Civil Society Pitches for Active Role for RWAs in Local Urban Governance

In a bid to strengthen the role of the RWAs in the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) area, civil society representatives submitted a memorandum to the decision-makers in the Telangana state, including the GHMC Commissioner, Director of Municipal Administration, Principal Secretary of the Department and to the minister in charge of the portfolio, and also to the chief minister of Telangana State. Prepared based on inputs provided by Col. T.P. Tyagi, Major Shiv Kiran and B.T. Srinivasan, the memorandum is also proposed to serve as a model for RWA bodies in other states also with necessary modifications to cater to local context and terminology. 

At the core of the proposal is a greater role for RWAs in the Ward Committees in the 150 GHMC Wards and Area Sabhas in each Ward. Depending upon the respective population it is said that each ward can have 8 to 10 area sabhas and accordingly some 1347 areas with a population of 5000 for each area were designated some years back.  

The Context:
All new population which is settling in Hyderabad and in its surroundings lives in colonies and apartment-buildings. They all have Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs) which are registered and those in apartment-buildings are compulsorily registered.

There are an estimated 8000 plus colony associations (CRWAs) and over 40,000 flat-wise FRWAs. They are a new generation of urban citizens who are very busy but keen too to participate in public affairs that concern their way of life i.e. in local amenities.

Local politicians and local municipal officials do not involve them much at present. Hence they are unhappy and their voting percentage is always less than 50%. Yet, they are living in micro-urban communities with democratic practices. They take care of the overall welfare of all the residents, including those who live close by in slum areas. They can be called mini-governments, or 4th tier of governance after the Union, State and Municipality.

At the Centre, Mr. Hardeep Singh Puri is the latest Union minister who is keen to provide them a constitutional recognition beyond what is provided in the 94 Constitutional Amendment.

Considering this, what can be done to support progressive-minded politicians, civil servants, and authorities? 

1. It is to be considered whether the financial devolution from the local bodies can be further extended to the RWAs, as per the norms of the Finance Commissions. This is to some extent happening in the NOIDA area, without it being pronounced as such.

2. Though they are not functioning effectively, at present, the Ward Committees and Area Sabhas are a good channel for RWA participation. At least, 70% of the members should be from the RWAs. As SERP in Hyderabad is doing in Panchayats, MEPMA or UCD department of GHMC should recommend Women’s groups or associations in the area also to be in the Ward Committees and Area Sabhas.
A. The WC need not be co-terminus with the corporators’ term. In the absence of the corporator, the senior-most member can preside ad hoc, and continue their work, in the presence of the Ward Secretary, who is being newly appointed by GHMC for every ward.
B. The RWAs should be ordered to hold Area Sabhas, just like their general assemblies, in the presence of or presided over by the corporator, if available.
C. Protection and maintenance of parks, tanks, open places, etc. in their area should be entrusted to them, on contract basis.
D. Local public works carried out in their streets should get their endorsement signature after satisfactory completion of works.

3. The Co-opted members of the Municipal Council should be from the RWAs also.

4. Many cultural and sports events to be conducted by GHMC should be entrusted to the important civil society organisations and the RWAs in the city.

5. Regarding their legal status, the modalities of registration and follow up of the RWAs need to be further streamlined based on their size and financial turn over.

6. In all fieldwork, the GHMC staff should visit and the seek cooperation and endorsement of the RWAs of the area.

7. Their cooperation during the preparation of electoral rolls, conducting elections, census, surveys, tax collection, epidemics and emergencies should be sought by the officials.

8. They have to play the most important role in the disaster-preparedness.

9. During the forthcoming municipal elections, the RWAs would like the corporator-candidates to make a commitment that they would sincerely make the WC and AS function more effectively.

10. Constitute 'Conciliation and Dispute Resolution Cell’ in TS RERA with RWA members and others as suggested by RERA Act, as it is being done in other states.

11. The functioning of the Ration shops, and other public-distribution centres that are located in the area should be supervised as a Third Party by the RWAs.

12. Periodic consultations with RWAs should be held at the level of the Deputy Commissioner, Zonal Commissioner and the Commissioner to review the progress made in resolving the problems that arise. It was practised for some time in the past but was later neglected.

13. Similar consultations should also be held with other bodies that deal with Law & Order, Water, Electricity, Health, Education, Planning, HMDA, Transport, etc. where their cooperation is very much needed for their efficient functioning and to avoid wastage.

14. UFERWAS to be recognised as the nodal agency in TS for dealing with RWAs.

15. Allow Registration under Societies act. All future RWAs and apartment associations are to be empanelled under UFERWAS.

16. UFERWAS to be given an advisory role and tasked with providing policy inputs on various urban issues including environment (Solid waste, water, soil and air), municipal services, health services, Infrastructure, etc.

17. City/ Town Advisory committees with RWA members, government representatives- from all departments and eminent citizens.

18. UFERWAS cell in all ULBs (about 140) in TS.

19. UFERWAS should be allowed to nominate RWA members to ward committees.

20. RWA complaints / issues to be routed through UFERWAS cell.

21.Monthly review of RWA issues at ULB level, quarterly review at CDMA level, half yearly at minister level, and yearly review at Chief Minister level.

22. RWA to be involved in ward development plans covering health, education, environment and municipal services.

23. RWA members to be part of Basthi Dawakhana management committee, Sanitation committee, Environment committee.

24. RWAs to be formally associated with property tax collection, electoral revision and other governance issues.

25. ULBs to observe holiday on a week day (Tuesday) and be open on Sundays in order to facilitate working professionals and managers to visit them on behalf of the RWAs.

26. Meritorious RWAs to be recognised on Independence day/Republic day celebration for awards.

27. Aasara, a unique entity formed and registered by GHMC with the senior citizens’ associations is to be made more active.

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