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Residential colonies long for the days of Swaraj

Will you allow somebody else to decide how your courtyard looks? If no, then why let somebody else decide the location of your colony’s playground? Wouldn’t it be nicer to let the residents decide, instead of the MCD, about any and every other utility in the colony?
By Nivedita Khandekar | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON APR 19, 2009 12:14 AM IST

Will you allow somebody else to decide how your courtyard looks? If no, then why let somebody else decide the location of your colony’s playground? Wouldn’t it be nicer to let the residents decide, instead of the MCD, about any and every other utility in the colony?

Swaraj or self-governance envisages exactly this. “Swaraj aims at decentralisation, by giving power to the residents in affairs of their locality, giving them a say in everything related to them,” Magsaysay award winner Arvind Kejriwal says.

The residents of Masjid Moth and Greater Kailash-I ‘E’ Block support the concept because they have faced the problem.

Despite vociferous protests by residents, a 6-acre plus park-cum-playground beside the DDA Masjid Moth Flats was handed over to Delhi Transco Company for a power station in 2004. “We were not even consulted,” Ranju Minhas, a member of the Masjid Moth RWA, says.

GK-I, on the other hand, has a number of parks — some for senior citizens, some for jogging and a few others are vacant plots. But there is not a single playground in the area. “We keep cribbing that today’s children don’t play outdoor games and only watch TV. But it our fault that we have failed to give them any open space,” Rajiv Kakria of GK-I ‘E’ block RWA says.

The RWA organised a ‘Run for a Playground’ mini-marathon in December 2008 and collected thousands of signatures on a single point agenda — we want a playground. The plea was petitioned to the Lt Governor and ultimately reached the Union Sports Minister M.S. Gill, who promptly announced a National Playground Authority in January 2009. It is a different matter that
the actual playground will not come any time soon.

While this can be a good example of how collective action can bring about change, the fact remains that the desired change is still far away. “The formation of National Playground Authority is against the concept of Swaraj. Why at all should there be a ‘national’ policy for something as local as a community playground?” Kejriwal says.

Under ‘Swaraj’, each colony will have a Mohalla Committee or a Ward Committee (according to population size) on the lines of a gram sabha in a village. “The residents can directly discuss and decide everything in their area,” Kejriwal adds.

But will all residents welcome such a system? “I really doubt if the urban elite would be forthcoming for such things,” says Kakria.

Kejriwal clarifies, “The people will not come initially. But then, if they don’t come for the Mohalla Committee meetings, they will the lose the right to complain about anything.”

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