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NGO COUNCIL 1 NGO Council C/o Karmayog Shreeniwas House, 2nd floor H. Somani Road, Fort Mumbai - 400001 Tel: 2200 0004 / 2200 0478 Fax: 2203 5410 Email: info@karmayog.com Website: www.karmayog.com 14th February, 2007

 

Shri Nand Lal

State Election Commissioner,

Government of Maharashtra,

1st Floor, New Head Administrative Building,

Opposite Mantralaya, Madam Cama Road,

Mumbai – 400 032

 

Dear Shri Nand Lal,

 

Sub.: Learnings from the BMC Elections, February 2007

 

At the outset, we appreciate the work done by the State Election Commission and other concerned departments of Government that ensured that the Mumbai civic elections held on Feb.1st 2007 were conducted and proceeded in a fair and as smooth manner as possible, and we now look forward to improved governance and better management of Mumbai city by our newly elected Corporators.

 

A day after the elections were held, Karmayog invited responses from citizens in Mumbai about their experiences in the elections, and the lessons we could carry forward from this for the future.

 

As you may be aware, Karmayog.org, that was set up in June 2004, is a unique free internet platform for concerned citizens - for social causes in India and civic issues in Mumbai. Karmayog networks with over 4000 NGOs in India, including 1000 in Mumbai alone, as well as has resource sections, forums, volunteering opportunities, online complaint and suggestion forms, etc.

 

Karmayog is also the convening NGO of the NGO Council, Mumbai, a networking platform of Mumbai-based NGOs that was convened in August 2005, with the objective of strengthening the NGO sector and building a mechanism for sustained interaction between Government and civil society. The NGO Council has signed a historic MoU with the BMC for Good City Governance in December 2005 and has worked closely with the BMC on several issues such as Solid Waste Management, Public Health, Hawkers, etc. The NGO Council is also working in partnership with the Anti-Corruption Bureau in a Mumbai - Pact Against Corruption (M-PAC) program to increase community participation in the fight against corruption.

 

120 responses were received from citizens and these highlighted several valuable lessons and issues to be addressed. All the responses have been compiled for reference, as well as analysed to determine what needs to be done ahead and by whom, in order to address these issues.

The NGO Council would like to present the analysis titled “Learnings from the BMC Elections, February 2007” to the State Election Commission for consideration, with the belief that some of the improvements suggested in procedures, etc., can be taken up for implementation.

 

Some of these Electoral Reforms suggested may require minor Constitutional amendments, which could be considered, as these simple but effective changes, if implemented, will go a long way in selecting better candidates that in turn will usher in more democratic elections and better governance.

 

We would be happy to meet you in this regard, and discuss this further, at your convenience.

 

Yours Sincerely,

Vinay R. Somani

Convenor

NGO Council

 

 

NGO COUNCIL Learnings from the BMC Elections, February 2007 – Prepared by the NGO Council, Mumbai 1 NGO Council C/o Karmayog Shreeniwas House, 2nd floor H. Somani Road, Fort Mumbai - 400001 Tel: 2200 0004 / 2200 0478 Fax: 2203 5410 Email: info@karmayog.com Website: www.karmayog.com Learnings from the BMC

 

Elections, February 2007

Prepared by the NGO Council, Mumbai

(from a compilation of responses received from over 120 citizens)

 

Introduction

Karmayog invited citizens to write in with their responses and learnings from the Feb. 1st BMC elections. The following message was circulated on 2nd Feb., and 120 responses were received as of 11th Feb, 2007. A compilation of the responses received throws up some important issues to be addressed.

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Date: Fri Feb 2, 2007 10:48 am

The elections to the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai and 10 other civic bodies in Maharashtra have been concluded yesterday, and the process of counting of votes and results will be completed today. Whatever the outcome, it has been agreed across the board that this was one Municipal election that witnessed increased discussion, debate and scrutiny by the media, as well as increased involvement and participation by civil society groups, whether in voicing their concerns, preparing a manifesto of demands, putting up a candidate, or encouraging people to vote.

 

With Municipal elections coming up soon in several other cities in India, such as Delhi and Bangalore, it would be a valuable to share the learnings of the civic elections in Mumbai, so as to enable other cities to benefit from these, as well as for Mumbai itself to better it's own track record.

 

Do write in with your experiences, observations, suggestions, etc. We will collate and circulate the same to concerned authorities.

 

Regards,

Vinay

www.karmayog.org

------------------------------------------------

Date: Mon Feb 5, 2007 10:39 am

 

Your response is important as it can help to improve the election process in India: 1. If you did not vote in the BMC Elections, why? What would have made you personally vote?

2. What all can be done to get people to vote?

3. What action should be taken to prevent buying of votes?

4. What are you complaints or suggestions regarding:

- manifestos - are they realistic; how to hold parties to account?

