They wonder who will have a say in nominating members

Though the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) is gearing up to comply with the High Court directive to constitute ward committees (WC) in all the 198 wards by January 21, citizens’ groups have voiced their apprehensions about whether this can be achieved in a democratic and transparent manner.

Hobson’s choice

Kathyayini Chamaraj from CIVIC (Citizens’ Voluntary Initiative for the City) sought to know who would be nominating citizens for the 10-member WC, the local councillor or the BBMP council. “If it is the councillor, it can be safely said that he/she will nominate 10 followers. If it is the council, the party (BJP) will have a say. This process could be highly undemocratic and not transparent.”

Objection

CIVIC has recorded its objection to this and has written to Minister for Urban Development S. Suresh Kumar in this regard.

She said distinguished citizens with a record of social service must be nominated as members. “They must be chosen through a democratic process. A list of nominees can be prepared and objections invited from citizens of the ward. The nominees must not have any political background,” she said. Ms. Chamaraj suggested that once finalised, the list can be ratified by the BBMP council, which should not make any additions to the list. “However, time is too short for the BBMP to follow these procedures. We will submit a memorandum to Commissioner Siddaiah urging him to seek more time from the High Court so that democratic procedures may be followed.”

‘No work done’

The BBMP has not done any preparatory work and may just create WCs for its own sake, remarked Samuel Paul from the Public Affairs Committee. “To form WCs, one needs time to prepare the list of nominees, vet the same and verify the proposals, see if the balance of number of women members and those belonging to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes is maintained.” These processes, he observed, would require at least a couple of months. The High Court’s directive with a January 21 deadline comes in the wake of the BBMP failing to form WCs even though the gazette notification was issued around a year ago. “Now that the BBMP is pushed to the wall, the WCs may be [just window-dressing] to show the High Court it had followed its direction. However, since the court has waited for so long, there would be no harm if BBMP is given more time to form the WCs,” he opined.

As crucial as polls

The former Mayor P.R. Ramesh said that forming the WCs is as crucial as elections to the BBMP. “It should have been a co-terminus process along with the BBMP elections. WCs make the democratic process transparent and vibrant.”

As for the tight deadline, he said if there is political will, WCs can be constituted in a month. “With the time available, the BBMP should form the WCs in all wards and can later go back to formulating the policies governing the committees.”

Court directive

A Division Bench comprising Justice N. Kumar and Justice B.V. Nagarathna had directed the BBMP on January 10 to constitute the WCs as mandated by the Karnataka Municipal Corporations (KMC) Act. Following that, the BBMP council decided to hold a special session on January 15 to constitute the WCs and nominate membersin all the 198 wards.