Sunday, March 18, 2007

PRESS RELEASE: Information Camp South Zone

Seema Misra of SNS at The information Camp
Shekhar Singh, renowned RTI activist at the Camp
Signature Campaign

Satark Nagrik Sangathan
B-76 (Garage), SFS Flats, Sheikh Sarai – 1, New Delhi-110017
Ph. No.: 011-26011362, 9811558533, 9810273984

In the run-up to the Delhi Municipal Councillor elections, Satark Nagrik Sangathan (SNS), a Delhi-based citizen’s vigilance group, organized the FIRST EVER Information Camp on March 18, 2007, focusing on expenditure of councillor funds and highlighting the need for guidelines to ensure better channelization of the councillor funds.

The information camp for the South Zone, held in Malviya Nagar, brought together citizens from the nearby slums as well as residents from higher income groups, to provide a forum where the concerned councilors’ expenditure were compared to the development needs of the people. It also helped spread awareness about the need for citizens' participation in deciding the allocation of the councillor funds. This collective sought to act as a pressure group to push for formulation of proper guidelines to ensure effective utilization of the councillor funds. The meeting also witnessed the launch of a signature campaign to pressurize the government to take cognizance of these demands.

This camp was organized as part of SNS’ campaign focusing on transparency in disbursement of councillor funds. Using the Right to Information Act, the citizens’ group has accessed information about how the Municipal Councillors are utilizing public funds. Details of all works undertaken using the Councillor Funds during 2002-2007 (i.e. for all 134 wards, for the last five years) were sought. Analysis of the information, which has been obtained broadly showed that:

  • Councillors are not spending Councillor Funds on the most pressing priority development needs of their ward members.
  • No guidelines exist for Councillors to spend their funds.
The information on the expenditure of funds in the South Zone obtained by SNS through the RTI was presented to the people. In their interaction with SNS volunteers, and at the meeting, the residents of Malviya Nagar —slum dwellers as well as those from middle and higher income groups — unequivocally expressed their concern about the poor sanitation conditions in the colony. There were frequent references to blocked drains and overflowing garbage dumps. A resident of Lal Gumbad in Malviya Nagar agitated, “Our children have to wade through knee-deep sewage to get to school. We get to meet our councillors only once every five years — when they come to beg us for votes. She always claims that the government gives her no money to spend on sanitation.” However, it is interesting to note that as is evident from the information sought and analyzed by SNS, the Councillors in Malviya Nagar and Gulmohar Park spent 0% of the funds on drainage and sanitation. The information also cited that over 50% of the funds were spent on the improvement of parks in one of the wards.

Through the camp, the citizens also reiterated their demand for the formulation of guidelines for the expenditure of councillor funds. Currently, there exists no framework that guides and aids the councillors in deciding and spending their allotted funds on developmental projects that reflect the needs of the citizens. The disbursement of funds is left to the arbitrary and often, inexperienced decision-making of the councillors alone.

Seema Misra of SNS highlighted, “From 2002-07, the total sum allocated to Councillors in Delhi was approximately Rs 520 crores. How many of us even know that the councillors are given such large sums of money over and above the planned government budget.” Shekhar Singh, renowned RTI activist and one of the panelists at the Information Camp stressed, “Evolving a set of guidelines for the disbursement of these councillor funds should be given top priority. SNS, in consultation with other civil society groups and citizen bodies, is attempting a framework for guidelines. The guidelines must also outline various methods to ensure citizens’ participation in deciding the allocation of these funds. And details of all works undertaken through the funds should be made available suo moto, in formats that are easily accessible and understood by the common person.”

Through its campaign, SNS seeks to:

  • Disseminate this information to people about how Councillors allocated the Councillor Funds at their disposal in the past five years.
  • Along with interested citizens and NGOs, demanding that the Municipal Corporation of Delhi provide this information proactively to people in formats that are easily understood by common people.
  • Drafting and pressurising the government to adopt proper guidelines on how Councillor Funds should be spent (there are no guidelines in existence at the moment).
About Satark Nagrik Sangathan
SNS is a citizen's vigilance group working to promote transparency and accountability in government functioning and to encourage active participation of citizens in governance. In our endeavor to empower citizens and assist them engage with the government in policy formulation and implementation, our primary tool has been the RTI Act. Website:

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