- election code of conduct, time schedule, fairness, etc.?

- candidate's profiles, details, etc?

- voter's list accuracy, registration, easy access, etc?

All responses received will be at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/karmayog/message/19959 as well as sent to the concerned authorities.

 

Thanks

Vinay

www.karmayog.org

 

NGO COUNCIL Learnings from the BMC Elections, February 2007 – Prepared by the NGO Council, Mumbai 2 NGO Council C/o Karmayog Shreeniwas House, 2nd floor H. Somani Road, Fort Mumbai - 400001 Tel: 2200 0004 / 2200 0478 Fax: 2203 5410 Email: info@karmayog.com Website: www.karmayog.com Compilation from responses received:

The low voter turn out (40% being the average in Mumbai) especially amongst the middle class is one of the most important issues to be addressed. What are the factors that would make people come out and vote, and what are the steps to be taken to taken in this regard? The feedback received from people offers several solutions and ideas to address this issue.

 

I would vote:

i) if my vote counts

ii) if I have enough information about confirmation of my name on the voter’s list, the polling booth, the procedure of voting

iii) if it is a convenient and easy process to vote

iv) if I have enough information about the candidate to be able to make an informed choice

v) if I have the option of showing my dis-satisfaction by making a protest vote

vi) if the person who I vote for is accountable

vii) if the process of voting is a fair and just one,

viii) if the person elected intends to and attends to the issues in my area. (specifically for Municipal elections)

 

What can be done to achieve the above?

I) Role of Government

The first part of this compilation lists the several steps that Government can take, either through introduction of new processes, or improvement of existing ones, or identifying and addressing the lacunae in the processes, etc. It covers the following main points:

a) Voting should be made mandatory

b) Awareness about the importance of voting

c) Information about Voters List, procedure of voting, etc.

d) Making the process of voting easier

 

 

NGO COUNCIL Learnings from the BMC Elections, February 2007 – Prepared by the NGO Council, Mumbai 3 NGO Council C/o Karmayog Shreeniwas House, 2nd floor H. Somani Road, Fort Mumbai - 400001 Tel: 2200 0004 / 2200 0478 Fax: 2203 5410 Email: info@karmayog.com Website: www.karmayog.com e) Enabling informed choice about the candidates

f) Option of Protest Vote

g) Accountability of the elected candidate

h) Ensuring the process of voting is a fair and just one

i) Getting local issues addressed

a) Voting should be made mandatory:

At present, citizens have a very low sense of social responsibility towards the city / state / nation, especially as no action is taken if people do not vote. Hence:

1. Positive incentives to those who vote, such as rebate in Income tax or service tax, or benefit in savings scheme

2. Employers / Organisations to be responsible for allowing their employees time to vote / else will face penalty

3. Voting to be mandatory with a penalty / fine for those who do not vote without adequate reason.

4. Acknowledgement of vote on ID document such as Ration Card / Voters’ ID Card, without which the document is cancelled / void.

 

b) Awareness about the importance of voting:

Government to undertake sustained and systematic awareness campaigns about the role of every person in a democracy, how a vote can make difference, creating a sense of identification with the election process, with the person who is standing for election, with the city. (Similar to awareness campaigns undertaken for payment of Income Tax, Service Tax, polio immunisation, etc.)

c) Information about Voters List, procedure, etc.

While the onus of checking that one’s name is on the Voter’s List rests with the citizen himself, the Government must also take the following steps:

1. Election Commission to be more pro-active / have easier systems of redressal eg. on the spot confirmation / simpler processes of migration / change of address / adding names / correcting spelling mistakes, etc.

2. A single Voter’s ID number to be given as per a central list, and this number to remain the same for the entire life of that person. Change of address, name (for women), etc., to result in

 

 

 

NGO COUNCIL Learnings from the BMC Elections, February 2007 – Prepared by the NGO Council, Mumbai 4 NGO Council C/o Karmayog Shreeniwas House, 2nd floor H. Somani Road, Fort Mumbai - 400001 Tel: 2200 0004 / 2200 0478 Fax: 2203 5410 Email: info@karmayog.com Website: www.karmayog.com

issue of a fresh ID card, but keeping ID number same.

3. Voter’s registration process to be made simpler - option of updating records on-line

4. Automatic deletion to take place once death certificate is issued.

5. Fixing of responsibility on Government official who is responsible for the preparation of the voting list, with penalty in case of more than a minimum margin of error is found. (for e.g.: Voter’s List for “x” constituency has been prepared by Shri “y”)

6. Election commission should provide the voter’s slips (till the voters Identity Card issue is made fully operational) instead of each party doing that. Individual parties should not be allowed to issue voter’s slips as independent candidates cannot afford this.

7. The Government can consider option of voting on-line.

8. The elected representative in each constituency should immediately update / check the records as soon as he/she takes charge.

