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Home >> NGO Council >> Letter to the NGO Council Members dt. 24 April, 2006

Letter to the NGO Council Members dt. April 24


Dear NGO Council Member,

The BMC Disaster Management Cell has asked us to furnish contact details of the NGO Council Members to put into a publication they intend printing, so that you can be contacted quickly by different agencies in the event of a disaster. So please email the information as per the attached format. Do
write a little about the services you can provide during a disaster, or the ways in which you can get involved prior, during, and after a disaster.

I would like to also take the opportunity to update you on the various developments since the formation of the NGO Council on August 22, 2005, in the aftermath of the flooding in Mumbai. Most of this information is also in the NGO Council link in .(The direct link is .)

An MOU was signed between the NGO Council and BMC on December 12, 2005. This was historic because it was the first ever. It recognises the important role that civil society plays and enables the involvement of civil society organisations with BMC in policy formulation, implementation procedures, monitoring and feedback on all civic issues. The MOU was mentioned by the Municipal Commissioner in his Budget Speech 2006.

In developing policy recommendations, the idea has been to get as broadbased inputs from all stakeholders and individuals and organisations with experience and expertise on the subject as is possible over a reasonable period of time via meetings, emails, eGroup discussions, and the Karmayog
website. This method of creating a 'collective vision' is showing results, and bringing great value, thus clearly positioning the NGO Council in comparison to other groups or committees. The large base of NGOs and participants in Karmayog has been instrumental in being able to get all relevant inputs on an issue.

Accordingly, the first area of involvement that was identified was Solid Waste as that was felt to be the major cause of the extensive flooding. Nearly a 100 organisations were involved over 4 months to firstly develop an overall policy document which was agreed to and minuted by BMC. Thereafter, recommendations from this policy was incorporated into the Construction and Debris Rules, and the BMC Solid Waste Rules 2006 which came into effect from 1st March 06. It is worthwhile to note that even though Municipal Solid Waste guidelines were laid down by the Supreme Court in 2000, no overall
policy had been framed for Mumbai, even though five years had elapsed. So what has been achieved is no mean feat. The Rules are very different from the usual rules promulgated by BMC or government authorities. These include several stated obligatory responsibilities of BMC, annual targets, involvement of Civil Society, and of the NGO Council. Subsequently, a Monitoring Committee has been set up under the Mayor which will meet monthly to review the waste situation. This committee includes three members of the NGO Council. If you are interested in being on the Committee, please email.

During the process of formulating the Solid Waste Rules, it became very apparent that Mumbai can not become or remain clean without the active involvement of citizens. Accordingly, meetings were held with ALMs and other NGOs. This led to the Charter of the BMC - Local Area Citizen Group Partnership 2006 w.e.f. 1st April 2006. I do believe that this could well be the paradigm for citizen - civic partnership for all Indian cities.

One highlight of the LACG Charter is the formation of the Apex LACG Committee which would consist of the Municipal Commissioner, 4 Additional Municipal Commissioners, 5 NGO Council representatives, and 5 LACG representatives. This is a historic first, with a lot of potential for resolving civic problems and greatly improving the quality of life in Mumbai.

The next issue to be taken up was pertaining to hawkers. This issue has now been in the courts since two decades. It is now in the final stages in the Supreme Court, and the orders and guidelines that are set down will be the defining ones for the hawker issue for the city. So it is of paramount importance to have the best possible solutions for this issue.We would like to take the opportunity of giving a recommendation to the BMC on behalf of the NGO Council after properly reviewing the various Court orders till date, as well as the detailed studies made by many organisations for Mumbai, as well as getting inputs from a wide variety of stakeholders and affected parties. Nearly 50 people and organisations are now engaged in these discussions. This too is a first, as such deliberations of conflicting parties seem to have not really taken place in the past.

Several other initiatives have been done e.g. the first-ever workshop with BMC for all CBOs involved with the Dattak Vasti Yojana (Slum Adoption Program); public display of a lot of information e.g. circulars; etc.

Other issues on which a collective thinking exercise have been initiated are public health, stray dogs, and disaster management. We hope to work on these one by one after the hawker recommendations are completed.

Throughout January, a series of meetings were held almost daily with Mr. Ratho, Additional Municipal Commissioner, on various civic and social issues. These meetings were attended by individuals and organisations who had an interest or involvement in the concerned subject. All this gave a better understanding to the NGO Council and to BMC about the different aspects and perspectives of the different issues, who could be involved, how interested they were, what needs to be done, etc. In due course, we hope to take these forward.

The process of focusing on one issue at a time, discussing it threadbare in a transparent manner in which any citizen can also give inputs, developing a  holistic solution taking into account various perspectives and limitations, seems to be a useful one leading to tangible results.

The recommendations that emerge, and sometimes, even the process of engagement and involvement of others marks a new way of engaging with the BMC, where we are engaging in a constructive collaboration for change. At each stage, BMC has been consulted so that the recommendation that emerges is as good as a joint one because the idea is to have an actionable document. For those who have been disillusioned with the BMC and seek a confrontational approach, or who feel that it is the BMC's duty to fulfill its obligations and not that of NGOs and citizens, the meetings held with BMC have not been satisfying, as it has been clearly stated that such meetings are not for venting frustration or arguing but for understanding perspectives and finding solutions. Some organisations have expressed that they are not familiar with discussions via email and seek more meetings which has just not been possible because once a matter is taken up, it soon acquires a tempo of its own. For maybe these or other personal reasons, some members of the NGO Council, e.g. Citispace and Lok Satta, have opted out, even as several NGOs have voiced their desire to become members of the Council. The support and encouragement that we have received from NGOs and individuals from across the city and country has enabled us to come this far, and encouraged us to take on more issues and build the capacity of the
Council. As is expected in any public activity, there have been brickbats with the bouquets, but the strong belief that the role of civil society and the NGO Council is essential in good city governance has been the main guiding principle.

I have been funding the activities of the NGO Council but as it grows, funding needs are increasing, e.g. for a secretariat type function, for an experienced staff member, and for researching and putting together concept papers. So do let me know of any organisations or individuals who are likely to see value in what we are doing and have the possibility of funding at least Rs. 10 lakhs a year. Else, at some point, we will have to look at membership fees of, say, Rs. 1000 a month.

If you would like to take up a cause for the entire sector in which your NGO is involved, please let me know.

If there is any area which you would like to take up with BMC, please let me know. For instance, for June 5, World Environment Day, if you would like some event to be held jointly by your organisation along with BMC and the NGO Council, do let me know at the earliest.

The existing BMC structure and machinery seems to limit them from setting up a project team in place for new initiatives. They are keen and willing for the NGO Council members and others to be involved so if your organisation would like to be involved, please let me know. For example, USAID and CEE have
offered to BMC to prepare a communication campaign for cleanliness and the NGO Council is also involved in providing feedback for that campaign.

The need and value of a body such as the NGO Council to the city and country is slowly becoming apparent. I greatly appreciate the explicit and implicit support of every NGO Council member.

Much as I would have liked, I have not been able to be in regular personal contact with you but I would be pleased to discuss any aspect that you would like to at any time convenient to you whenever you so

Warm Regards,

Vinay Somani
Convenor, NGO Council