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Home >> NGO Council >> First Meeting of BMC - NGO Council on 17 Dec 2005

First Meeting of BMC - NGO Council on 17 Dec 2005


17th Dec. Meeting Minutes 

Those present: 
Mr.Ratho, AMC (City), MCGM
Mr. Vinay Somani, Karmayog, Convenor, NGO Council
Mr. Narendra Nayar, Bombay First
Mr. Vijay Mahajan, Bombay First
Mrs. Annabel Mehta, Apnalaya
Ms. Sujata Ganega, SUPPORT
Mr. Javed Haider, NASEOH
Ms. Kumudi Telang, IAPA
Ms. Jyoti Mhapsekar, Stree Mukti Sangathan
Mr. Sahadev, Red Cross India
Ms. Zainab Bawa, Praja Foundation
Ms. Deepika Singh, Federation of Centres for Community Organization
Ms. Bhavana Kapadia, SNEHA
Mr. Anil, CORP
Mr. Ramesh Tuljapulkar, Anarde Foundation 
Ms. Reshma, YUVA India

Brief 'minutes' of 17 Dec mtg of NGO Council with Mr. Ratho, AMC, BMC
(detailed transcription prepared by Tanya Mahajan is below.)

Miditech are doing a global documentary series on disasters for National
Geographic so they recorded most of the meeting as the NGO Council got
formed due to the floods and the MOU is an important step towards mitigating
the effects of disasters in the future.

1. Vinay -- Interaction with BMC on Cleanliness is already showing proof of
the effectiveness of NGOs and BMC working together.

2. Mr. Ratho -- The MOU provides a forum for all stakeholders which did not
exist till today. The MC supports it and I am excited.

3. Mr. Nayar, Bombay First -- We would like the NGO Council to represent the
NGOs in the Citizen Action Group of which the CM is the Chairman, and I am
the Vice-Chairman.

4. Ms. Annabel Mehta, Apnalaya -- Slums and housing for the poor should be
the number one agenda. We offer to put our weight behind it.

5. Ms. Deepika, FCCO -- I am willing to spearhead a team on 'Water'. I will
prepare a first-cut policy document on water.

6. Mr. Nayar -- NGO Council should meet with all the different groups
working on the city's problems to understand the common and different
agendas of each.

7. Mr. Ratho -- Political leaders should be invited to interact with the NGO

8. Ms. Mhapsekhar, SMS -- Unity will bring strength. Also complaints against
BMC depts / officials should be routed through the NGO Council so that an
NGO does not have to face backlash.

9. Mr. Ratho -- NGOs should interact with the corporators in their area
through the NGO Council also.

10. Mr. Sahadev, Red Cross -- NGO Council can use our expertise in Crisis
and Disaster Management.

11. Ms. Kumudi, IAPA -- Wherever NGOs are stuck for permissions from BMC,
NGO Council should take it up.

12. Vinay - This MoU is a turning point. It is up to us to take up the
issues close to our heart and tell MCGM what the policy on that should be.

All the above points were agreed upon.


Vinay:               I will start with a background of how the NGO Council was formed. After the floods of 26th July, the Municipal Commissioner had called a meeting of NGO’s interested in assisting in relief efforts. We realized at that meeting that NGO co-ordination wasn’t easy, and there was a need to facilitate the interactions and networking between the MCGM, NGO’s and citizens, and an NGO Coordination Committee was set up for this purpose with 7 members. This enabled the relief work to be done faster and smoother.

                       Thereafter, it was felt that there needs to be one coordinating body to represent all NGO’s to interact with the Government and with each other. The grassroots NGO’s have the furthest reach and awareness of the ground situation which the Government doesn’t have, and this knowledge and experience needs to be put into any plan that is being formed, such as a disaster management plan. Using the experiences of the civil sector while putting the disaster management plan into practice would help to mitigate the effects of a disaster.                       

In our later discussions with Mr. Ratho, we took up the issue of Cleanliness of the city that affects all citizens. It was again felt that MCGM needs to capture and utilize, both in planning and in implementation, the years of experience of NGOs who have been involved in such issues. It would be extremely useful for NGOs to get involved with the MCGM, and with Mr. Ratho’s support and understanding of how the MCGM structure works and the value that such interactions can bring, the idea of the MCGM- NGO Council cooperation was formed and this then led to the drafting and signing of an MoU.  

