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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Mumbai gets a City Panchayat based on Sahbhaagi, Yes We Can

Mumbai: From garbage dumps and pot-holed roads to terror strikes and floods, it is ultimately the ordinary Mumbaikar who is hit at every level by shoddy governance. Every day, Mumbai seems to get that much more difficult to live in.
    If, as a citizen, you are tired of feeling helpless as you watch your once-beautiful city sink steadily on every front—from civic to social—this is your chance to be part of policy making in a grounded and specific way.
    The Times Foundation announces a unique and broad-based campaign for Mumbai city called Sahbhaagi. Sahbhaagi, whose motto is 'Together We Can, Together We Will', is a platform that takes forward the acclaimed formula of PPP or Public Private Partnership. The idea is to set up an inclusive City Panchayat with intellects from various fields such as government, citizens groups, corporates, academics, NGOs and the media.
    Launched by the Times Foundation, this urban grassroots citizens' initiative draws it inspiration from Mahatma Gandhi and the Panchayati Raj. At the heart of this
movement is the belief that the citizen's participation is vital in every sphere of governance. Whether it is internal security, health care, drainage or poverty, the common man can put forward solutions.
    So how exactly will Sahbhaagi function? Basically, the Ward Level Committees (WLC) in the city's 24 wards will be given a booster shot. These committees were set up a few years ago to encourage private initiative, but have since fallen by the wayside and rarely if ever meet to debate issues of im
portance. Sahbhaagi will infuse fresh energy into the WLCs by choosing five responsible and dedicated citizens from each ward to be part of these committees. Therefore, all those interested in being citizen activists—especially women and the youth—can apply by filling in a simple form available on www.lead.timesofindia.com.
    Municipal commissioner Jairaj Phatak and sheriff Indu Shahani have already signalled their support.
    A panel of eminent citizens will go through the applications and after a rigorous screening process, the Sahbhaagites will be chosen. Later on, the project will be extended to other parts of India.
    The second tier of Sahbhaagi involves the setting up of a highpowered panel called the Steering Committee. This Committee will have on board influential individuals from different sections of society who will function as mentors or city fathers of the panchayat.
    The Mumbai Sahbhaagi project takes a leaf out of Delhi chief minister Sheila Dixit's book. Dixit's capable command of the capital was made possible by her outreach to the private and non-profit sector
through bhagidhari who worked in tandem with the state government to implement policy at various levels. Under Dixit's watch, Delhi became cleaner and greener and the positive change propelled her into her third term as CM.
    Decoding the City Panchayat message at a spiritual level, Art of Living guru Sri Sri Ravishankarji said that it is only when different forces function in harmony and unity that we can hope for the betterment of human life. Gurus from various fields have given sahbhaagi their blessings and support.
    For too long, Mumbai has suffered from a lack of civic patriotism on the part of its people. This is probably because the citizen feels that being at the bottom of the food chain, he or she has no role worth the mention in policy making. The sooner this myth is busted the better—in a democracy, the citizen can in a real way help shape policy. For starters, we can do this through the power of the vote. In the forthcoming elections, we can vote for candidates who believe in the bhaagidari ideal. Sahbhaagi is a forging of alliances. After all, all we have is us.
    (For details check www.lead.timesofindia.com)


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