GHMC polls: Citizens remind parties of unkept promises

Issues revolving around the ravaging pandemic and recent urban floods have found a place, along with the evergreen promises of development, investments, urban infrastructure, law and order, and welfare schemes.

As Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) election gathers steam, with filing of the nominations ending Friday for the December 1 poll, political parties are busy setting the poll agenda in their favour. Issues revolving around the ravaging pandemic and recent urban floods have found a place, along with the evergreen promises of development, investments, urban infrastructure, law and order, and welfare schemes. On the other hand, citizens too are doing their bit to remind their elected representatives about the promises they failed to fulfill.

In one such development, the Hyderabad School Parents Association (HSPA) is mulling to boycott the polls over the government’s apathy towards school education. HSPA’s vice-president Seema Agarwal asked why should lakhs of parents in the city cast their votes if their children’s education, the menace of exorbitant school fees, and ambiguous online classes are no one else’s concern. She reiterated that a district fee regulatory committee ( DFRC) has not become a reality despite years of parents’ struggle.

“Amid pandemic, parents are under stress because there is no DFRC. The government is not even clear about what a tuition fee is. The GO 46 is ambiguous and pushes parents into a severe ordeal. Schools continue to exploit parents and despite a recent government inquiry finding 11 schools guilty, the action was not taken. This has led to other schools claiming to be clean,” she said. So many complaints, representations, and protests have fallen on the government’s deaf years, she added. “The government has been tight-lipped and no political party wants to take up parents’ issues. So, why should we vote?” she asked.

A citizen activist and secretary of the United Federation of Resident Welfare Associations (UFERWAS), Ashwin Nallari Naidu, has prepared a citizen charter manifesto. By ensuring that the contesting candidates sign the document, he says: “RWAs can hold him/her accountable in the future. There are 20 promises in the document, including a promise to seek the approval of residents for projects, a promise to protect the open spaces, and that he/she will not permit encroachments or land grabbing in the ward. It also states that the candidate, if elected as corporator, will regularly attend the area sabha and ward sabha meetings and that funds allocated by the Centre or the state will be effectively utilised to bring permanent relief to the constituency. The document also talks about the candidate’s acceptance of an audit of expenditures from the corporator’s funds by any citizen. This document is a proposed solution. The RWAs should have the decision-making power and every RWA should implement this for a corruption-free council,” said Naidu.

According to him, the Corporator should link his and his family members’ voter ID card with the Aadhaar card, and promise to pay income tax, property tax, and even electricity and water bills. “Why are tax defaulters’ list not on the GHMC website? All funds collected from prompt taxpayers in Secunderabad are spent in Banjara Hills, Jubilee Hills, Prashashan Nagar, etc. This is the injustice that has been going on for years because there is no auditing at RWA level.”

M Padmanabha Reddy, secretary of the Forum for Good Governance, said: “The lack of civic amenities, inadequate drainage system, bad roads, encroachments of nullahs, tanks, and open spaces, especially by the politicians, are election issues, but voters should not miss identifying the criminal antecedents of contesting candidates in rightfully rejecting them.”

The city-based NGO has written to the Commissioner of State Election Commission of Telangana to direct political parties to publish the criminal record of their candidates. “As per the Supreme Court orders, political parties should publish antecedents of the candidates. The SC gave the order for Lok Sabha and Assembly elections. We have requested the SEC to apply it to local body polls as well because there is no bar. With only a couple of weeks left for the election, the voters may miss out on this crucial information,” he said.

He said the GHMC has been independent only on paper and in practice it has no voice of its own or funds. “The government has a skewed priority for GHMC. While building flyovers and roads are important, 30 per cent of the population is living in slums and without basic amenities. You cannot have a world-class city without addressing the problems of slums,” said Reddy.

During the 2016 GHMC elections, as many as 72 candidates with criminal records were given tickets by political parties, and 30 of them won the elections. Out of these, 16 and 15 were from TRS and AIMIM, respectively, and one from BJP, Reddy said

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