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Ward committees etc - sorry, wouldn't work

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Moving a comment on this excellent post from PSA/Pathy sir up here in the hopes of generating more discussion. And some disclaimer first - 1) I am not against the concept of engagement/consultation. 2) there is no offence meant to anyone or any group of citizens that puts in time towards engagement/consultation. 3) Likes of PSA/Pathy/Murali/many more sirs deserve a lot of respect for taking part on the engagement channels that exist today.

The way things stand today, local engagement initiatives (like Ward Committees) mostly go in one of these two ways:

  • Either the activist types, or those with little more time on hand (retired, or perhaps not employed full time) would participate. For anecdotal evidence, see how PSA sir/ Pathy sir and Murali sir have been posting here on this subject and attending the events. While their time is much appreciated, and is certainly worth it , we all wish and want more people to get involved.
  • Corporators or MLAs would flood the committee with their "own" citizens. After all, its not like you would actually have well publicized elections to pick ward committee members. Local politicians can always pick or nominate their men, and looks like they do. And they will do this even more if the local committees start becoming a "problem" for them.

I am against such "event" (as in, a meeting to review things etc) and "group of named people" (as in a committee of so and so people) based current approach to citizen engagement or participation. Just can't work for lack of wider participation, plus lack of clarity on these things:

  • What are the powers or possibilities of such "events" or "committees". Can they propose things? Can their proposal be tracked?
  • How do you pick people fro this committee - self selection, or those who show the interest, get rewarded by being included?
  • Do these committees have any real say on the budget meant for their local area?
  • Is there full public visibility on the budget for the local area? Is there a local area budget itself in the first place?
  • Is there a proper "city" / "larger urban area" level body to manage consensus building for projects that touch multiple local areas? Say - a mass transit project, which may call for an underpass in one local area (so they would oppose), but provide connectivity to other local area (who would have proposed in the first place).

Without making two basic things clear (budgets - how the money flows, and responsibility - what can or can NOT the local committees do and change) - I don't think the participation is going to get any wider.

Now, in the Praja spirit, can't just criticise, have to provide alternatives too. They would include things like:

  1. Publish budget for local areas in advance
  2. Make it clear to public that there is a separate city-wide budget too, city-wide budget is meant for larger-geo-spread/larger-impact-area projects
  3. Local committees have control over local area budget. If control is impractical, atleast full transparency.
  4. Local committee's vote is a deciding factor in projects that are funded from city-wide budget. There must be enough publicity about this fact, so that citizens take the committees seriously.
  5. Local committees can be virtual (meetings using skype/google hangout etc)
  6. Local committee votes can be virtual (no constraint to be present physically to vote)
  7. There is a law that makes my employer NOT count half day / full day leave if I go take part in local committee proceedings :)
  8. Controversial one, but here it is. Each committee member should disclose her political affiliation - just let us know who you voted for in the last local election. would be good to be transparent about political leanings of the local committee.

We know that 1/2/3/4 would not be easy - corruption etc come in on all matters that concern spending of public money. Transparency would hurt established interests, so its not easy. But sadly, unless I know that I can influence how public money gets spent, or at least go and count every paise of public money spent in my local area, I am not likely to  find it worthwhile to sacrifice half day of work to take part in local events or local committees.

In the above paragraph, "I" = this group:

  • 25-40 age group citizens,
  • employed, working full time,
  • are interested in 'these' things, but are seen to be apathetic,
  • and, are routinely called out to as "middle class that doesn't care much" by many news reports.

Thanks for reading. This is a tricky topic, but dont think we have managed a deep discussion on this subject on Praja so far.


silkboard's picture

reward for putting in time, but ...

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A clarification regarding making things "virtual".

  • Reward/recognition is definitely required for those who would put in more time (to attend the meetings in person, write up proposals etc).
  • But right now, the committee thing is loaded too much in favor of those who "have the time", or are "funded". Majority of the target group (who we all want to participate) doesn't even think about participating.
  • Making participation easier (through making meetings or votings virtual) would help. It may not make the participation process fully inclusive, but definitely a lot more broader.
idontspam's picture


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This post assumes that those who are 'free' & can participate (like murali/pathy, activists etc) may not worthy of it. This is the same "fear" that is driving the politicians to not implement this. So should we accept status quo & not have anybody participate because some of us cannot, however imperfect it might be?

