Officers will meet RWAs on the first and third Saturday every month to address grievances
With the five-year term of the 198 councillors ending earlier in September and in the absence of elected representatives, ward committees and citizens’ groups are worried whether issues in their neighbourhoods will be addressed.
To ensure that grievances of citizens are addressed effectively, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) has appointed nodal officers for each of the 198 wards. These officials will be the contact point for citizens
In an order issued on Monday, BBMP Commissioner N. Manjunath Prasad said that nodal officers will have to monitor solid waste management in their respective wards, tackle rain-related problems, and ensure that roads are free of potholes and not subject to illegal digging. They will also have to monitor and remove unauthorised flex and banners, collect property tax and consult with former councillors.
The officers have been directed to conduct meetings on the first and third Saturday every month and submit reports to the zonal joint commissioner and commissioner.
This system will mostly replace the Ward Committees that were chaired by the respective councillors. The move has invited appreciation and criticism from citizens’ groups.
Kathyayini Chamaraj from CIVIC, who was a member of Shanthinagar Ward Committee, pointed out that appointment of nodal officer had done away with the existing system of Ward Committees, Disaster Management Cell and booth-level committees that were constituted to keep track of COVID-19. “The booth level committees were set up following directions of the Karnataka High Court. The BBMP could have continued with the existing ward committee meetings on an informal basis,” she said.
Tara Krishnaswamy from Citizens for Bengaluru said it was a good interim measure, but lacks political accountability. “It is condemnable that elections to the civic body are not being held. There was also a provision to extend the term of the BBMP council. However, the government did not explore all options,” she said.
The term of the ward committees is coterminous with that of the councillor and a bureaucrat cannot chair the ward committee, pointed out Srinivas Alavilli of Janaagraha Centre for Citizenship and Democracy. He welcomed the “progressive move”, given the unusual situation.
“While there is no public accountability, there will at least be some bureaucratic accountability,” he said. He, however, questioned whether the nodal officer will liaise with counterparts from other civic agencies, especially Bescom and BWSSB.
He expressed doubts over whether this system will represent all citizens equally. “RWAs represent citizens of a certain socio-economic strata. How will there be any representation from those living in slums and weaker socio-economic groups?”