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RAAC efforts to form area sabhas

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K.V. Prasad

These sabhas will make a public forum at grassroots level

COIMBATORE: After having initiated the formation of ward committees for public participation in city development, the Residents Awareness Association of Coimbatore (RAAC) has now begun efforts to form area sabhas in each residential colony.

RAAC has released advertisements in newspapers, inviting residents to be a part of this process that is made mandatory by the Central Government's Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission for infrastructure development in the Coimbatore Corporation areas.

The association has used the banner of Alagana Kovai, its clean environs programme, to reach out to residents to form the sabhas. The mission mandates public participation in planning, implementing and sustaining schemes. It insists on the formation of ward committees and area sabhas towards achieving this.

Basic foundation

RAAC says it had received calls from more than 40 residents' associations on Monday, the first working day after the advertisement appeared on Sunday. "We already have formed committees at the ward level and this will provide the basic foundation for us to work on with regard to area sabhas," says association vice-president G. Soundararajan.

The heads of the sabhas will be members of the ward committee headed by a councillor of the Coimbatore Corporation. Area sabhas will make a public forum at the grassroots level.

They will equip themselves with complete information of the local body, its functioning and its budget.

They will create a ward infrastructure index that will show the facilities provided and what more their areas need. The present ward committees are functioning well, Mr. Soundararajan claims to point out that this system can form the basic for the fresh effort for a more micro-level participation.

Preparatory

Association project co-ordinator S. Baskar says the latest move is only a preparatory effort before the Government enacts the Community Participation Law as part of implementing the mission.

"The sabhas we form may not have the backing of a law now. But when the law is in force, the foundation we provide now will help," he says.

The plan now is to continue with the residents' associations system where each of them will have already elected their office-bearers.

When the law comes into force, elections under the State machinery will be held.

Orientation

Till then, the members of the sabhas will be given orientation on rules of the local body, its functioning, grievances redressal machinery, role of the public in city development and building capacity in them for participation.

RAAC will start off this week by training its trainers on these aspects, before they begin to sensitise the residents.

Wherever there is no residents' association, a non-Governmental organisation active in that area can double as the sabha. But its sabha representative should be a local resident.

The sabhas may function like the Advanced Locality Management groups in Mumbai that did most of the rescue and damage containing works during the floods last year.

The people's committees will also work to bring revenue to the Corporation. These will urge people to pay taxes.

"Only then can we have the moral right to question the Corporation," Mr. Soundararajan points out.

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