Citizen groups are pulling out all stops to improve civic amenities in their localities — which include not only exerting pressure on local civic officials, but also taking stock of work carried out by private contractors appointed by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).
My Dream Colaba, a citizens’ forum, has been organising meetings every week between residents, civic engineers, the local corporator and the contractor in an attempt to create coordination between all agencies that are responsible for carrying out civic projects.
“Our major concern was to make pavements more user-friendly. Maintenance of footpaths by keeping them encroachment free and making them handicap-friendly are other concerns that were addressed after the meetings began,” said Makarand Narwekar, corporator and a member of the group.
Calling the initiative a community-centric mechanism, Narwekar added: “This needs to be emulated in other wards too. Instead of complaining about civic conditions, citizens can actually bring suggestions to the table to improve work of the BMC and the contractors.”
A citizens’ group from Bandra and Khar, H-West Federation, has also decided to break the barrier between citizens and private contractors.
“We have requested the assistant municipal commissioner to consider suggestions from citizens when contracts are handed out to private players. This would effectively help in making people’s opinions count when work on any project is undertaken,” said Anandini Thakoor, chairperson of the federation.
Demanding access to contractors, Thakoor added: “Earlier, citizens were never kept informed about the projects carried out by contractors. We will now ask for contact details of contractors too so that we could directly follow up on the work.”
“Under the Right to Information Act, citizens have the right to access any information they want. It is important to cooperate with them. But there should be a model worked out for this level of coordination,” said an official from H-west ward requesting anonymity.
IAC demands social audits for contracts; threatens to protest
The civic body will award civil works contract worth Rs,2500 crore for 2012-2014 this month. To protest the alleged malpractices involved in the tendering process, India Against Corruption (IAC) volunteers will agitate outside the civic headquarters and demand social audits on all contracts.
“Last year the quality of civic work carried out was very poor. An independent body should be formed of citizens representative groups and established civil engineering firms who will examine if the work is required and whether it has been executed correctly,” said Preeti Menon, an IAC volunteer. The IAC demanded that no bill should be passed without approval of the independent body and 0.25% or 0.5% of all contract value should be set aside for social audit.
Mohan Adtani, additional municipal commissioner, said, “Presently, such third part audit are carried out for road work.”