Smartphones, check. Social networking apps, check. Governance, check.
There is no policy asking them to use social networking platforms to govern, but departments of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) are communicating through such apps, through 20-odd groups, where they make decisions, conduct meetings and even quickly resolve a problem.
These groups are headed by senior civic officials or additional municipal commissioners, and some of them even have civic chief Ajoy Mehta as a member.
The move, said officials, allows them not only to make decisions quickly, but also increases the accountability of officials.
“If something needs to be acted upon, we take a photo and upload it on the groups. Some of these groups have all 24 ward officers and other department heads. This means, the official concerned must act and report on it with proof promptly,” said Sanjay Mukherjee, additional municipal commissioner. “The groups are especially useful to ensure quick action and to ask for status reports,” he said.
For instance, it took just five minutes to gather relevant data, when recently the Bombay high court asked the civic body to file an affidavit about Ganpati pandal permissions.
“Usually, an email has to be sent to the different wards, or a letter faxed. But this time, when an additional commissioner asked for the information, all 24 ward officers sent it immediately,” said Kiran Dighavkar, assistant municipal commissioner, M east ward.
Apart from administrative groups, there is a disaster management group to ensure quick response during emergencies. The civic chief, the head of the disaster management cell, deputy municipal commissioners, joint commissioners and ward officers are part of it.
But there is a flipside, some officials said.
“The constant beeps from the different groups distract us from the work at hand. There are times when our bosses ask us why we have not responded to a message, even though we read it. It makes us difficult to manage our daily work and also constantly report on these groups,” said an official, not wishing to be named.
Another official was not very happy with instant action the groups necessitate. “When senior officials travel and find something that needs to be acted upon, they stop, take a picture or send a message on the group, asking us to act and report back. In such cases, there is no escape,” said another official.
The civic body has also formed a few groups with reporters as members. Managed by the BMC’s chief public relations officer, timely updates, actions and decisions are posted on them to keep the media in the loop.