Residents’ bodies demand Constitutional recognition for greater role in civic management and devolution of functions
The Conference has the Role of RWAs in Swachh Bharat, as the umbrella theme and is organized by the United Federation of Resident Welfare Associations (U-FERWAS) and the Confederation of RWAs (CoRWA), the apex body of RWAs India, in which about 150 RWAs from across the country, civic authorities, heads of RERA and justices have participated and shared their experience and best practices, in the two-day meet.
I. During the inauguration, the leading experts and civic representatives stressed on the need for a greater role and representation for local peoples’ institutions like Residential Welfare Associations (RWA)s, in local self-governance and decision-making for managing infrastructure better. In order to make it possible, they demanded a Constitutional amendment to include RWAs in the 7th Schedule of the Constitution to enable them to receive Central and State funds and ensure greater role for RWAs in decision-making in government programmes and projects.
The deliberations revolved around six key topics: Swachh Bharat & RWA’s Role; Solid Waste Management; Urban Housing & RERA implementation; Urban living, Transportation and Challenges; Constitutional Recognition & Powers to RWAs; Emerging trends in Civil Society.
“State governments or the ruling political dispensation is always anxious to take up its own welfare schemes and use up all finances under the influence of local politicians. To remedy this weakness, it is important to devolve the 18 functions mandated for transfer to ULBs under the 12th Schedule directly to local bodies. This is possible only if ULBs include RWAs and are added to the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution making devolution of functions and funds to them mandatory”, stressed Dr. Rao VBJ Chelikani, President, Confederation of RWAs (CoRWA). “This is a must to enable a fourth tier of governance so that citizen participation in the management of not only physical infrastructure but also social infrastructure in their areas is possible,” the veteran civil society campaigner said addressing the gathering. Echoing the thoughts, Col TP Tyagi, Convenor CoRWA, pointed out that though this issue had been raised earlier with the Union Housing and Urban Development minister by CoRWA and had even received a positive response, nothing has happened yet. “We have to fight for constitutional recognition for RWAs aggressively,” he stressed. People who have a stake in better management of local government programmes have now no role in it. It is not a surprise that many of these programmes are not succeeding.
Later delivering the inaugural address, Sri. Dana Kishore, Commissioner, GHMC, acknowledged the merit in the demand for including RWAs in the 7th Schedule of the Constitution and added that the demand is concomitant with the duties that citizens themselves need to carry out. Though Indian urban society has come a long way over the last 200 years, compared to local bodies in the West, which have a history of 2,000 years, there is still a lot of catching up to do, he observed. Community engagement, protection for the residents, and loving your neighbours are the fundamental duties of the residents and the RWAs, he stressed. If these are recognized and observed in spirit most problems that local communities face would disappear by themselves. For instance the population in Hyderabad has more than doubled in the decade between 2001 and 2011. Population management and people migration to urban areas is a consequence, where RWAs can play an important role in addressing the issues. “I would like to see RWAs engaged aggressively in most activities that we take up,” he said.
“Citizens and residents are permanent, whereas the Governments are temporary,” Dr Janardhana Reddy, Commissioner, HMDA, said addressing the gathering stressing that transformation therefore would have to come from within. It is a difficult task but there is no option.
After a long time, the trigger for one such action has come from the Government of India in the form of the Swachh Bharat Mission which was launched on October 2nd 2014, he observed, adding that Swachh Swarvekshan was an important component of the programme to involve the community to improve and include citizen participation.
II. Though still in its nascent stage, the Real Estate Regulation Act came in for major focus at the Conference with leading luminaries. Speaking at a special session on Urban Housing and RERA Implementation, Shri Anthony De Sa, Chairman, MP RERA Authority, said the RERA in their state had taken a different view on the compulsory registration of projects making it optional. However, the Authority reserves its right to prosecute developers if any of the other rules were broken under the Act by developers. Furthermore, any attempts to dilute the RERA rules by anybody would not work as citizens are free to approach the tribunals to seek legal redress as the law is very clear that any changes to rules cannot amend the Act itself, added the country’s first appointee-Chairman under RERA. While there are teething problems in the implementation of any new act, with regard to RERA there have been many issues over the past two years, he observed. A major concern is that implementation of any penalties or punishments at the behest of the Authority of the Appellate tribunals is the preserve of the District Collectors. This leads to inordinate delays given the work load that the District Collectors already have. “Amendment of the RERA Act is, therefore necessary to bring its powers on par with the Consumer Courts. Otherwise it will remain a tooth-less tiger”, Mr De Sa added. “RWAs are the backbone for the implementation of RERA,” said Justice B Rajendran, Chairman TN RERA Appellate Tribunal, delivering the keynote address at the session. Agreeing with Shri Anthony De Sa that implementation of a new Act is very difficult, Justice Rajendran observed that there are many projects that are not registered in Tamil Nadu. But the Authority suo moto sent notices to the local authorities stating that at least 1000 project developers are not permitted to sell their units as they maintained they are private and did not require to be registered. This brought them to book, he shared. Therefore, the belief that the Act does not apply if the project is not registered is a myth, he said. Thereupon, Col. T.P. Tyagi and Sri. CA Ramesh Prabhu, belonging to FPCE have highlighted the implications for the house owners.
The National RWA Awards was a major draw at the Conference with municipal commissioners from cities like Indore, Surat, Pune, etc. nominating successful RWAs and their managers for the National Best Manager Awards apart from encouraging them to share their experiences and best practices. Nearly 30 RWAs, ULB and individuals received the awards under various categories.
Later sessions covered various subjects of particular concern to the urban residents by the subject-experts by way of panel discussions and presentations. Panel Swachh Bharat & Role of RWAs with Dr.K.S.R. Murthy, Maj.Shiv Kiran, Moderator: Smt. Hari Chandana, IAS, Addl. Commissioner, GHMC, Dr. Meenakshi Bharat, WoW-ITC, Hyderabad. Session Coordinator. K. Raghavendra Rao.
SolidWaste Management: M.S. Venugopal & Sharad Kumar, Moderator: Uday Shirname,Green Rich Grow, Chennai, Maj Shiv Kiran, Hyderabad, Ms. Ranju Minhas, NewDelhi, Mrs. Madhuri Subba Rao, Bengaluru, Session Coordinator: KHS Sharma. WomenSafety- SHE Teams by Addl. DGP Ms.Shika Goel, Introducing practices of Good Healthin RWAs by Dr. Alakananda Banarjee.Urban Living, Transportation and Challenges:Justice Rajendran, Justice B.N. Rao, K. Venu Gopal, Moderator: G. ChandraShekar, Urban Transportation: Malcom Wolfe, Urban Living and Women Safety, Ms.Sunita Godbole. Prof. B. Sant on Footpaths. Session Coordinator: K.Vijay PrasadReddy. Swachh Bharat- RWAs Role, presentation by RWAs, Session Coordinator: VVRao. Trends in Urban Governance: Col. T.P. Tyagi, K.H.S. Sharma, GHMC Representative, Narsapur MunicipalCorporation, TS MA&UD, Coordinator: K.Karunakar.Emerging Trends in CivilSociety: M.S. Venugopal, Empowerment of RWAs- J.M.S. Nagarjunan, V.V. Rao, Dr. K.S. R. Murthy, Co. T.P. Tyagi.Session Coordinator: G.R.S. Prasad Rao.
There was also an exhibition opened by Sri. Dana Kishore, the GHMC commissioner.