I think to address this "fear" we need to know the scope of activities the participatory committee & the level of transparency that this will bring to the rest of the "non-participating" affected population. Can we take help of these 'free' people to convey our views better than we can now?

silkboard's picture

oh yes IDS, thanks.

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Thanks for that comment IDS, for pointing out a possible unintended communication there. Those who are managing to attend/engage today - their time and efforts are ABSOLUTELY worth it. I have modified the disclaimer in the original post to make sure that this miscommunication on worthiness doesn't happen.

Who is worthy or not worthy of engaging is nobody's business to decide. Purpose of engagement is not to decide technical merits of any proposal, but to question or justify the results expected from any proposal, no matter who brings it up to ask for public money.

However, practically speaking, the engagement worthiness today is determined by through availability of time to attend the meetings/events. I have heard this theory from multiple people, including some IAS officers, new-gen leaders etc. "if people have the interest, they should come", "my doors are always open, why didn't you come sooner", "if you really like the cause, bunk office one day and come" etc.

The justification for this theory is that 1) this weeds out "non serious" citizens, and 2) that it naturally tends to bring in people with experience and maturity. This second part has some merit to it. The first one, probably not.

srinidhi's picture


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Absolutely loved the thoughts on budget and the introduction of more transparency in the system..if these ward committes can do that it will be more than what we can expect!

That way all public will be aware for example about situations where and why footpaths are being redone/reshuffled every 6 months in certain localities and never touched in certain others(MG road etc)

Also I kind of agree on the thought about ' "if people have the interest, they should come"..isnt Praja working that way now? Do we ever miss a weekday meeting at DULT or elsewhere? why do we do it..cos we have obligated to the cause!

pathykv's picture

WARD committees

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The suggestions by Pranav and comments by others are very useful.

The W.C.s are being formed after long delay  reluctantly and half-heartedly.

Though I have put in my application, have been told it was too late.

So far, so good.

On behalf of Janaagraha I used to convene monthly 'Citizens Forum- Ward 74 (now 88)'. All stake holders were invited and so were the citizens. In course of time, though the officials-BBMP, Traffic Police, Health officer, BWSSB etc. used to come the number of citizens dwindled to such an extent, I had to give up.

Now as Ward Committees are formed with several resonsibilities, the Citizens Forums can be revived and have dialogue with W.C.s to take the idea forward.

Though the present set up may not be ideal, at least a beginning has been made. It is upto the citzens in respective wards to keep a watch on their functioning and effect improvements in due course.


psaram42's picture

A million dollar question?

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Whether Ward committees will workout or not as expected is a million dollar question. I for one would rather appreciate if the present garbage crisis is managed properly as it should be by International standards, in our city of Bangalore. The citizens of our city deserve this.

 One certainly does not need to be

  1. a ward committee member
  2. a city Father
  3. a Corporater,
  4. an MLA
  5. a Minister
  6. or a chief Minister for this

What is required is certainly the establishment of an efficient system for

                                  “Garbage management”

This includes the following steps:-

  • Segregation at source
  • Composting units
  • Recycling strategies for plastics
  • To name a few
  • When the solution is available make BBMP implement it.

What is required is a solution for the present crisis. How about a PRAJA project?

pathykv's picture

Garbage problem

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Dear Mr. Anantram,

As the Karnataka High court found that BBMP is not able to manage, it has asked for the formation of Ward Committees one of whose duties is garbage disposal at ward level itself.

The functioning of ward committees is yet to be seen.

Of course a PRAJA project can be started.


vmenon's picture

garbage issue vis a vis ward commitees

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I am afriad no where in the traditional media,  e groups ,social networks or in the High court has the real issue ( in my opinion) been addressed , let alone talked about with regard to solid watse management.

In fact it has gone so far away to now see  ward commitees as the solution .

I believe it is not a qestion of segregation, waste management technologies or even local governance (though of course all this helps.)What is not talked about is the very real and ugly Contractor mafia that run the garbage clearance in this city.And with the citys' corporators in their pocket there is absolutely no control over this group.

The  Mandur issue is not about landfills , but about landfills done wrongly and brazenly wrongly by the mafia leading to an absolute ecological disaster.

Ther are many places in the world ( developed coutries too) where landfills are employed , but not in the sick manner of benguluru.

Just do some maths , there is probably( and all on the inside track agree)  about 1000 tons over estimate on a daily basis of the amount of waste generated or rather the waste paid for by the corporation.And this has been going on ad infinitum

Not much the ward commitee is going to do about that , unless there is a gun toting vigilante on the commitee.



psaram42's picture

Our garbage is not weighed at all

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@ vmenon

Is there a 1000 tons over estimate?

