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Saturday, 17 September 2011

Now, 'lokpal groups' for every ward

PUNE: The city will soon have a Lokpal group for each ward, beginning with Ghole Road, Warje Karvenagar and Kothrud, which will supervise the functioning of the ward offices.

NGOs and citizens, who had earlier participated in social crusader Anna Hazare's agitation for a strong anti-corruption law, have now gone a step ahead and have planned their own Lokpal groups across the city, at least one for each ward. The idea was approved by Hazare himself on Thursday, when the activists met him at Ralegan Siddhi.

The idea of setting up a 'Lokpal group' in every ward stems from the 74th amendment of the constitution that talks about decentralisation of local governance in urban areas. Citizens involved in these groups will keep a check on the income and expenditure in the ward, see if the corporator and administrators are doing their duties, and hold a ward sabha at least twice every year.

City-based NGOs, Parivartan and Maitri, have come together to give a tangible shape to the idea and have already formed Lokpal groups for Ghole Road, Warje Karvenagar and Kothrud, and are meeting on September 17 to discuss their action plan.

Tanmay Kanitkar, part of the Warje Karvenagar Lokpal Group and founder-member of Parivartan, said, "The primary tasks of these groups would be to visit the ward offices, meet the officials and initiate dialogue between them and the citizens. These groups would also try to understand the problems of the ward officers."

Kanitkar said Lokpal groups will be different from Mohalla committees. "There is one mohalla committee for one ward. We, however, have appealed to citizens to form multiple Lokpal groups, which mean that one ward can have many such groups according to the needs of the residents. The Lokpal group would be akin to a 'vigilance group', which would check the documents of the ward, income-expenditure at the ward office level and ensure transparency in its functioning," said Kanitkar.

Applications filed under the Right to Information (RTI) act and provisions that allow citizens to visit a ward office and check its documents will be employed for the purpose. The groups' members have also contacted 500-600 people in the city, urging them to take the cause forward.

The group earlier met Hazare at Ralegan Siddhi and explained the concept to him. "He agreed that this needs to be done and wished us the best. He also signed our concept document. When the Lokpal bill is passed, we will need to fight against corruption in our area. Hence, we have taken a step forward, being vigilant and having our own Lokpal group," said Pradnya Shidore, a volunteer of Maitri and part of the Warje Karvenagar Lokpal group.

Shidore said the 74th amendment in the Indian constitution talks about decentralization of local governance in urban areas and stresses the role of citizens to participate beyond just voting. "There are various opportunities for the citizens to participate: like holding ward sabhas, sending our preference for citizens' budget, taking part in Mohalla committees' activities, among other things. The 'Lokpal groups' plan to start the participation activities by an activity called 'know your ward'. We will visit the ward office and get to know the administration, and the kind of work done," she said.

The group also plans to help the officers update the voter's lists. "We know there are many mistakes in these lists and we do not want citizens to shy away from voting just because they could not find their name in it. Eventually, we will also check the income and expenditure of the road works, parking provisions and street lighting," said Shidore, adding that at least eight people should come together to form a group.

Vinita Tatke, director of a consultancy company and part of the Ghole Road Lokpal group, said, "The first issue that our group will take up is the concretisation of the road in our ward. Many bylanes off Law College road have been concretized for no apparent reason. We would therefore look into the road budget of the ward and plans for the same."

The groups plan to meet on September 17, 6 pm, at Sambhaji park, J M Road to discuss the ways to form more Lokpal groups in the city.


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