For over a decade, solid waste and contaminated water has been flowing into a big drain outside Philomena Merchant's home in the Kolivery gaothan at Kalina. "When we complained, civic authorities gave us false assurances. It is time we took charge of the situation," said Merchant, who is contesting the Mobai Gaothan Panchayat (MGP) elections next week.
The gaothan panchayat was first formed in the Juhu gaothan in 2009. The concept was a success and elections for the second term were held last week. Now, 14 other gaothans will also hold elections for the panchayat. Each gaothan will elect a sarpanch, who will take up the problems of the community members with civic authorities.
"The Juhu gaothan panchayat was a successful experiment. The elected committee became the face of the Juhu gaothan residents, helping their development," said Alphi D'Souza, president, MGP. "Once assured that a parallel system was indeed useful in resolving civic issues, we decided to expand the panchayat system."
The election has its own set of unique rules: the voting age is 15 years, voters have the right to reject a candidate, right to recall an elected candidate, a term of 30 months and bonus point scheme for those doing good work.
"The voting age of 15 will instill a sense of responsibility among the next generation. It will prepare them for the general elections," said Gleason Barretto from the MGP. "Our community lacks co-operation and direction. Despite being the original inhabitants of the city, we are neglected in matters of development."
The gaothan panchayat will combine the village gram panchayat system and the advance locality management (ALM) movement. "Issues pertaining to sewage line, water, electricity, garbage disposal, roads, emergencies, health, social activities and green projects will be given top priority by the sarpanch," said D'souza.
The local sarpanch will select his group that will represent the panchayat committee. The panchayats will meet regularly to discuss and solve civic issues.
"The elected candidates will represent their villages and will be allocated a symbol. From among the 15 elected sarpanchs, one will be elected as the MGP sarpanch," said D'souza.