Chennai

Leadership pipeline in resident welfare associations

Illustration: Sreejith Ravikumar

Illustration: Sreejith Ravikumar  

“All of us are under ‘home quarantine’, since March 18,” says P. Vadivel. Sixty-nine-years-old, Vadivel is secretary of the Anna Nagar Western Extension Residents Welfare Association, and the “all” is a reference to three-fourth of the RWA’s management committee. Of the 12 on the committee, nine are senior citizens and given the increased COVID-19 risk that goes with age, they are staying away from those association activities that require them to step out of home.

“My Association activities have come to a standstill because of the Coronavirus,” says Vadivel, his voice betraying disappointment.

At Rajaji Nagar in Villivakkam, juniors have stepped into the breach ever since it was decided that the seniors should be relieved of RWA that requires stepping out of home. The Association runs campaigns prodding residents to wear masks and it also conducted a medical camp. Both exercises, which require legwork and meeting people face-to-face, with social distancing though, are helmed by youngsters.

“If there are any letters to be sent, I carry out that work,” says 72-year-old J. Manoharan, general secretary of Welfare Association of Rajaji Nagar. “For any field work, it's best we stay away. I am glad youngsters are taking up such work.”

E. Santharam, sports secretary of the Association, says the Association's focus on inducting young blood into the committee is standing it in good stead during this crisis.

Sharing roles

Six out of the 10 office bearers are senior citizens, and the rest in their 40s and 50. Besides, it has 15 unit secretaries and five women secretaries.

Santharam says work-from-home extended to him by his firm provides him with some additional time to attend to association work. “Previously, I would be available only on Sundays. Now, as I am at home and when you know there’s a neighbour in need you want to pitch in,” says Santharam.

Annai Indira Nagar in Velachery has also been bridging the generation gap by infusing young blood into its committee. The 14-member core committee has a wide age bandwidth, with members aged from 30s to 70s. A. Balaji, secretary of the Association, says that members of a couple of families in the area tested positive for COVID-19, the not-so-active residents came forward to help. Some of them have even reached out to the Association members, promising help in the future too.

Vadivel recounts an incident where a senior citizen staying alone passed on and residents from the neighbouring plot came forward to perform the last rites. In non-COVID days this would have been the Association's responsibility. Can such acts of kindness prepare the ground for larger community activities? Both Balaji and Vadivel say such gestures would sow the seeds for greater community participation. Vadivel elaborates: “The lockdown has helped us identify more people who are service-minded. It doesn’t matter whether they join the association or not, what is important is that they are empathetic enough to extend help in a crisis.”

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Printable version | Aug 8, 2020 6:21:56 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/leadership-pipeline-in-resident-welfare-associations/article31991804.ece

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