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August 6, 2013 by

Transparent Chennai conducted a Ward Accountability Experiment (WAE) in Ward 57. This involves mapping the provision and conditions of essential services and public infrastructure. This data was used to initiate a transparent process where the elected officials and the community can engage in a constructive dialogue to improve their neighbourhood. Citizens are now raising grievances in a monthly community meeting with the councillor to demand improvements. For a brief history on the beginnings and objectives of WAE in Ward 57, read this.

Our entry into the Kalyanapuram slum on July 29 for our fourth monthly meeting made one of our team members exclaim in delight about the new roof that had been installed over the wash area, and the bathroom that was undergoing a makeover with new tiles. These developments were a result of the issues raised by the community during our earlier meetings. We decided to use this as an example of the positive outcomes from community participation to persuade more people to attend, and collectively raise issues.

The turnout at the meeting was significant. One of our team members introduced and explained the purpose of the meeting, and ran through the checklist of resolutions made in the past meeting so that community members could monitor the progress made by the councillor. One lady, who had committed to be the caretaker of a toilet, complained that she had not yet received the keys. The councillor responded that she would be given charge once the refurbishment was complete. Work for clearing out the debris from the roads was ongoing at the time of the meeting.

The members were then invited to raise issues one by one. Since some of the people were first time attendees, they raised several issues without paying heed to the work that had happened so far; nor did they acknowledge that ongoing work would take some time to be completed. At this point, the noise levels in the room peaked as people started conferring amongst themselves without paying attention to the issues raised by their neighbours. The room was soon divided into groups based on their prioritising of issues, and each group refused to listen to the other. People started approaching the councillor with individual grievances. Any attempt at trying to pacify the groups and getting everyone to participate in the true spirit of a community meeting, seemed to fail. This caused half the attendees to leave in frustration.

At this point, the councillor stepped in, and asked the remaining people to respect others’ complaints and cooperate. He tried explaining to them that these meetings were a space for the community to raise slum-level problems that he could solve in his capacity as the elected representative. With some coaxing, a few people stayed back and started voicing their issues. On the issue of garbage disposal, the councillor replied that a dumpster had been provided at the entrance to the slum, but people continued to dump waste on the street. He urged people to take responsibility for the maintenance of facilities once provided. As far as clearing the drains in the washing area were concerned, he said it could be done if people refrained from using the washing area for a day during which the works would be taken up. Other issues included the repair of the faulty public tap near the temple, and renovation of the toilet block close to the canal. However, by this time, the residents’ enthusiasm had dwindled and they continued to reiterate issues that had already been raised in previous meetings, and which were already being attended to.

While we had hoped that the results of previous meetings (visible improvements in the neighbourhood) would encourage residents to participate with more enthusiasm, we were disappointed to find the community divided on issues, unwilling to listen to each other, and unwilling to allow sufficient time for changes to materialise. For future meetings, we have planned to display some progress charts with pictures to facilitate an informed participation of first-time attendees. We are confident that the councillor keeps up his efforts and community members spread the word so that people continue to participate.

Written by Nidhi Subramanyam, intern, Transparent Chennai

August 1, 2013 by

Many of us spent last Friday afternoon at Pennurimai Iyakkam’s (P.I.) office in Purasawalkam. P.I. is a movement and organisation that works with and for underprivileged women. Most of us at Transparent Chennai have worked with PI on a number … Continue reading

July 30, 2013 by

Participatory planning is an essential element of all project planning and implementation processes. It enables concerned parties to understand each other’s requirements and limitations and allows them to work together to reach solutions in consensus. On July 6th, Transparent Chennai … Continue reading

July 25, 2013 by

In the blog “Chennai going down the drain” our interns Sneha and Sripad highlighted the standards and misuse of storm water drain. I would like to take this further by discussing the effectiveness of building such an infrastructure. The Corporation … Continue reading

July 23, 2013 by

Coordinating the Ward Accountability Experiment (WAE) in Ward 57 (Royapuram) has been a trial by fire. Now it seems that after many months, a semblance of a process has been set up, but many hurdles had to be crossed before … Continue reading

July 16, 2013 by

Little is known about the Sustainable Municipal Infrastructure Financing – Tamil Nadu (SMIF-TN), a project that was launched in 2008 and under which a whopping Rs.500 crore has been made available to local bodies in Tamil Nadu. The project, which … Continue reading

July 9, 2013 by

Ponniyamman Kovil. That is where I landed while trying to track down Rajesh of Aravind Association, and a waste picker I had met earlier in Perungudi. The Aravind Association is named after its founder president, Mr. Aravind of Ponniyamman Kovil … Continue reading

Members from the Transparent Chennai team attended the public consultation on the Cooum River Restoration Project on 13th June 2013 at the PWD Office in Chepauk. The Chennai Rivers Restoration Trust (CRRT) had appointed LKS Group from Spain to come … Continue reading

July 2, 2013 by

What is the precise meaning and the implications of term “informal”? – this is one of the questions that kept cropping up during a workshop called Paradigm shifts in housing: informality and incremental housing in Delhi, organised by micro Home … Continue reading

June 27, 2013 by

In the recent past the Chennai Corporation had sanctioned tenders to redesign pavements of 71 bus route roads in the city based on the street manual devised by ITDP. The guidelines acclaimed in the manual are with reference to match … Continue reading