Delhi’s Resident Welfare Associations give charter of demands for Lok Sabha polls | Latest News Delhi

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A broader focus on sustainable growth, stronger laws against air pollution the transparent use of public funds, increased public participation and a more proactive feedback process – these are among a raft of 24 demands that a conglomerate of Delhi’s resident welfare associations (RWAs) have placed before political parties in the run-up to the general elections, to ensure a “breathable, liveable” Capital.

Congress workers campaign in Delhi ahead of the May 25 Lok Sabha elections. (Sanchit Khanna/HT Photo)
Congress workers campaign in Delhi ahead of the May 25 Lok Sabha elections. (Sanchit Khanna/HT Photo)

The demands, compiled by the United RWAs Joint Action (Urja) — an umbrella body of 2,500 RWAs — and released on Monday were an open call for political parties to work towards improving the lives of Delhi’s 20 million residents.

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The 24-point “citizens’ manifesto” consists of four broad themes — nine “finance-linked obligations”, seven “fundamental commitments”, five “leadership commitments” and three “citizens’ participation demands”.

The manifesto talks about radical changes in the city’s governance structures and issue-specific authorities to fix accountability. The demands include the public release of annual reports, addressing drainage and sewage issues, bringing all RWAs under registration of a new act and establishing a robust public consultation mechanism at the ward level.

The Urja came up with the demands after consulting with several residents, environmentalists, urban planning experts, water and transport advisors.

It also demands that Delhi be given “complete Union territory status”, stripping the city of its statehood and introducing a mayor-in-council.

“Protest by various groups in states against the central government shall be allowed in the respective state capitals only and a decentralised location be declared to hold such protest,” the document added.

Urja president Atul Goyal said, “The national capital is one of the most polluted cities in the country. We have outlined our 24 demands in sectors such as transport, forest, waste management with a goal towards a better liveable condition for all the citizens. Because Delhi has a multiplicity of agencies with a year-long blame game over several issues, we seek clearly outlined accountability.”

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He added that Delhi’s growth will be meaningless without community participation and that the charter lays out a separate category of demands to formalise citizens’ involvement in the process.

The Urja manifesto focuses on citizen empowerment and accountability, clean environment, easy commute for all modes of transport, adequate resource management, effective emission control mechanisms, improved policing and planned development to meet various needs of Delhi’s citizens.

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The fundamental commitment section speaks about developing local area plans tailored to the needs of each assembly and ward to overcome state-level planning failures. “Implementing common duct policy, creating ‘pedestrian and walkway authority’, ‘drainage and sewerage authority’ and ‘drinking water authority’, ‘wetland and water bodies authority’ and ‘public transport review authority’ for better integration and management of resources have been included,” it added.

Under the finance-linked obligations, the RWA collective has demanded that adequate finances are ensured to support budgetary requirements for city development with each department to match the obligatory duties and to generate adequate tools. “We often see that policies and promises are made, but that the financial outline for their implementation is missing. Our financial obligations focus on meeting this gap,” Goyal added.

The residents have demanded an annual monitoring of each department under Urban Local Bodies to track progress towards goals and publicly declare the achieved status. “Annual reports shall be published and be available in public domain without any interference of authorities or elected government,” it added.

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The charter across various sections lays special emphasis on environment and pollution control. The RWA collective body has demanded that new tree plantation policies be adopted to increase rooftop green cover, that plantation drives focus on native trees and that the city be supported with three layers of plantations, ranging from grass, shrubs to trees. Under the solid waste management section, they seek waste management plans at district level and establishment of citizens’ committees for waste segregation and management at ward levels.

The leadership commitment section demands that city growth be prevented from compromising environmental and public health by strengthening air pollution laws, assessing social impacts on the local environment, and improving overall quality of life.

Under the citizens’ participation, the manifesto talks about standardising and empowering RWAs to serve as consultative bodies for local governance and regular monitoring of policy implementation by community leaders.

Savita Singh, Urja coordinator of the central district, said “Through this charter an attempt has been made to redirect the focus of governance to efficient ways for timely resolution of issues in every district and ward.”

Spokespersons of the Capital’s ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) did not respond to requests seeking comment.

Delhi BJP spokesperson Praveen Shankar Kapoor welcomed the draft. “We appreciate Urja’s concern.” He assured that the party’s manifesto committee will consider the draft suggestions of the citizens’ forum while preparing its own manifesto.

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