I have been involved with our ALM - THE N.
DUTTA MARG ENVIRONMENTAL GROUP since its inception in Y2000. There are
35 societies and approx. 5000 residents on our street. It is commonly
acknowledged at all levels (our residents, BMC, other citizen groups
and the press) that we have made a perceptible difference. The Orchid
ALM Trust in 2004 declared us the best ALM in Zone III. Our street is
clean and green, there are no encroachments, and we receive excellent
cooperation from the BMC, the police, utility services etc. Through a
quarterly newsletter SANKALP we disseminate information on
environmental issues to our residents and today an average resident of
our street is more empowered than his counterpart elsewhere.
Having said this let me also tell you
of the problems we face continuously at ground zero.
1. General apathy of the residents
in general. Despite repeated requests and exhortation and example no
one wishes to come forward and join the movement. The same original
active group of 5/6 women (mostly senior citizens) still shoulders the
responsibility. The attendance at our monthly meetings is pathetic.
Enlarging the ALM into an LACG will not change this
ground reality but only compound it. It is easier to manage smaller
groups and I think we should persist with and strengthen ALMS. The
initial objectives when setting up ALMS was laudable and just because
the success rate is low it does not mean you should give it up. The
success rate will be even lower with LACGS. By interacting with
non-performing ALMS we can help
them perform better.
2. We interact
regularly with BMC officials at the ward offices. By and large they
have been responsive to our needs. However the LACC meetings have not
yielded the desired results because very few BMC representatives
attend. There is no follow up or accountability. If the ward officer
had taken this more seriously there would have been vast improvement
at the micro level. This is an example where the system is in place
but due to lack of interest of the BMC it has failed. Since it depends
so heavily for its success on the BMC, the LACG is also likely to meet
the same fate as the LACC. Even the JO does not do his work - what
makes you think the Nodal Officer will be any better?
3. For maintenance of our street we have fixed
a voluntary contribution of just 50 paise per flat per day or Rs.15/-
per month. You will be surprised to know that less than half of our
residents pay this measly amount. Even many of the "educated and
well-to-do" residents do not contribute. Such is the extent of
their indifference. You have suggested that "An LACG can collect
a monthly contributory amount for its functioning from every owner /
occupier in their area, if the citizens there
collectively decide that a specific amount should be so
collected." This is virtually impossible unless it is made
mandatory. I don't think the BMC can do this, can they?
4. Clubbing together several ALMS into a LACG
may be counter productive since the problems addressed by different
ALMS are not the same and may lead to bickering among different groups
within the LACG.
5. At some
point in time it must be recognized that the BMC has become too large
and unwieldy and needs to be bifurcated into four or more independent
zones or boroughs. The lopsided development of the city is primarily
due to this. This is also why the suburbs were totally devastated
during last year's natural disaster.
6. For example K West ward alone
accounts for 13 councilor wards and 185 LACGS or nearly 8% of the
total LACGS under your proposed scheme. The K ward comprises of almost
15% of the councilor wards. For effective implementation, I think it
is imperative that the BMC is decentralized. Once this is done, the
ALMS will be easier to manage and are a better option for the city's
ills than the LACGS. Do you think the head honchos and elected
councilors of the BMC will let go of their powers?
7. A major
assumption in your proposal is that the average citizen is computer
literate. This is far from true. In our street hardly 0.5% of the
residents know emailing despite ours being a "literate"
locality. For that matter how many BMC officials open and respond to
their emails on a daily basis? What will be the language of
communication - English, Hindi, Marathi?
It will be difficult to collate information and the kind of MIS you
have in mind will suffer.
8. Just as
mostly senior citizens manage our ALM, I imagine most of the others
too are. Getting good volunteers for an LACG will be difficult.
Politicizing and bureaucratizing the process by having elections,
committees et al will only complicate the situation and lead to
endless delays. Do you think any volunteer will stick his neck out and
accept responsibility for something that happens within his LACG area?
It will ultimately result in anti-social elements taking control -
just like they have done in the
Corporation and the Assembly. Especially in view of the proposed
honorarium the BMC plans to disburse. The moment "money"
enters the picture the best of intentions get derailed. There are no
monetary handouts involved in the ALMS
Selfless volunteers are their biggest
assets. That is why I feel the ALM is a better option with a greater
chance of success.
commuting is a major hassle in Mumbai. Unless meetings are held at
venues within thirty minutes traveling distance attendance will always
be poor and the picture that emerges at these meetings will get
distorted. With the chaotic traffic conditions and as a senior citizen
I for one find it difficult to attend meetings in the city.
Ms. Alexandrina Xavier Aiyar
N. DUTTA MARG ENVIRONMENTAL GROUP
Dear Mrs. Aiyar,
I am very happy to read your email. You have taken a lot of trouble to
reply. It would have been so useful if you would have done so when the
LACG idea was being considered. Anyway, the LACG is now the law since
1.4.06. Let me try to reply to your points to the best of my
Firstly, congrats at the success of your ALM. Please do post me a copy
of Sankalp. Our address is in the Contact Us tab in www.karmayog.org
1a. You can be an LACG in the same geographical area as your current
1b. Which aspects in the LACG Charter do you think are not
1c. What other measures in your opinion should be taken to strengthen
1d. Have you interacted with non-performing ALMs? What has been your
2a. It is good to know that Ward Officers have responded well to your
needs. Why do you feel that will change?
2b. We are aware that some LACC meetings have not worked out well.