 

d) Making the process of voting easier:

1. Special provisions for senior citizens and physically handicapped voters should me made mandatory– esp. re: climbing stairs, etc.

2. Voting day should not be declared a holiday, nor near a holiday or weekend, so that people do not leave the city for a break. (see also a-4 above).

3. Extensive publicity campaign regarding the constituency numbers, extent, etc., is required, especially after the delimitation exercise, as the change in constituency renders all old records and lists useless, with no references available for checking.

4. Candidates names, etc., to be in at least 2-3 languages to facilitate easier understanding by people. (Symbols are not sufficient in this regard, as they are allotted a short period before the election date, and also because there are several similar and confusing symbols.)

5. Help-desks at polling stations, manned by trained and informed volunteers.

 

e) Enabling an informed choice about the candidates:

1. Apart from the voter’s lists to be online, the candidates’ and his / her party's profile relating to educational qualifications, public works, criminal records, assets and such important factors should also be displayed, in prominent public places within that ward such as the ward office, post office, police station, market, school, etc as well as on the internet.

 

 

NGO COUNCIL Learnings from the BMC Elections, February 2007 – Prepared by the NGO Council, Mumbai 5 NGO Council C/o Karmayog Shreeniwas House, 2nd floor H. Somani Road, Fort Mumbai - 400001 Tel: 2200 0004 / 2200 0478 Fax: 2203 5410 Email: info@karmayog.com Website: www.karmayog.com

2. Record of work done for that ward / local area should be mandatorily publicly displayed. (This will bring people to vote.)

3. Stricter criteria to be set for persons contesting:

Candidate:

- must have no criminal record

- must have contributed to society by lawfully paying taxes, hence PAN no. essential

- must have a record of public service in that local area

- can contest a particular level of elections a maximum of 3 times only

- must be educated up to Std. 12 at least

4. The registration fee for those who contest to be increased, so that only those who are genuinely interested will contest, else as was seen in these elections, a large number of people contested without any real intent. This will also reduce the number of candidates, and part of the registration fees can be used by the Government to disseminate information about each candidate.

5. Political Parties’ meetings / rallies should be banned during election time. They should be replaced by public meetings of all contesting candidates of a constituency to be brought on a common platform. Voters Panchayat has done this in the past in rural areas and a similar Voter’s Council can be formed for urban areas.

6. Individual posters, banners, cut outs, hoardings should NOT be allowed. Only handbills may be allowed to be distributed door to door.

 

f) Option of Protest Vote:

This gives an option in voting or as those who are dissatisfied with the candidates in their ward, hence they will participate to show their protest, and not remain indifferent

1. Need to make people as well as poll booth officers aware about the protest vote and how it is to be done.

2. In view of a large percentage of voters wanting to cast a protest vote, for want of any "Deserving candidate", the EVM should add a clear option for voting "NONE IS SUITABLE".

3. If the maximum number of votes in a ward are cast as protest votes, then re-election to be carried out in that ward at a later date. Alternately, the constituency should be administered by a person appointed by the Governor/President from a panel of eminent apolitical persons in that constituency.

 

 

 

NGO COUNCIL Learnings from the BMC Elections, February 2007 – Prepared by the NGO Council, Mumbai 6 NGO Council C/o Karmayog Shreeniwas House, 2nd floor H. Somani Road, Fort Mumbai - 400001 Tel: 2200 0004 / 2200 0478 Fax: 2203 5410 Email: info@karmayog.com Website: www.karmayog.com g) Accountability of the elected candidate

1. Pre-poll promises and manifestos

Since at present, no one is bound by the manifestos they make, parties / people make populist, unrealistic / fake promises, which gets them elected.

i) the promises to be on signed affidavits and, if they are not followed, that person/ party is ineligible from contesting again

ii) performance - based reviews determine whether candidate can contest next time – as well as mid-term review to remove non-performing candidates

iii) parties to give quarterly reviews of their progress like listed companies do

iv) all results promised have to be made in measurable terms so that parties can be held to accounts

 

2. Accountability of elected candidate

Candidates need to be made accountable to the people who elected them.

i) citizens to have an option of Right to Recall – so that non-performers can be removed mid-term

ii) performance based review to determine whether candidate can contest next time – as well as mid-term review to remove non-performing candidate

iii) each candidate’s details to be on a website, with all details conveniently available. Annual / half yearly review of work to be put up on the site

 

h) Ensuring the process of voting is a fair and just one:

1. Only Genuine Voters eligible and allowed to vote:

Stricter eligibility criteria for voters will ensure that political parties do not put up bogus voters’ list. Apart from the existing criteria, those who have the following to be eligible to vote:

i) those who have resided lawfully in the city for a minimum of “x” years

ii) Those who have contributed to society by lawfully paying taxes – hence PAN no. essential

