Readers following Bangalore’s Janaagraha campaign will know that it aims increase citizen participation in local governance. The campaign has recently also gotten involved expansion and replication of its model of citizen ward-works engagement in the municipal areas neighboring Bangalore city. Even as Bangaloreans were prioritizing the works for the recently released 2003 – 04 budget, their neighbors living in the City Municipal Councils (CMC) and Town Municipal Corporation (TMC) evinced keen interest in involving themselves in ward works in their areas.

The Directorate of Municipal Administration's recently requested CMCs to issue notices asking citizens' to get involved with their administration. Following this, the Bytrayanapura CMC issued a release in their local newspapers. They invited citizens to come forward and register themselves with the CMC office so that formal interactions can be set up. Janaagraha volunteers visited Byatarayanapura on the 23rd of April, for a presentation on the citizen involvement programs underway in Bangalore. Over 120 residents, the President, Commissioner, Engineers and managers attended the presentation.

"Citizens can be involved in matters of public governance in a manner where people can participate without giving up their lives"
The extraordinary meeting witnessed citizens expressing eagerness to join hands and work with their administration and elected representatives. They requested training and orientation from the Janaagraha team in the processes of participatory planning that has been demonstrated in the neighboring Bangalore city corporation. The President of the CMC, Mr SrinivasRaju, has promised to give all the citizens a electronic document of all the revenue collected for the wards and has requested citizens to sit down with their elected representatives and prioritise works for their wards. Janaagraha will now speak to all the resident welfare organisations and arrange for orientation and training sessions.

This citizen participation process has not only begun in the municipal councils but has also extended to Kengeri, which comes under the Town Municipal Corporation (TMC). Residents have approached Janaagraha and wish to survey their roads and create a profile of their wards which they can then use as a tool for planning. Several Wards have prioritised the works in their areas and prepared a list and approached their corporator with it.

Back in Bangalore, monthly review meetings in some city wards for works monitoring have created a more conducive atmosphere for engagement between citizens and the city corporation’s engineers, than existed before. In a letter to Janaagraha Times, Sarojini, a resident of ward 78 writes, “I have attended 4 review meetings for my ward. It has made getting in touch with the engineers easier. Earlier it was very difficult to communicate with them. They are very cooperative, answer all our questions and give us assurance but so far no works in the 2002 – 03 budget have been completed.”. She also points out that their ward’s elected representative attended their works review meeting only once. What comes through, though is this citizen’s resolve to continue and not give up. “We have prioritised the works for the next year’s budget and given the list to the corporator. If we have more people who are committed this program will be a success.”

As Janaagraha moves along its coordinators and communications are introducing a vocabulary and language in Bangalore’s public life that has rarely been heard and thought about. “Citizens need to be involved in matters of public governance, and we can do this in a manner where people can participate without giving up their lives. Not only is this the more efficient way of decentralisation, it also fosters better values in each of us and enriches the sense of community”, writes Ramesh Ramanathan in a recent editorial in Janaagraha Times. “Democracy is an idea that is much better lived than talked about”, he writes with the sort of conviction that can only come from results.