                        Civil society can get involved in civic issues at several levels:

                        1) Policy level: the policies that are being framed are thought through and evaluated/assessed by those who are at the grass-roots level.

                        2) Providing Services: this also should be a part of the policy, where NGO’s are allowed to render services, in a formal, economically viable manner. For e.g.: the rag-pickers organizations, who sort and enable recycling of waste can be formally integrated into the SWM system of MCGM.

                        3) Awareness Creation, Education, and Training: for all stake-holders, incl. children, citizens, and including sensitizing MCGM staff to take effective measures for implementation.

                        4) Monitoring and Reporting: citizens must be involved, and there must be a system of transparent reporting that goes to the higher levels of MCGM, to ensure course correction.  

                        These are the broad areas of collaboration that the MoU covers.  

                        In a democracy, NGO’s/civil society have different ways of engaging in dialogue and this includes through the courts, media, opinion forming, etc. This forum does not exclude or negate those means, but hopefully reduces the need for them, and works on taking things forward.  

Mr.Ratho:         Now that we have signed this MoU together, we could at this meeting familiarize ourselves with the clauses of the MoU and discuss how we go forward from here. This document is the first big step that defines what the commitments and understandings between MCGM and the NGO Council are. There are lots of initiatives underway in the city of Mumbai ; and people say that the initiatives are linked to individuals. Therefore, a document such as the MoU is important as it records all the informal or non-statutory interactions of people/organizations with MCGM. People have worked with MCGM or independently for so many years now but none of this has been captured as learnings for any future work. Lots of new initiatives / NGO’s could tap these energies and learn about how to work with MCGM. There is presently no single forum to reduce this time period of learning that leads to the re-inventing of the wheel.  

I see the aftermath of the floods in Mumbai as a turning point of how MCGM and NGO’s could work together. On some occasions, we may not agree, and we cannot avoid that. Despite the criticism and the media reports, there is still an opportunity to work together. The MOU is the first step, and we should now plan the nest steps and list specific projects on which to work together.  

This is only the beginning of our interaction, and with the MC’s support on such a partnership, I am excited and look forward to what emerges.  

We can also continue to interact through email, after meetings, though meetings help us understand each other better. The NGO Council will give a big push to understanding cooperation with MCGM, both by those who have already worked, and for new people.  

Regarding democracy: the MCGM also has 227 very vocal Councilors /Corporators who all represent a different view.  

After the flood, most of these were stunned – their political instincts were not equipped to react to such a situation. MCGM had started working before they got activated.  

The Councilors voice the aspirations of the people; still as a group (with exceptions) they are not sensitive / responsive to the special needs of some marginalized groups. NGO’s are sensitive to these issues/groups that get neglected, and the NGO’s give these people a voice as well. A forum/mechanism to throw up the needs of such groups is required, and the NGO Council can take on that role.  

The NGO Council should also have a counter-balance to those NGO’s that get the lion’s share of MCGM’s and the media’s attention and time. These NGO’s are seen (whether rightly or wrongly) to be elitist. The Ngo Council needs to provide the depth to look at issues such as slums. There seems to be a big divide currently about issues such as slums – and the NGO Council can build the bridge for such issues.  

Mr.Nayar:        I fully support the initiatives of the NGO Council and the MoU between the Council and the MCGM. Vinay had spoken to me a few months ago about getting the several NGO’s representing different areas to come together, and thus the need for an NGO Council, and the support that Mr. Ratho has given is great. I feel that the NGO Council should should pick up 2-3 areas first and establish credibility. Cleanliness is an excellent issue that has been taken up already; we also need to look at slums.  

Ratho:              Within cleanliness itself, we could look at slums.  

