4,219 ward committee meetings held in one year despite COVID: Survey


In the one year, between August 1, 2020, and September 4, 2021 — which included the months where Bengaluru weathered the onslaught of a second wave of the pandemic — 4,219 ward committee meetings were held across the city. Of the total 198 wards, 170 held meetings during this period.

These were some of the findings of a Ward Committee Meeting Survey conducted by Janaagraha Centre for Citizenship and Democracy, the details of which were released at a workshop on Saturday.

“Over 4,000 meetings in one year is a record of sorts given Bengaluru’s two-decade-long struggle to institute ward committees,” Srinivas Alavilli, head, Civic Participation, Janaagraha, told The Hindu.

However, a bulk of the meetings were held by a section of neighbourhoods, with as many as 65 wards held less than seven meetings throughout the year. On the other hand, 54 wards exhibited 75% and above conformity to the revised mandate by conducting at least 21 or more meetings out of 27 during the survey period, stated the report.

Eleven wards (6%) did not meet even once during the year, while 33 wards (17%) performed exceptionally well and held two meetings per month. Every ward committee is supposed to meet twice in a month on the first and third Saturdays. A total of 72 wards (36%) held one meeting a month.

One of the goals of the survey is to understand whether Bengaluru’s wards are adhering to the mandate of conducting regular meetings and if they have progressed beyond grievance redressal systems.

“Thousands of meetings have been conducted and continue to happen. Many nodal officers are doing excellent jobs. We noticed that wards with active citizen groups have WCs that are functioning well,” said Mr. Alavilli.

The survey found that while many wards consistently held regular meetings, they did not upload the proceedings on the BBMP website. For instance, Vasanthnagar, Kumaraswamy Layout and Dayananda Nagar conducted over 25 meetings but failed to upload a single proceeding online. Only two wards, Hombegowda and Gottigere conducted all the meetings and were consistent in uploading proceedings, found the survey.

Nodal officer of Gottigere ward, Ramamani, stressed on the importance of a successful partnership between citizens as well as residents’ welfare associations and officials. “Our ward mobilised more than 90 people during the pandemic. We have shortcomings too. There are operational and maintenance issues, but as we hold meetings once in 15 days, we are able to push such issues,” said Ms. Ramamani.

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However, for every success story, there were examples of how ward committees are failing to meet their potential, and the uphill task of getting a problem addressed.

Neerja Shetty, a resident of Koramangala, said the initial enthusiasm of the meetings faded over time, while Lalitha Mohan from Radhakrishna ward said their meetings had not progressed beyond personal grievances. “Talk on budget allocation does not happen. Only those with personal problems attend … we are only firefighting,” said Ms. Mohan.

A representative from Hoyasala Nagara, Mala, stressed on the importance of inclusivity. Alerts and discussions on WhatsApp groups are not inclusive, she said. “Meetings were regular when the corporator was there. It’s hard to find out when the meeting is happening now,” she said.

Civic officials stressed on the importance of citizen participation and the need to hold agencies accountable. “Democracy will flourish only when citizens participate. We may not do everything at one shot but once the problem is recorded, it will surely be addressed. Of the 100 problems, at least 15 will be solved,” said Thulasi Maddineni, BBMP Special Commissioner (Finance).

BBMP has allocated ₹60 lakh for each ward committee for work to be taken up in three core areas: fixing potholes, borewells and improving footpaths. “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,” she added.

Accessibility of nodal officers

With the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) council’s term ending more than a year ago, nodal officers have been chairing ward committee meetings. The response has been mixed.

While some citizens said they functioned more effectively with their corporators, others found a marked improvement once nodal officers took over.

For the report on ward committees, Janaagraha made phone calls to all 198 ward nodal officers. Of the 198 wards, 76 nodal officers (40%) were able to effectively respond and answer all queries regarding WC meetings for the survey, said Janaagraha.



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Sagar Biswas

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