Chennai

Coronavirus: Many resident welfare associations have postponed their annual general body meeting

Illustration: Satheesh Vellinezhi  

For the first time in its history, Krishnapuram Residents’ Association had missed its annual general meeting, with the question of conducting it dragging on for a year. Thanks to the pandemic, the 30-year-old RWA in Ambattur could not conduct its AGM, supposed to have been conducted in September 2020.

“There was no way we would get a quorum as COVID-19 cases were still high in Chennai,” says S Muralikrishna, advisor to the Association.

The department of registration came to the rescue of many such RWAs like Krishnapuram that are registered under the Tamil Nadu Societies Registration Act, 1975, by extending the deadline till December 2020.

“Early this year, January and February was the ideal time to conduct this annual exercise but we could not hold it for various reasons,” says Muralikrishna.

The Association has more than 600 members and as the bye-laws mandate that the AGM should be conducted with one-third strength, the task before the organising committee was not easy.

A 21-day notice period needs to be given to members before conducting the meeting. “Audited balance sheet must be ready besides submitting Form 6,7,” says Muralikrishna, adding that there is a lot of paper work of be done.

Later, with the second wave and the subsequent lockdown, members could not initiate the meeting.

The Federation of Virugambakkam Residents Welfare Association, which is an umbrella body of 22 residents’ welfare associations, is in the same situation.

The challenge that goes with gathering all the members at one place is the reason we could not conduct the AGM, says S Arumainathan, member of the Association. The old team continues to manage operations that need immediate attention.

In these uncertain times, he says, the department must extend the time for RWAs to submit their returns.

So, why are AGMs important?

A registered association is duty-bound to conduct the AGM, which facilitates a discussion on assessment of the work done by the RWA and where plans are proposed for the upcoming year. Revision of minutes from the last AGM and discussion relating to expenditure and savings of the outgoing year are among other matters that have to be addressed. Based on the returns and documents submitted by the RWA, the Department renews the registration.

Muralikrishna says having the tag of a registered association has its own perks.

Some years ago, the Greater Chennai Corporation recognised RWAs that did exemplary work by offering them awards. The one major criterion for entering the fray for this award is to be a registered RWA, says Muralikrishna.

“Representing your colony’s grievances from a letterhead that states that your association is registered, always carries credibility,” he says.

What next?

Most of the RWAs that have postponed their AGM have to cough up a fine.

An auditor for a couple of gated communities and a member of Mahalingapuram Residents Association says as long as members are on the same page it is okay to defer the annual general meeting during such circumstances.

“If there is not much conflict among members or legal complications RWAs need not hurry up in these times,” he says. Otherwise the fine amount is small for RWAs, he says. “The fine amount depends on the balance sheet,” he says.

V. Ramesh, secretary, Krishnapuram Residents’ Association, says they are now exploring the option of a virtual AGM.

“Against the prediction of a third wave, we are not sure if we can conduct a physical meeting soon and so, we have formed WhatsApp groups to find out residents’ availability.”

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Gated community organises AGM and EGM online

Last December, residents of Jains Inseli Park Owners’ Association in Padur made a new beginning conducting its annual general meeting on a virtual platform and announcing a new team. There was a clear sense of urgency to host an e-meeting because a new committee had taken over in January 2020 and various changes had been brought in, and these had to be communicated to members.

But an order from the department of registration that AGMs cannot be held online had put the brakes on this exercise. Later, the exercise was initiated after the gated community received a clarification through a government notice. This was based on requests from housing societies to the Government to conduct AGM under the Tamil Nadu Societies Registration Act, 1975 through virtual means in view of the COVID-19 outbreak and lockdowns.

“The act neither requires physical presence of the person nor specifies a particular place for conducting the said meeting, and hence there is no bar to conduct AGMs through virtual or electronic platforms,” read the notice shared with The Hindu.

Based on this circular, the Owners’ Association wrote and sought permission.

The e-meeting was held on Zoom and went on for close to three hours.

MyGate app was used to communicate to people the date and time of the AGM.

“A digital platform is good for one set of people, especially NRI owners that comprise 20-30 per cent of our community who could log in from any part of the world and take part in the deliberations,” says Arun Dhanaraj, secretary, Jains Inseli Park, which has nearly 500 occupied flats.

The Zoom meeting recording and other documents were later submitted to the department of registration. “We know they received our file but we are waiting to get the certificate,” says Arun.

In March 2021, an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) was conducted, again virtually. “As we were a new team and big budgets had to be approved we conducted an EGM,” says Arun.

Going forward, will this be an option they will explore, post-COVID? Arun says digital platforms are an option worth exploring and also for the promise of greater attendance.


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Printable version | Sep 19, 2021 11:36:32 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/coronavirus-many-resident-welfare-associations-have-postponed-their-annual-general-body-meeting/article34983684.ece

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