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Citizens to form watchdog groups to monitor local government bodies
Activists and young volunteers in the city are coming together to form a watchdog unit to monitor the activities of State administration, in the aftermath of floods in Tamil Nadu
A week ago, a group of 150 people came together for a discussion on the causes behind the recent floods in Tamil Nadu, where there was a common consensus on the need for public participation in governance. The next meeting on December 20 focussed on laying the groundwork for creating a volunteer-driven watchdog unit.
Archanaa Seker, a volunteer with Reclaim Chennai, says there is a growing consciousness among Chennaiites on the need to reconsider lifestyle and administration, post the floods. “Many felt that the system has failed the citizens during the recent floods. Sunday’s meeting involved people from different backgrounds forming watchdog groups to monitor Government bodies like Corporation of Chennai, Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA), Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board and Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB).
Through RTI’s and research, volunteers can generate data to feed into communication and outreach strategies to reclaim Chennai, in the aftermath of the disaster,” she explains. Activist and writer Nityanand Jayaraman says youngsters involved in relief work during the floods, were keen on doing more to prevent calamities in the future.
“During the meeting, we came up with two areas, which will be vigorously monitored — space watch and garbage watch. In space watch, monitor groups will look at the way space is being unequally apportioned. Those living on the banks of the rivers are being relocated to other low-lying areas outside the city. We are also drawing up a list of elite offenders —large organisations who are flouting rules—so that the government can take action on them. We are also mapping empty spaces within the city, where the affected people can be relocated. In the garbage watch, citizens will monitor the problem of trash disposal. A day-long workshop is being organised in early January to train the volunteers,” he explains.
Siddharth Hande, a data analyst and volunteer, is busy mapping lake areas, where unplanned construction has happened. “One of the main reasons for the floods was unplanned development, especially in lake areas. I have started analysing old maps of the city and I am in the process of identifying waterbodies where rampant construction has taken place, in a bid to come up with a viable solution. I endorse the idea of a watchdog unit to ensure that such a situation doesn’t occur again and we are better prepared to deal with disasters,” he says.
A rally was also organised on Sunday to protest for relief, justice and permanent security, which started from Kannagi Statue on Marina Beach. “More than 100 volunteers voiced their concern on the lack of coordination during the Chennai floods. We need to ensure that relief is distributed only to those affected by the floods,” says Raja, one of the organisers.
- Watchdog groups will now monitor Government bodies like Corporation of Chennai, Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board and Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB).
- Through RTI’s and research, volunteers will generate data to feed into communication and outreach strategies to reclaim Chennai.
- Citizen groups will map empty spaces where flood-hit families can be relocated. A list of elite offenders is being drawn up. A group will also monitor the city’s garbage problems.
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