A survey conducted by Voice of People (VoP), a citizens’ collective, showed that around 90% of the Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC) councillors who took part in the survey were unaware that the Tamil Nadu government has notified rules for the formation of Area Sabhas and Ward Committees.
Moreover, three-fourth of the surveyed councillors said that they were not even aware what Area Sabhas and Ward Committees were. Of the 200 councillors of GCC, VoP said it reached out to 191. Only 146 attended the phone call, of which 110 of them agreed to take part in the conversation, the survey results released by VoP said.
Following a long-pending demand by the civil society for the formation of Area Sabhas and Ward Committees to make the functioning of urban local bodies more participatory, the Tamil Nadu government notified the rules for the same in June. According to the rules, councillors are the ones to play the lead role in the functioning of the Area Sabhas and Ward Committees.
Charu Govindan of VoP said that the Tamil Nadu government has to take responsibility for the lack of awareness of the councillors. She questioned why the government has not taken any measures to create awareness among the elected representatives.
It has to be noted that a group of organisations, including VoP, recently made an appeal to the government to make significant amendments to the newly-notified rules to make the Area Sabhas and Ward Committees truly effective and participatory.
Though majority of the councillors were neither aware of the committees nor the rules, the survey report, however, said that most of them showed interest to learn about the rules and understand the lacunae in them. Many of them invited VoP members for an in-person discussion to get a better understanding of the issue, the report said.
The report urged the government to prioritise educating the councillors on the composition, functions and powers of Area Sabhas and Ward Committees. If the government is really committed to people’s participation and power devolution, the report said that it should launch a wider campaign to make the public understand the importance and functioning of such bodies.