some action on that front.

-Shastri

-Shastri

murali772's picture

further exchanges on HU

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Shaheen adds anew:
Yes, I agree with you - what you are suggesting is a way for those who have difficulties in attending physical meetings, but are interested in having a say in the process and are connected to the internet...

What I'm specifically objecting to is your statement that, the council members can be elected from those who participate in debates in PRAJA... This is where my concern about preference and priority for one section is coming from...

I hope that clarifies.

My response:
I don't get your point when you say "Its not a way forward for public consultation, which encompasses a lot more...". It's indeed the only way forward in a world where mobility is becoming more and more difficult. If a Kasab can be tried through video conferencing, why can't 'council' discussions happen on the net? Like in the case of the judiciary, here also everything will eventually have to be put together in hard formats over physical meets. But, prior to that, a large part of the discussions can take place over the net.

Now, for the discussions to happen, there has to be a platform. And, I had suggested "PRAJA.in" as a platform, since it's perfectly suited to such discussions. In fact, many such discussions are already happening there. And, it's open to any and every one who may be interested (You are most welcome too). And, it's natural that those who contribute maximum to the discussions should be invited to the council. We can set up an internal voting system for deciding that also.

Further, it need not be a monopoly either. If anyone can come up with a better platform, perhaps the discussions can happen there too.

Trust I have addressed your concerns adequately.  

Muralidhar Rao

Muralidhar Rao
Vasanthkumar Mysoremath's picture

OK ok, how about "City Council"

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Hoi Leo and Dear All,

What Mr.Manivannan has stated appears to be about a body akin to 'upper house' not necessarily it has to be called as such.  He is open to suggestions and is highly amenable.  Rajya Sabha is our upper house and it may not be correct to associate such an entity at grassroots level.

The crux of the matter is, there is a lack of vision, reality, planning, execution, prudent financial management in government offices - 'what is in it for me' syndrome is the worst bane of our system. 

Prajegalu are trying to find ways for solving our problems from a BOTTOMS UP scenario - meaning, it is the lowest strata that has to be consulted first about the benefits that accrue to them if something mega is projected (let us not be pessimistic) stand firmly in between the BPL and the ' executors ' and the highest echelons of society. 

This approach will give that most wonted need for participatory democracy from the lowest echelons - having such and such members nominated is secondary - let us give priority to the leaders of the Slums - give them knowledge - go to their door step  with models / modules - showcase - make them believe that what is proposed is for the good of all - but starting from them - with this BOTTOMS UP approach, I have a strong belief, the rest will be smooth sailing.  Let us not dissect and conduct postmartem language - my submission to all - let us have a holistic approach and aim at plausible, replicable, sustainable, economical solutions to make our living that much comfortable to all.

- Vasanthkumar Mysoremath 

 

Vasanthkumar Mysoremath's picture

Upper House or City Council-Meeting with Mr.Manivannan,DC,Mysore

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Shaheen/ Murali Sir,

Meeting with Mr.Manivannan, DC, Mysore - to be finalised after election results.

In Praja.in,  Prajegalu have all the rights equal right to express their valuable thoughts without giving room for rants; and there are moderators.

- All great things were once thoughts that were hidden in somebody's mind and came out at some time when they were dismissed as absurd but later became theories, scientific foundations for more great achievements. 

- Praja is an open platform - let us say like "Hydes Park" in London - all are invited to express their Ideas/thoughts/innovations in the open and rest is history.

Murali Sir is right in suggesting certain fhoughts with futuristic ambience.

Let us have patience and see what comes through after we meet Mr.Manivanna,  subjects discussed, who all will attend and how proactive they will be and way forward for other spheres of Praja.

Please also see post

http://mysore.praja.in/discuss/forums/2009/04/success-story-a-street-committee-mysore

-Vasanthkumar Mysoremath

Vasanthkumar Mysoremath's picture

  Please also see

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Please also see post

http://mysore.praja.in/discuss/forums/2009/04/success-story-a-street-committee-mysore

-Vasanthkumar Mysoremath

Ravi_D's picture

Praja and Hydes Park

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@ Vasanthkumar M:

I really liked your analogy between Praja and London's Hyde Park. Add a set of concerned citizens, some civic ground rules, a growing, informative archive of all present and past deliberations, and few other tools to Hyde Park.... you've got Praja.

Ravi

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