Mr.Nayar:        The slums issue is important. The city cannot be without slums. The NGO Council should develop a policy for slums. Bombay First would be happy to work with the NGO Council on this. The Citizens Action Group (CAG) has also taken up several initiatives and is playing a role in the improvement of the city. All sectors of society need to be represented. The NGO Council can help the CAG in its agenda. Picking up 1-2 issues and establishing credibility is important. We will be quite happy to work with the NGO Council; we can’t have all NGO’s sitting in on the CAG, but the NGO Council that represents a cross-section of NGO’s would bring value to our initiatives, and we would be happy for the NGO Council representative be a member of CAG. The CAG is engaged in discussions with the CM on these initiatives.  

I offer compliments from Bombay First for this initiative of the NGO Council with the MCGM.  

Annabel:           I represent Apnalaya which works in a number of areas such as Education, Health, etc. I feel that the fundamental issue is slums or housing for the poor. How can this city change this situation of the shortage of space? Affordable housing and the effective use of available space for it must be the No.1 agenda. Everything else comes back to the slums issue, whether its floods, or cleanliness. There must be a “decent” use of space; at present 5 % of people live in “decent” housing, and they set the rules for the rest. Of the 227 councilors, 60% themselves live in slums. I have no concrete suggestion or solution, but Apnalaya would like to put its weight behind any initiative to address affordable housing for the poor.  

I also read in today’s paper (TOI) that 85% of MCGM’s budget is lying unutilized presently?  

Mr.Nayar:        The slums issue also touches upon other larger issue of the city, such as the 600 acres of the mill lands; the cut-off date of recognizing slums, providing free housing to recognized slums. All these issues need to be looked at afresh. What do we want the city to be? The mill lands, the 16000 acres of the BPT land that provides opportunities for the city to change are some of the issues that the CAG is looking at.  

Deepika:           I represent the Federation of Community Organisations. We represent 60 slum-based NGO’s. We have 60 centres all over Mumbai from Thane to Colaba to Malad; some are old, some are emerging, and we address all the issues related to slums. The suggestion to network with the MCGM is a good one. We are already working with the MCGM, at grass-roots level; we would like to work at policy level and Ward level as well. One of the areas where we want to work with the MCGM is on the reconstruction of infrastructure that is being done after the floods.  

Vinay:               The present way of working of this group is that we identify an issue, like slums; with sub-groups under that like cleanliness in slums, providing housing, etc. We get together a group of all experts, NGO’s citizens, organizations, etc. who are concerned with this issue and then form theme groups with theme leaders. The issue is then discussed in an open and accessible way with suggestions from all; there are interactions with MCGM at all levels. Through these continuous interactions, a Policy Document is formed which then leads to a Plan of Action, which once frozen leads to an implementation plan. The base document can be modified and all initiatives of all groups are dove-tailed into that base document.  

                        This is how we approached the Cleanliness issue where we had a meeting with 30 MCGM officers and 30 NGO representatives. The discussions were minuted, signed and accepted.  

Deepika:           The NGO Council will give us credibility to network at ward level with MCGM. We already have good relations with MCGM.  

Mr.Ratho:         I agree with the issues of providing affordable housing to all and the effective use of space. The NGO Council can take it up.  

                        In Government, several things happen by default, as in, some forces drive certain decisions of the Government, and the political system responds to these “drivers”.  

                        For e.g., in slums, the insecure situation of the slums makes them depend on political parties just for their existence, despite no  improvement happening at all. If the NGO Council can address the slum issue in a precise manner, with facts, data, and present a balanced view on the situation, it would be valuable. The media is easily led and rarely presents an accurate view of any situation.  

                        The NGO Council can sensitize citizens about the real facts of the situation; can sensitize the political leadership. It is important even for those who are not interested in slums to know that in the context of the city of Mumbai , the slums issue has to be addressed.  

                        The NGO Council should also be clear about its common approach to issues.  

Vinay:               There is a high level of skepticism/cynicism from people/NGO’s about whether to put in time (which is in short supply) to engage in the NGO Council, versus putting in time in the actual implementation work that they are doing. What is your suggestion for such a reaction?  

Mr.Ratho:         I can also say that I have better things to do. All those who believe that dialogue can lead to good things will take part, and through this process, both sides can be pleasantly surprised by the good things that happen.  

Deepika:           We have had very positive experiences with MCGM; we have a legal cell, a human rights cell. Collaboration is possible and dialogue is always good.  

Mr.Ratho:         The documentation of experience can show that good things can happen.  