 

 

NGO COUNCIL Learnings from the BMC Elections, February 2007 – Prepared by the NGO Council, Mumbai 7 NGO Council C/o Karmayog Shreeniwas House, 2nd floor H. Somani Road, Fort Mumbai - 400001 Tel: 2200 0004 / 2200 0478 Fax: 2203 5410 Email: info@karmayog.com Website: www.karmayog.com 2. Prevention and action against buying / rigging of votes

i) A single government agency to be designated to prevent and take action against the prevalent practice of buying of votes. e.g.: CBI, Intelligence Bureau

ii) Vigilance officers should be posted randomly at select locations. Stringent penalties should be worked out for violations on this count.

iii) Electronic Voting Machines should be checked by an Independent Committee consisting of Experts and representative of Voters Councils, to check tampering and other abuse. Voting receipts issued should be tallied against the votes shown as cast in the EVMs. This is called Vote Audit. This high-powered committee should have powers to take summary action against the mischief-makers. This Committee will report directly to the Governor or President, as the case may be.

 

i) Getting local issues addressed:

Local, civic elections must have local citizens i.e. residents as candidates, as the political parties are interested in much bigger stakes, have little commitment to that local area and its problems.

1. Party-based elections should not be applicable for the local municipal elections

2. Only persons who have served the public in the past should be allowed to contest the local elections.

 

3. Civic matters should be left to citizens to handle through their chosen representatives not attached to any political party.

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II) Role of citizen groups and NGOs:

Part II of this compilation lists the several steps that local citizen groups must take, to supplement the work of the Government. Local Area Citizens Groups (LACGs / ALMs) have defined roles and responsibilities which will not be undertaken by either the government or political parties. However, Government must facilitate and assist in these efforts by working together with the citizen groups and providing space for meetings in schools, adequate number of officials and offices for redressal of complaints, etc.

a) Before the Elections:

1. More effective citizen awareness programs will have to be conducted at all levels. - Citizens have to be made to realise that mere complaining and grumbling will not solve the problems,

 

 

NGO COUNCIL Learnings from the BMC Elections, February 2007 – Prepared by the NGO Council, Mumbai 8 NGO Council C/o Karmayog Shreeniwas House, 2nd floor H. Somani Road, Fort Mumbai - 400001 Tel: 2200 0004 / 2200 0478 Fax: 2203 5410 Email: info@karmayog.com Website: www.karmayog.com

and that not voting is a recipe for making it easy for undesirable candidates to get elected.

2. It is necessary for the ALMs and NGOs to undertake a mass awareness programs well in time on a large scale to educate and inform and train citizens or real issues involved and where their real interests lie.

3. The LACGs can help greatly in getting people to vote. Before the elections, they can hold meetings in their local area , to consider, debate and discuss jointly what are the important issues before us, which require to be met, and what are we as citizens looking for. They can invite the candidates for an open meeting, and assess their abilities and their track record.

4. LACGs / NGOs should start their work at least a year earlier – so that political parties are forced to field better candidates. Timely action and awareness by local citizens groups will force political parties to pay heed to their demands.

5. Media and citizen groups to widely publicise the reviews of the elected corporators’s work, so as to inform about their past record of work.

 

b) After the Elections:

1. Citizens to undertake compiling and informing the elected corporator of the needs and urgent requirements of various areas.

2. Regular checks should be kept on illegal activities and vigilant committees be formed comprising of those who have lost in the elections. This shall help everyone to get better services and value for the money spent by the municipality on various projects.

3. Ensure that the elected team is going to deliver the goods by steps such as active use of RTI, voting list updating, active Local Area Citizen's Groups, etc.

4. Citizens should form ‘Pressure Groups’ to supervise their respective wards. The groups should work in tandem with the BMC for getting the necessary work done.

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III) Making the process of standing for election fair and simple

1. There is insufficient printed documentation explaining the process for a first-timer, especially independents. Printed booklets, websites, help-desks

 

to be available.

2. Training and orientation programme for candidates to be conducted by the Election Commission for those who are contesting for the first time, independents, etc.

 

 

NGO COUNCIL Learnings from the BMC Elections, February 2007 – Prepared by the NGO Council, Mumbai 9 NGO Council C/o Karmayog Shreeniwas House, 2nd floor H. Somani Road, Fort Mumbai - 400001 Tel: 2200 0004 / 2200 0478 Fax: 2203 5410 Email: info@karmayog.com Website: www.karmayog.com

3. The process of contesting for elections is at the moment tilted towards the political parties, i.e. those with considerable resources of money and power. It is difficult for the local, neighbourhood candidate to compete with these. Hence these processes need to be revised. for e.g.: Independent candidates are given only 10 days to campaign, which makes it difficult for them to convey their symbol to about 40,000 people.

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