Each ward committee can recommend how Rs 60 lakh should be spent on footpaths, potholes and borewells as part of the 2021 BBMP budget.

A ward committee meeting in progress in BengaluruSuresh Kumar/ Twitter
news Governance Sunday, November 14, 2021 - 18:00

In the first ever assessment of functioning of ward committees in Bengaluru, city-based NGO Janaagraha found that more than 4,000 meetings were held in favour of decentralised governance from August 2020 to September 2021. Encouragingly, 33 out of the 198 wards conducted meetings twice a month as mandated. Another 72 wards conducted ward committee meetings at least once a month. However, only two wards — Hombegowda Nagara and Gottigere — conducted 100% of the meetings and were consistent in uploading the proceedings on the BBMP website. Eleven wards did not hold any meetings at all. 

The study found that out of 198 wards, only 40% Nodal Officers (76 NOs) were able to effectively respond and answer all queries regarding Ward Committee Meetings for this survey. Janaagraha conducted a first-person survey between September 6 and 18. Phone calls were made to 198 BBMP Nodal Officers.

In the absence of an elected council of corporators, ward committee meetings were chaired by nodal officers appointed by the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike. While ward committees were to be formed in all cities in the country as part of the 74th Constitutional Amendment, no other Indian city has functioning ward committees. The change in Bengaluru came following sustained activism and litigation at the Karnataka High Court. But ward committees got a major boost with the 2021 BBMP budget giving Rs 60 lakh fund to be spent equally on roads, pavements and borewells based on the ward committee recommendations. 

BBMP also implemented Ward Decentralised Triage and Emergency Response (DETER) Committees for COVID-19 management during the peak of the second wave as part of ward committee function. 

Janagaraha released the survey on Saturday in a workshop where many residents and citizen groups shared their experiences. Thulasi Maddineni, Special Commissioner (Finance), BBMP who also participated in the meeting said, “Democracy will flourish only when citizens participate and when they demand accountability. This is not a big amount but it is a beginning. If we see success, we can definitely work towards increasing the funds in the future.”

As part of the workshop, many residents expressed their varied experiences of both cooperation and reluctance by the officials. “Today’s Ward Committee Workshop has proved beyond doubt that Bengaluru citizens are eager to participate in Ward Committee meetings and many of them already do. Bengaluru is the only big city which not only has functional Ward Committees but also Rs 60 lakh allotted to each of them. We are determined to use this opportunity provided by the BBMP to make the wards better. We invite all citizens as a forum to join Ward Committees so that local issues can be resolved locally,” said Srinivas Alavilli, Head, Civic Participation at Janaagraha.

He added, “Thousands of meetings have been conducted and continue to happen. Many Nodal officers are doing an excellent job. We noticed that wards with active citizen groups have ward committees that are functioning well. And there are also a few wards where the meetings have not been conducted. All this information is important for the BBMP to understand how to strengthen Ward Committees,” he pointed out.

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