Difference between ALMs and
LACGs - Note 2 - by Vinay Somani, Trustee Karmayog
/ Convenor, NGO Council
This follows Note 1. These notes are my personal views and
understandings. They may or may not be shared completely by others
involved with the making of the "Charter for the MCGM - Local
Area Citizen Group Partnership 2006" which has come into effect
from 1 April 2006.
In Note 1, I gave a background to the events and experiences that
led to the LACG idea. In this note, I would like to share what I
consider as noteworthy in the LACG concept. These also automatically
clarify how LACGs are different from ALMs. I am relating LACGs with
ALMs because some may feel that it is old wine in a new bottle
but that's not the case.
1. BMC has two wings -- the administrative and the political.
Broadly speaking, the financial decisions are taken by the political
wing i.e. Mayor, Standing Committee, other committees, the 227
corporators / councillors. The administrative decisions are taken
by the administrative wing headed by the Municipal Commissioner and
supported by the 4 Additional Municipal Commissioners, etc.
So if civil society is to effectively participate in civic governance,
it is important to engage in a formal manner with the highest levels
of the administration. For probably the first time in the 124
year history of BMC, an Apex Committee has been formed comprising
the MC, the 4 AMCs, a Chief LACG Nodal Officer, 5 NGO Council representatives,
and 5 LACG representatives.
(The NGO Council should also similarly engage with the political
wing at some stage.)
2. The entire city has been earmarked into about 2000 geographical
areas under the LACG concept. These are contiguous i.e.
with boundaries touching each other, thus giving a carpet-like coverage
for the entire city. Since the numbers are administratively manageable
and the coverage is complete, this lays the base for creation of
structures to effectively deal with overall city-wide issue as well
as area-specific civic matter. At one stroke, it becomes possible
to involve the entire city. This is another first.
The Councillor Wards have been taken as a base unit as those are
the administrative and political base units for BMC. Each Councillor
Ward has been demarcated into about 10 LACG areas. The boundaries
of each of these has been prepared by the respective Ward Officer.
The maps are available online at www.karmayog.org
and are with each Ward Office. Boundaries depend on population density,
physical boundaries e.g. roads, sweeping beats, polling booth coverage,
etc. such that each LACG area covers 5000 to 10000 citizens. The
boundaries are only suggestions and changes can be requested by citizen
groups coming forward to form LACGs. The boundaries may also be
re-drawn if there is any administrative necessity that requires
it to be done.
(Citizens or citizen groups e.g. ALMs can apply to be LACGs for
part of an LACG area also. While this is not administratively convenient,
there is a provision for this in the LACG Charter. Over a few years,
however, it is expected that each LACG area will be represented
by one LACG only.)
3. A Nodal Officer will be appointed for each of the
227 Councillor Wards. The Nodal Officer will be the contact
person for citizens and for LACGs. The N.O. shall provide information,
guidance on BMC matters, and shall help a citizen record and redress
complaints. It shall be the N.O.'s responsibility to ensure that all
complaints received at the Ward by phone, fax, letter, or email
are entered into a computerised complaint system by the Complaint
Officer at the Ward, and are taken up at successively higher levels
of the BMC until they are resolved.
A Nodal Officer shall be appointed in each CW irrespective of whether
there is an LACG or not in that CW. The N.O. shall hold fortnightly
meetings at the Councillor Ward with LACGs (or with citizen groups
if there are no LACGs) in which solutions for unresolved complaints
shall be discussed along with any other suggestions received from
any citizen in that CW. This is another first. Councillors / Corporators
will also be part of these meetings. The current LACC circular
will stand cancelled end May.
The Deputy Municipal Commissioner (General Administration) at the
BMC Head Office shall be the Chief Nodal Officer.
(Since Nodal Officers shall be from BMC staff who shall continue
to have to do their current duties, also, we should be realistic
that the effectiveness and efficiency wise be lower than what everyone
involved may like.)
4. LACGs can get involved in any civic issue pertaining
to their areas. This includes creating awareness, monitoring,
feedback, implementation, suggestions, etc. to BMC. This can go
beyond garbage to include hawkers, stray dogs, public amenities,
footpaths, road repairs, traffic suggestions, garden adoption, trees,
care, beautification, encroachments, etc.
The first thing that an LACG could do is to undertake making a status
report of the various civic issues jointly with the Nodal Officer
so that that becomes the base document to follow up for the area.
LACGs can also undertake services for implementation of local schemes
or plans for their area e.g. maintaining composting units, and be
paid accordingly by BMC.
BMC shall share its plans and programs in advance with the concerned
LACGs including work orders and permissions given to utilities
for road excavation etc. This will enable LACGs to comment on it,
prepare for it, and track that the work is done in a timely
and proper manner.