Mr.Nayar:        Similar initiatives are happening with other groups also; such as BEAG and Loksatta. The NGO Council must involve them also.  

Vinay:               Both BEAG and Loksatta are members of the NGO Council, and we will take care not to duplicate efforts of any other group.  

Mr.Nayar:        We must put the common agenda for the city on top and keep our ego’s aside, and have connections with all other groups who are working on similar areas. I would request the NGO Council to call a meeting of all such groups.  

Vinay:               We will have a meeting of such groups to discuss our common and different agendas.  

Mr.Ratho:         We should invite the political leaders also to attend some meetings. People like me go from office to office so the political leaders should also be exposed to such dialogue and interaction of civil society with Government.  

Vinay:               Very true, this needs to be done.  

Jyoti:                I represent Stree Mukti Sanghatna; we have been working for the last 30 years; first in theatre, then our adolescence programme for young girls, and now with waste-pickers. We started dialogue with MCGM only in the last 3-4 years. I saw that we need to work on policy issues; we were working in an isolated manner, our work was therefore not recognized.  

The value of the NGO Council is that we can now have a combined dialogue with MCGM; we have a lot of strength in being a group.  

The experience of the floods illustrated this: in M-Ward, where we work, the Ward Officer had invited NGO’s who wanted to help, and together with MCGM we were successful in providing relief.  

We need to take political leaders into confidence, and involve the Councilors in the dialogue process. This will strengthen the NGO Council. Though generally, the Councilors feel threatened by NGO’s, a process of dialogue can change that perception.  

Mr.Ratho:         Councilors feel threatened and alienated by NGOs. The average politician responds to people better than bureaucrats. It is very important for NGOs to interact with the Councilor in that area; they may take credit for the work, they may even give funds. ALMs working with the local Councilors have worked well; the response has been better.  

                        (Mr.Ratho had to exit at this stage for an urgent meeting with the MC.)  

Sujata:              I represent SUPPORT. I am happy that this meeting is beyond our individual organizations and is to discuss the issues for the city. At present no one listens to the average citizen / the lay person. There is no mechanism for the lay person to respond and get redressal. Why should they have to go to NGOs if a tree is being cut? I have been working for 19 years in the field of drug abuse, and would not have survived without the help of the Police, etc. but the common man also needs to know how to seek help.  

Vinay:               On another note, for your information: there are 2 sheets with each of you: 1st is a synopsis of the MCGM-NGO Council MoU, and the 2nd sheet is a draft of the guidelines that MCGM has made for Prohibition of Littering, etc, and MCGM has asked people to give their responses to this document at the draft stage.  

Next week there will be a meeting to discuss this document. For example: there is a suggestion that MCGM should collect fines for contravention of these rules, but those fines are not a source of revenue for MCGM, but are to be used for the improvement of local areas.  

                        Another suggestion is the concept of cleanliness reports being filed periodically by citizens. MCGM will take cognizance of these reports in the fixing of penalties, route-planning, beautification schemes, etc.  

                        A third is the strengthening of the existing ALM structure, where the ALM can use the money from the fines collected for their work.                       

                        This is an example of how the NGO Council can add value to initiatives of MCGM  

Annabel:           We always degenerate to issues of beautification and cleanliness. It is like sweeping the dirt under the carpet. But the basic rights of people like housing, water – what is MCGM’s policy on water rights? I would like to see the NGO Council take a more strategic look at Mumbai. We need to get back to basics, to make this a meaningful dialogue. We need to look at schools for children. We need to work at different levels: what is MCGM’s official position on the rights and entitlements of people; what are the standards of services to be delivered? These issues can emerge from this discussion and a document can be made.  

Vinay:               The MoU is a strong document – the onus is on us to get involved, and do what is required, with MCGM and other agencies. The 12th Schedule includes the right to Water; we need to come out with Policy Documents for these issues.  

                        The inputs of people are critical; we have 2 issues already underway: Cleanliness and stray Dogs. There is no policy document available with MCGM; it is up to us how to take this forward with MCGM; we don’t know what MCGM’s stand on this is.  

