For the past three days, Kalina resident Crompton Texeira, 63, has been keeping an eye on a pile of paver blocks at the end of his road.
If it’s still there by the end of the week, he will raise the issue at the local citizen forum’s next meeting with the local Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) ward officials.“We residents are constantly on the alert for encroachments or obstructions on the roads or pavements in this area,” says Texeira, who is also president of the local citizens’ forum.
The nine-year-old forum has 400 members spread across the H-East ward. Meetings are held at a local school on the third Saturday of every month, to discuss civic issues that need to be raised with the BMC. “We go through every point and decide exactly what issues we will bring up at the meeting,” says Tereira.
A final meeting is then held a few days later, attended by about 10 key members of the citizens’ forum and by local ward officers, civic engineers and the area’s assistant municipal commissioner. Here, the final list of issues is discussed and timelines set for action.
“We have found that, because we are constantly in touch with the ward office, the BMC gives us regular attention and responds promptly to complaints,” says Texeira.
When the pavement was being relaid on Texeira’s Old Market Road, for instance, he and a group of other residents monitored progress to ensure that all the paver blocks were intact and were laid evenly.
Be it sunken paver blocks, unlicensed hawkers’ stalls or missing manhole covers, local residents are, in some part of the city, using citizens’ forums and advanced locality management groups to stay actively involved in local civic governance and to keep in constant touch with their local BMC officials.
The BMC, for its part, is happy to have the help.
“When ALMs and citizens’ groups keep an eye on their specific areas and relay suggestions and complaints to the BMC ward office, we immediately send officials to look into the matter and take the required action,” says Girish Patil, executive engineer at the office of the BMC’s chief engineer for roads.
Adds Kanthi Kannan, founder of Hyderabad non-governmental organisation Right2Walk: “The footpaths in Mumbai are deteriorating because there is no clear ownership. People build shops or park their cars on them, and residents simply don’t bother even to ensure that they are maintained, leaving them crumbling and unusable.”