(It should be clearly noted that an LACG is not obligated to undertake
any particular activity, and their doing so, shall not, in any way,
absolve BMC of fulfilling its obligatory responsibilities.)
5. All citizen complaints shall be dealt with in successively
higher meetings until resolved. Meetings will be held at
the levels of the 227 Councillor Wards i.e. Nodal Officer (fortnightly),
24 Administrative Wards i.e. Ward Officer (fortnightly), 6 Zones
i.e. Deputy MCs (fortnightly), 4 Head Office i.e. Additional MCs
(monthly), Apex i.e. MC (bi-monthly).
Complaints, decisions taken, action reports will all be fed into
a computerised complaint management system that will be accessible
at all necessary levels and publicly displayed as appropriate.
Complainants, affected people, experts, government agencies ngo's
or associations representing slum-dwellers or the underprivileged,
will be called into meetings concerning them to ensure that all
viewpoints are considered.
All this will enable better understanding of the bottlenecks hampering
the resolution of specific complaints and generic problems. Necessary
steps can then be taken at the appropriate levels by officials who
have the required authority to do so. Examples are -- deploying
manpower, sanctioning funds, authorising co-ordination of various
departments, issuing orders, making new circulars or guidelines,
holding meetings with government agencies, changing internal
procedures, modifying policies, notifying new rules.
Similarly, procedures will be made for monitoring, reporting, feedback,
and suggestions. Such systems should allow citizens (in Mumbai or elsewhere)
to plug into MCGM constructively in a painless manner, and track
what is happening vis-a-vis their inputs.
Tata Consultancy Services are implementing new eGovernance Initiatives
in BMC. The 2006-07 budget of BMC provides for Rs. 100 crores for
this. A part of this is a computerised complaint system, a citizen's
portal, and a computerised information request system. All
this is already at an advanced stage. The LACG Charter is timely
so that the BMC - Citizen engagement process can be incorporated
into the software being planned so that all information can be captured
within appropriate Management Information Systems. It would probably
not have been possible to do so later.
(Till such time that this is done, Praja may be able to modify their
current Online Complaint Management System to enable trial runs
of the LACG concept.)
6. Disaster Preparedness:
A joint survey of BMC and government civic infrastructure, and local
civil society resources which can be harnessed for disaster management
would be another exercise that should be done by the LACG along
with the Nodal Officer as per the procedure and requirement of the
BMC Disaster Management Cell.
A lof of activities prior to, during and afer disasters can be done
very effectively in co-ordination with LACGS. Mock drills, information
dissemination, disaster-related education, taking care of needs
of the particularly vulnerable (children, elderly, pregnant women,
challenged individuals), medical facilities and camps, prompt and
equitable distribution of relief supplies, verifying rumours, verifying
information for insurance and government rehabilitation purposes,
are some of the examples.
BMC may set up publicised communication centres in each LACG for
direct hotline communication during disasters.
7. Funding for the working of an LACG:
LACGs can generate funds for routine operations and for specific
activities in different ways.
Honorarium shall be given to LACGs who provide watchdog services.
BMC will also pay made for other specific responsibilities and assignments.
LACGs can collect and keep administrative charges (read as 'fines')
from offenders breaking BMC rules e.g. for littering, not maintaining
saaf aangan, etc. 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.
No system can function effectively without correction via reviews.
LACGs will be reviewed via Open House meetings for all citizens
in their area every quarter. Individual LACGs will also submit their
own performance reports every six months. Based on these, LACGs
will be reviewed yearly, and their registrations may be cancelled
for non-performance or upon verified complaints.
LACGs themselves will review the BMC meetings and results.
The Apex Committee will also review all aspects of the BMC - LACG
All these reviews will be shared publicly.
In summary, I feel that this Charter for the MCGM-LACG Partnership
2006 is a new vision for Mumbai. It is a different paradigm
for citizen - civic engagement which can be a replicable model for
other cities in India also.
To my mind, the BMC, via the MOU with the NGO Council, various clauses
in the Solid Waste Rules, and this LACG Charter, has shown its willingness
to involve civil society earnestly. The ball is now in our court as
citizens to get involved in a constructive way to ensure that BMC
can actually deliver the services it is supposed to.
It would be wishful thinking to assume that implementation of the
various aspects listed above from the BMC - LACG partnership will
go smoothly, that all complaints will get resolved, that vested
interests will not influence programs, etc. It could take a few
years just for all systems to be put into place.
Nevertheless, today being Ram Navmi, I would like to take the opportunity
to say that the seeds of a Ram Rajya are there, and I do hope that
there are enough of us who will come forward to form Local Action
Citizen Groups in our areas.
Thanks for the patient reading and for all your support to the NGO
PS: The entire Charter including the Application Format is in www.karmayog.org