Mr.Nayar:        Yes, now that the MoU document is there, we need to take it forward. People need to know their rights. About water: we know that there is not enough water; still the MCGM is granting permission for the construction of multi-storyed towers all over the city. There was a 2007 target date for the new water project for Mumbai to be implemented, but just last week that date has been extended. Limited availability of water will lead to corruption, and siphoning off of water.  

Vinay:               Does the CAG have a Policy Document on water?  

Mr.Nayar:        The MCGM has a Water Plan which they are going to share with us.

                        Similarly for Traffic. We have a group on Traffic and the Jt. Commissioner of police for Traffic has written us a letter asking for Bombay First’s support in implementing the steps they have taken to improve the traffic situation. The NGO Council needs to work on implementation.

Annabel:           The Right to Information Act can help.  

Mr.Nayar:        Yes, that is working.  

Vinay:               We are looking at it differently. Why use RTI? We want to discuss an issue, say water, we are willing to sit down; give us the policy documents – if there are no documents, we will make them.

                        The traditional way has been to ask the MCGM: what is your policy? They have circulars. Notifications, etc, but there is no clarity.  

Mr.Nayar:        We can get the circulars and notifications and combine to make a policy document. Trees are also an important point.  

Vinay:               After Cleanliness and Stray Dogs, we will be taking up Parks and Gardens, where we will look at the Tree Act, study it and suggest changes.  

Mr.Nayar:        There is a tree authority that is completely ineffective, and there are currently 2 PIL’s in the court based on individual letters to the Chief Justice, one by me personally. Based on this the Court has now asked the BMC how many trees have been cut, the Tree Authority’s role, etc.  

Vinay:               One of the ideas behind the formation of the Cleanliness teams is that for other issues, we can have other teams, such as a local citizens’ Tree Team.  

Mr. Javed:       The NGO Council is a good effort. We work in M-Ward, and after the floods, we realized that there are a lot of health issues to be addressed. So please take up health also.

Vinay:               I agree.  

Jyoti:                If I make a complaint at the Ward level, our organization gets black-listed. It would be good if the NGO Council could receive the complaint and address it.  

Vinay:               The NGO Council can address it, since we have no fear of backlash at the Ward level. Send us the complaints.  

Deepika:           I feel we should concentrate on 1 issue, call NGO’s related to that issue, and thus get direction.  

Vinay:               That is the planned process; it will be issue/topic wise. Today was a meeting to meet Mr. Ratho.  

Deepika:           Regarding Slum development and housing, we have a policy and also a presentation that we have made on the effects of the dec. 2004 slum demolitions in Mumbai.  

Vinay:               Please share that document with us.  

Jyoti:                The MCGM doesn’t release information easily.  

Vinay:               We need to drive the process. As an example, in the Cleanliness Plan, every route plan should be made public. As we worked on the cleanliness plan, we found solutions. Every development plan of MCGM should be made public.  

Sahadev:          I am from Red Cross, which is not an NGO, though we work independent of Government. We work specifically in the area of crisis and disaster management. The NGO Council can use our expertise, we have good infrastructure, as also an MoU with the Govt. of Maharashtra.  

Vinay:               One of the points of the MoU is that we need to prepare a Disaster Management Plan with MCGM. If your organization can spearhead this, we can form a group of all related NGO’s and formulate a policy and Plan on this. If you look at the existing Disaster Plan, it is a very shallow document; it reads like a first cut; it needs to get into deeper levels and needs to be detailed.  

Sahadev:          we have the Principles of Disaster Preparedness that we can share with you.  

Vinay:               Beyond sharing, take a leadership role. There will be documentation, sharing of experiences, the formation of small core groups – please discuss with your organization and revert back to us.  

                        By the way, I would like to thank all the members of the NGO Council for their flexibility; though we could not meet, your implicit support has been very valuable.  

Another point, all of us have our own parameters of functioning – we need to go above the dilemma and look at the situation strategically.  

Kumudi:         I am from IAPA; we have been working for the last 10 years in slums and with school children. Education and MCGM schools is difficult area; we have been trying to get permissions for starting courses for over a year. We have been interacting with the CDO’s; I am looking towards the NGO Council for help on this.  

Vinay:               Have you any written letters/applications that we can follow up?

