‘Councillors fear that the panels will undermine their importance'

People in the jurisdiction of the Mangalore City Corporation (MCC) have been deprived of advantages of citizens' ward committees. It is because the council of the civic body has been avoiding their constitution for 14 years.

After a voluntary organisation wrote to the Commissioner of the corporation on July 14, 2011 that it would petition the Karnataka High Court about the failure to constitute the committees, an agenda to form them was placed in the meeting of the council on Friday last. The council postponed the agenda again without taking any decision. Namma Mane Namma Ooru of Pachchanady had written the letter. According to an agenda note in the meeting, there is a need to constitute the committees as they are required under Section 13 (A) of the Karnataka State Municipal Corporations' Act, 1976. The Government had issued a notification to this effect on September 23, 2003 after making necessary amendments to the law. According to it, the committees have to be constituted by dividing the wards (in case of MCC it is 60) under 20 zones. But a decision to this effect has been pending before the council since 1997-98.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in its manifesto for the MCC council elections in 2007 stated that it would constitute ward committees and their meetings would be conducted systematically. This promise is yet to be realised.

Nagarika Hitarakshana Samithi president G. Hanumantha Kamath told The Hindu that the councillors feared that if the committees were constituted they would undermine their importance. When the committees were in place, the councillors could not get works done as per their whims and fancies. They could not do favours to anybody. Then, works would have to be taken up on priority as per the decision of the committee. There would be more transparency.

All councillors, irrespective of political parties did not want the committees purposefully, Mr. Kamath said.

Speaking to The Hindu, a BJP councillor agreed with Mr. Kamath's views. He said even some councillors of the Opposition Congress had contacted him before Friday's meeting to ensure postponement of approval. A senior Congress councillor even questioned him for tabling the agenda at the Friday's meeting. The Congress councillor was unhappy that the BJP was raking up the issue which his party managed to put on the backburner.

Padmanabha Ullal, adviser to Ooru, and who was formerly an Assistant Executive Engineer in the Karnataka Urban Water Supply and Drainage Board, said that the former councillor from Kankanady Judith Mascarenhas was indeed conducting ward committee-like meetings in her ward. She used to take up works as per the decision taken in such meetings.

Mr. Ullal said Ooru had raised the subject at “jana samparka” meetings held at the Town Hall in the presence of N. Yogish Bhat, Mangalore City South MLA, twice.

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