Kaytek's Consulting Director has made some suggestions for improving the functioning of LACC's (Local Area Citizen Committees) and ALM's (Advanced Locality Managements) in Mumbai.
Some more thoughts on enhancements in their workings are given below.
1.0 - Defining Unit for an ALM
The defining unit for an ALM could be size of population representated in a particular geographical area.
The ALM minimum Unit cannot be a lane as sometimes there are different societies on opposite sides of the lane. It should be a 'block' as understood in the US.
Ideally, it should be an association of co-operative housing or other industrial societies who are physically located next to each other within a defined geographical area.
2.0 - Responsibilities of MCGM, ALM and the citizens
In case the MCGM appoints a Nodal Officer to deal with the ALM's issues, the individual should have sufficient authority within the MCGM to act on the same.
MCGM should ensure that all committments made at ALM or LACC meetings by the concerned MCGM officials must be fulfilled if they are within the scope of MCGM responsibilities.
From their side, as the ALM's are concentrated locally, they can play and are playing a major role in educating the citizens on their responsibilities and attitudes as regards their role.
Also, the activism of ALM representatives often acts as a motivating lever for some the rest of the citizens to start playing a more active role within the community.
As far as possible, residents should use the offical MCGM complaint mechanism. ALM's to be used as a channel for exception handling scenarios that are not being given enough attention or focus through the official forums.
MCGM's H-West Ward ALM's have devised a color coding system for tracking complaints - Green, Orange and Red. The same should be followed for all ALM and LACC complaints all over Mumbai.
3.0 - Legal Structure of ALM's and LACC's
ALM's must be an association of all co-operative housing socieities within a defined geograpical area. e.g. if Nariman Point has 50 Buildings and subsequently 50 housing societies, then it could perhaps have 5 - 10 ALM's defined on the basis of a geographically delimited area.
Each ALM to be representative of 5 - 10 Co-operative housing societies located near each other.
The ALM can be considered as a Mini-Federation of Co-op Housing societies concerned with the problems of the immediate geograpic area.
All Co-operative Housing Societies must nominate one member from their side to be part of an ALM.
Changes will be required in the Co-operative Societies Act for Housing Society office bearers to take on the additional ALM related work load and for their participation on LACC's.
Currently, ALM's do not have any enforcing regulatory powers. But a Housing Society can impose the ALM related civic directives to their residents since they currently have other umbrella of powers.
ALM related powers can be easily added by making changes in the MCGM Legal Act and Maharashtra Co-operative Societies Act 1961 and MOFA (Maharashtra Ownership Flats Act), if need be.
The existing Co-operative societies act can give a good framework to build on the same and if necessary be modified also for the same.
All co-operative societies must compulsorily nominate one resident from their side as being a representative of an ALM.
ALM responsibilities can be added to the list of responsibilities that Office Bearers of a Housing Society already have as per the Model Byelaws of Co-operative Housing Society in Maharashtra.
MCGM should make it compulsory (in association with the Registrar of Co-operatives by making the necessary legal changes for all co-op housing societies to be part of an ALM association within their immediate neighbourhood.
The Co-operative Societies office bearers within an area must take on additional ALM related workload between themselves since they have the regulatory power over their residents.
LACC Office Bearers must be appointed from within the ALM representatives.
LACG need not be a registered body in case the ALM representatives are themselves appointed office-bearers of the housing societies since they would not have the authority to impose on the ALM's.
4.0 - Funding for the ALM's
MCGM already has a relationship with the Co-Operative Housing Society since it collects taxes and charges from Members and residents of the societies. The ALM framework must recognize this and build on this for funding purposes.
Funds will come from Co-operative Societies and their members. No need to have a separate funding mechanism.
MCGM should not play any direct role in funding the ALM's due to various reasons. It may not be a viable long term mechanism. If ALM's need funding, they can organize the same from within the local community.
If MCGM wants to fund the ALM's indirectly, the same should be done from a share of the the MCGM Revenue and Taxes Billing from the Residents of the area.
Since BMC is planning to implement a resident wise billing system from April 2006 (vis-a-vis a co-operative society wise billing system at present), collecting dues from residents to help pay for authorised ALM funds would be easier.
ALM's can get a certain % of BMC's collection from the residents of a particular area by way of property taxes, water bills, etc.
Also, there is no need for MCGM to set norms for corporate sponsorship for ALM's. Let the individual ALM's take it and decide at their level.
The guiding motto for ALM's should be 'Least Interference from any of the regulatory bodies'.
5.0 - Can Internet Technology help ?
Websites of BMC both at the Head Office Level and the Ward Level can be used to disseminate the information of NGO's (both across Mumbai and at different wards) and ALM's at the ward levels.
There should be an individual ALM level web site that should be accessible to all its residents and ward officers and MCGM Head Office - Municipal Commissioner level people.
Data from the individual ALM websites should be consolidated at the ward level and city level after defining a common framework and terminology for identifying common issues - eg. water, roads, stray dogs, encroachment, etc.
This uniform standard framework is necessary in understanding, articulating and communicating these varied issues for their possible resolution.