There is no actual weighing done at all! Our people are too good at estimating for convenience! Garbage needs to be weighed before any payment is made for the services. This is an international practice. Our corporation seemingly does not bother about such trivial issues. 

pathykv's picture

Garbage Trail

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Please see the grass root level work being done by Mr. Ashwin Mahesh.


srinidhi's picture

wonder whats the number!

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BBMP claims 4,000 Tonnes per day..and they were out to measure that since last week..wonder what happened..

more here

ALso the plan to weigh the garbage in the city doesnt make sense..guess it will need to get measured before the dumping happens..that way we are exactly sure what is being weighed is being dumped..else the same truck will be measured multiple times within the city!

psaram42's picture

High time BBMP takes note of these developments.

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I thank you Mr. Pathy, for the link.  The article by Prof Ashwin Mahesh of IIM Bangalore is an eye opener. Hope BBMP takes note of it and implements the best garbage management plan for our city. Here is the full Face Book article:-

Went on a 3-hour trip with various industry leaders as well as BBMP officials yesterday, looking at some of the 'trail' of waste in the city. The idea was to get buy-in from all the chambers of industry to start doing whatever they can within their own campuses and also understand the economics of the waste trail. Three places that we visited all have important learnings to offer.

The biogas plant at IIM Bangalore substitutes for 16 cycliners of LPG each day, out of the wet waste collected on campus itself. It cost about 10 lakhs to set up, and has some operational cost, but at that rate of recovery of costs, it's a no-brainer. It requires only minimal space, less than a 30x40 site. If more residential and/or campuses go down this route, we could substitute their energy needs and reduce waste to landfill, both at the same time.

Then we went to see a scarp dealer in Gottigere. Altaf specialises in paperboard and in tetrapack-type juice containers. His facility is also not that large, maybe 4000 square feet in all. He collects from various companies around him, bales things up and sends them on to his buyers, who include manufacturers of the food packaging too. There's a reasonable margin between his cost of acquiring the recyclables and the resale price he gets. 

What we need is this kind of facility all over town, ideally specialising in different kinds of dry waste. The dry waste collection centres that BBMP is setting up are not specific to certain product lines, but I wonder if they could run into inefficiencies because of that. It would be better to have (in a cluster) on DWCC for glass, another for wood, a third for paperboard, and so on. 

Also, such services should be empanelled by BBMP. Today, they're operating at the margins of the economy, simply because there is a need for what they do, and they are entrepreneurial enough to do it. But the system actually works against them, rather than enabling them to become formally recognised, and helping to grow such businesses. We discussed this, and the Commissioner has agreed to start an empaneling process for dry waste handlers.

Then we went to the Karnataka Compost Development Corporation site near Singsandra. It's a standard large-scale vermi-composting operation, which can punch a couple of hundred tons of wet waste through on a daily basis. But in 2008, BBMP went and totally messed up their functioning by dumping 12 lakh tonnes of MIXED waste on their premises. They've been struggling to sort that ever since, because they can only process WET waste, and it looks like it will take a year more to complete, on current course. 

They had requested BBMP to buy them one more sorting machine, which could cut the time in half, they say. But the 'file' is as usual going around in circles for years. Finally, with the SWM crisis mounting, BBMP has woken up and agreed to fund that. It is appalling how sometimes we allow great tragedies to build up because we don't do small things right.

I think it was good for many of our industry leaders to see all this. Many admitted that the 'trail' of trash they saw was an eye-opener to them, and promised to initiate conservation practices within their campuses. I'll try to organise such visits a few more times, and a few other facilities also, so that there can be wider appreciation of the full chain of waste operations needed to build a truly clean city.

It would be nice if some of us could join the proffessor on such visits. 

I should admit of my ignorence about the meaning of DWCC Acronym used by the professor. The meaning here which looks reasonable is David Winter Collectors Club who collect glass items.

DWCC David Winter Collectors Club (UK)


psaram42's picture

DWCC is already there!

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I see the DWCC operaters daily during my morning walk. We know them as rag pickers. Many are on trycycles carrying huge plastic sacs!


The rag picker as we call them. Actually he is a DWCC[India]!!

n's picture

DWCC is mentioned in the

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DWCC is mentioned in the article itself - dry waste collection center! comment guidelines

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