There are three primary changes -- one, is the concept of a Nodal
Officer. It will be the Nodal Officer's responsibility to co-ordinate
with various BMC officers at the Ward Level. Only the Nodal Officer
will attend the Councillor Ward meetings, so he/she can't pass the
Secondly, all complaints (not only the ones of ALMs/LACGs) will be fed
into the online computerised system. All unresolved complaints will be
taken up at Councillor Ward meetings, then Ward level meetings, etc.
till resolved. Now, either you believe that will happen, or it will
not. If you do believe it will happen, you should not have cause to
complain, isn't it. We certainly intend to try to make that
Thirdly, agendas, minutes i.e. decisions, action taken reports will be
written jointly by Nodal Officer and the LACG. These will be shared
publicly to the extent deemed appropriate. I don't know if you realise
what a huge step this is.
4. noted. Working together is a suggestion. It is not mandatory. We
are looking for individuals who have the capability and attitude
in getting groups to work together. We are hoping that such
individuals will form the Lead LACG in their Ward. Such individuals
may be able to achieve what you have correctly said is difficult. On
the flip side, if citizen groups do not know how to resolve issues
amongst themselves, it is ok. The BMC is taking decisions anyway, and
will continue to do so. Most of us do not have the maturity to realise
the irony of this. We prefer others to resolve our problems. So be
5. noted. What you are suggesting is beyond the scope of the NGO
Council. You should take it up with other forums who have the ability
to do so. I do want to point out that there are other people who have
other thoughts in the matter, e.g. corporatisation of some functions
e.g. solid waste management just as BEST. In my personal opinion, your
suggestion is too simplistic.
6a. noted. What is your concept of decentralisation? Please explain
6b. You have not clarified yet what, in your understanding is the
difference between ALMs and LACGs. Please do so. Have you mapped your
ALM with the proposed LACG area? Is there a geographical problem that
you can't handle?
6c. Why are you talking conceptually? Let's get down to specific
problems of specific ALMs or other groups who want to function within
the LACG concept.
7a. We are aware that many citizens are not computer literate. It
would be nice if you can suggest how to make arrangements in the LACG
Charter to be able to involve such LACGs which do not have a single
computer literate person.
7b. BMC is going to spend Rs. 100 crores over IT in the next 1-2
years. TCS has been appointed to oversee the computerisation and they
have been working on it since quite some time. BMC will not remain the
computer unfriendly organisation it is now. Either you are willing to
believe this and thus plan simultaneously with what they are planning.
Or you can suspend belief till you see it actually happening. I prefer
7c. Hindi is not a language that BMC uses, I think. So it will be
English along with Marathi. Whether Marathi is possible or not, I
7d. I think the Praja system itself either has quite some MIS or they
can tailor their system to generate the MIS. The reasons the MIS is
not being used to its potential is something I think you should
discuss with Praja or BMC, if you really want to understand the
situation. But it should be sufficient to note that India's prowess in
IT and ITES is because all such stuff can be put into an MIS. Do
update yourself also on what the government is planning for 10,000
8a. For me, it is a wait and watch issue. My personal belief is that
the ease of dealing via LACGs will bring in more citizens who
currently don't have the time to do so.
8b. I don't think the process is being politicised. On the contrary. A
group of citizens have to simply show that they have support of
buildings in their area and apply to become an LACG. (n fact, the Vote
Mumbai / Lok Satta movement is seeking to politicise citizen
involvement with BMC.)
8c. I don't think the process is being bureaucratised either. In any
case, that is certainly not the intention.
8d. Enabling clauses are put into Rules because Rules are not changed
easily. The honorarium clause is one such clause.
8e. Many ALMs have expressed financial impediments in running their
ALMs. Maybe you'll don't face it. But I can state with certainty that
we got that feedback from enough ALMs.
8f. When you state that "the ALM is a better option with a
greater chance of success", I would like to state three
i) Hardly 10% of the ALMs are working with any degree of success. It
would be fair and proper on your part to accept this reality.
ii) I think you are reading the LACG Charter with a jaundiced eye. It
does not dilute anything for ALMs. It does not make life
difficult for ALMs. If you can point out specific clauses which you
feel should be removed, modified (pl give the stated modifications
exactly in writing), or deleted, please do that, and we will take it
up in the Apex LACG meetings.
iii) What you seem to view as 'success' is probably some limited civic
complaints. We want to include situations of disaster.
8g. I do understand and appreciate that your ALM is composed of 5
ladies. You are happy with what you are doing and achieving. I sense
that you feel a threat that someone else will take over your lane. Why
they should do so when they are not getting involved so far is
puzzling to me. In any case, I am sure that it is in no one's interest
and I can assure you that it is no one's desire to lose your valuable
contribution to your area and thus to the city.
9a. Commuting is indeed a problem. Timings of meetings are also a
problem. Hence meetings have been fixed at a zonal level also which I
hope you can attend.
9b. If you refer to meetings that we have been initiating at the BMC
Head Office, I would suggest and request that you give your thoughts
and viewpoints and suggestions via email. All that you have pointed
out in this email, you would not have been given the time in a meeting
to express yourself. I also hope that my sharing my thoughts has been
helpful. That too would not have been possible in a group meeting due
to paucity of time. Since this email is being circulated to the group,
it will reach out to a wider audience than discussions in the meeting.
Finally, please always feel free to call and talk.
I personally hope that you shall come forward to be a Lead LACG in
Contact 22940109 (For enquiries between 2 to 3 pm)