Citizens must vote for change | mumbai | Hindustan Times
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Citizens must vote for change

I have been a citizen activist for the past 20 years. For a long time, my approach was similar to the approach of a majority of citizens — to only show concern about the lack of good governance in Mumbai and campaign as an outsider. However, I realised soon enough that my own non-participation in this ‘participative democracy’ was adding to the city’s problems. I decided to walk the talk. This year, I am contesting as a citizen’s candidate for the upcoming BMC elections.

mumbai Updated: Jan 08, 2012 01:03 IST

I have been a citizen activist for the past 20 years. For a long time, my approach was similar to the approach of a majority of citizens — to only show concern about the lack of good governance in Mumbai and campaign as an outsider. However, I realised soon enough that my own non-participation in this ‘participative democracy’ was adding to the city’s problems. I decided to walk the talk. This year, I am contesting as a citizen’s candidate for the upcoming BMC elections.

But my struggle started more than a decade ago. I began by gaining knowledge about the workings of our government by getting involved with non-profit organisations, ALMs and citizens movement groups.

The work I did with them opened my mind to people’s participation. My vision to shape in 2000 when I formed the F-South Ward Citizens’ Forum trust.

In 2006, I took up the initiative to fight for the damage done to pavements and footpaths because of the pandals that were raised during political rallies. I persuaded the authorities at the BMC to take immediate action. In 2008, because of my constant follow-up the authorities decided to impose a fine of Rs 2,000 for every hole and damage. It was one of my early successes and then there was no looking back.

It also helped me realise that a common man can make a a difference if he tries.

For instance, the citizens of Mumbai need to realise that persistent measures can bring about change. Simple things like using complaint and helpline numbers such as 100 for the police and 1916 for the BMC to solve neighbourhood problems and then following it up if no action is taken with Right to Information can bring about positive results.

I also firmly believe that the citizens need to use RTI Act to ensure trustworthy governance, resort to correction of mistakes that have been done, remove ill practices within the system and bring about accountability and transparency.

What Mumbai also needs is transparency from its authorities. We must make the most of the internet and coax the BMC to upload records of the revenue spent on each project. All work orders given to contractors should also be published on the website. This will help reduce corruption. Citizens should form social audit groups. If I get elected I also plan to set up citizens social audit teams that will track each corporator and keep an eye on his and authorities expenditure.The government in turn needs to support the functioning of the city by encouraging active people’s participation through ALMs and other community organisations.

(The writer is an RTI-activist and is contesting the BMC elections from 195 ward.)