                        We will be taking up Education next. We had a very good meeting last week with MCGM and the Anarde Foundation and other NGOs. Adoption also needs to be looked at.  

Vinay:               This MoU is a turning point. It is up to us to take up the issues close to our heart and tell MCGM what the policy on that should be.  

Annabel:           The starting point is to know what the situation is.  

Vinay:               I disagree. We should look at where would we like society to be 10 years from now,  

                        The Government and Society as a whole failed and hence NGOs came up to fill in the gaps. The long term goal of any NGO should be to become redundant. If we look at the existing situation, we will get involved in changing it; we need to jump over that.  

Deepika:           The creation of a Policy document is a positive step. If we come up with a concrete way of working, we can do a lot. We should look at 2-3 areas, as has already been identified. We should look at water; for instance there is a plan of MCGM to privatize water supply in K-West.  

Vinay:               I need people to take up an issue and spear-head it. For example, in the Stray Dogs issue, people are not willing to participate or lead the group. Hence we at Karmayog have to lead it but this is the wrong way of working; we cannot become the experts.  

Deepika:           We will take up water.  

Vinay:               Great! We want someone to take charge of different issues.  

Jyoti:                Mr.Ratho was talking about political leaders. What about CDO’s? They are already working on issues – we need to find out the existing policy and identify the gaps in it.  

Vinay:               Policy is a 2-way approach. MCGM says here is our policy, please respond. The other way is that we start framing our own policy and ask MCGM for all the existing documents, and they are responding positively to that.  

Sujata:              Mr. Nalinakshan, when he was MC, had an extensive campaign for making Mumbai a child-friendly city. We had worked very hard on that, but after he left, it all came to nought; all our efforts were wasted.  

Vinay:               Yes, till we signed the MoU, this fear was justified. But now that we have a document, even if Mr.Ratho leaves, the document is still valid. There is a clause in the MoU that MCGM officers must attend our meetings when called.  

                        I also agree that it is a citizen’s fundamental right to know who to call for help; for the Stray dogs issue, we have suggested 2 helplines – one for people calling for dogs in distress, and one for people calling when people are distressed by dogs.  

Sujata:              Citizens need to know who to call for help.  

Vinay:               At present we are using the Karmayog website for information dissemination, as this is easier than the MCGM website that requires some procedure. In due course, the NGO Council will be constrained to behave and act in a particular way, and so using the Karmayog website will give more flexibility and freedom of expression.  

                        For example, for the stray dogs issue we have put the names and contact details of the High Court Committee members on the website, so that people can call and tell them that the situation is not improving despite the High Court order. At present, they are cushioned and think (or pretend to think) that the situation is fine.  

Bhavana:          We were involved in post-flood relief work and had interacted at that time with the NGO Coordination committee. We have a crisis centre at the Sion Hospital that is 5 years old. We worked in Dharavi in F ward where we were assigned. We held medical camps and controlled epidemics through the work of Dr. Fernandes, retired medical Dean. We dealt at that stage with the political pressures; it was a learning experience for us. We would like to be proactive in any vulnerable locality. We believe that health, water, sanitation is a basic right, and we are keen on partnering with the MCGM.  

Vinay:               I am glad that a lot of the NGO’s who have come here today represent the vulnerable populace. ANARDE here disburse nearly Rs. 1000 crores of micro-credit all over India .  

Anil:             We have 18 centres in Mumbai. We work with women and children, especially street children.  

Vinay:               Do you interact with MCGM?  

Anil:             No  

Vinay:               It is a tragedy that MCGM is not aware of you and not learning from your experiences.  

Sujata:              What next?  

Bhavana:          Small request: can you give us separate intimation of meetings; different from the Karmayog digest?  

Vinay:               We are working on it; it’s an administrative problem – it is difficult for us to also call and inform each person individually about meetings.  

Bhavana:          Deepika: we can share that responsibility.  

Ramesh Turzapurkar:    I am a Training Coordinator with ANARDE. We work in 20 states in India . We are keen on working on upgrading the results of students in MCGM schools. We have set up computer labs in some some schools. We work with SIDBI and NABARD, and I was formally the Principal of ITI.  

Vinay:               Thank you all for coming to the meeting.