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Equi-city team conducts focussed discussions to empower citizens

The participation of citizens in the political process is an indispensable component of democracy. Tactics and strategies for increased citizen participation in local governance can be seen around the globe. Civil and political rights, including freedom of expression and access to information, which are at the basis of political participation, are human rights in themselves. Community participation can be loosely defined as the involvement of people in a community in projects to solve their own problems. Community Participation is especially important in emergency sanitation programmes where people may be accustomed to their surroundings and new sanitation facilities

The participation of citizens in the political process is an indispensable component of democracy. Tactics and strategies for increased citizen participation in local governance can be seen around the globe. Citizen participation in local governance involves ordinary citizens assessing their own needs and participating in local project planning and budget monitoring. It is important for improving public resource management and reducing corruption, by making public servants and political leaders accountable to the people. For citizen participation to work, transparency of government information is required, as considerably as the inclusion of members in decision-making from groups whose concerns are being directed. Excluding the weak and powerless from decision-making is a cause of poverty because it denies them rights and creates unequal power relationships.
One way to increase awareness and to empower citizens to have a voice is through conducting Focus Group Discussions targeting various localities in a city. The potential of Focus Group Discussions in conflict regions is especially interesting, says one participant, for opening spaces for debate and dialogue and improving transparency and the hidden social structures that generate corruption.
The Equi-City Team moving forward with the objectives of the Project conducted Focus Group Discussions in Four Prabhags of Nagpur which were not performing relatively well in the level of services. Based on the feedback of these Focus Group Discussions a community scorecard will be developed to bridge the gap of communication between Local Authorities and Citizen of Nagpur. Amongst several survey methodologies, FGDs are a good way to gather together people from similar backgrounds or experiences to discuss a specific issue.
A facilitator guides the discussions, introduces the topics for discussion and helps the group to participate in a free and natural discussion amongst them. The strength of FGD as a survey tool is that it allows the participants to agree or disagree with each other and hence providing valuable insights into the range of opinion and ideas, thoughts and beliefs, their experiences and practices that exist in the
particular community.
The following guidelines emerged out of the discussion to build rapport with participants and conduct the discussion:

  • Notify the target pool of participants about the schedule and venue (reservations of venue must be done in advance) of the discussion, and also inform them about the objective of the discussion.
  • Remind the prospective participants at least 24 hours prior to the gathering;
  • Ensure participation of at least 15-20 members of the community, subject to its size. Attempt to include men and women of all age groups in the community. Ensure that the group is not dominated by a gender or by a sub-group of the community;
  • Conduct a transect walk of the selected sites and observe the availability of services/amenities that are subject of the questionnaire; pertaining to water and sanitation. It will help to facilitator to guide questions specific to the site;
  • By the time, participants are gathering at the venue, begin discussion by engaging them with some general questions, informing them where their opinions will be used, and lead them to a discussion pertaining to the objectives. One of the members of the team of facilitators may be assigned the responsibility of noting down responses emerging from the focus groups, and another member may photo-document or record the event on a video;

Insights from FGD’s conducted by Equi-City Team in Four Prabhags Respectively

FGD-1 at Prabhag-2, Zone-9 on 3rd August, 2018
The feedback according to the citizens was that some part of zone is provided with better services as per the work efficiency of the Corporators. Other areas are totally ignored. If people are giving more money to the worker or employee, the services are regular and efficient. Hence, financially sound households are getting better services than financially weaker households due to unaffordability to pay extra money for the services. Also, the funds are not utilized which are provided for the particular scheme. If a complaint is registered in NMC, it was found that in 80 per cent of the cases employees demand for extra money. Sweepers and workers only mark the attendance but don’t work. Due to high charges of bills and extra money paid for the services, people are unable to invest more for education and house. To regulate and efficient service delivery, NMC employees should visit the area periodically. Also, meetings should be conducted to understand the demand and suggestions from the citizens. If the facilities are provided by NMC, then NMC should also take care of them.
According to the Corporators, people are unaware about the procedure and time taken to provide the services. If a particular process is taking more time, people lose confidence in the Corporator immediately.

FGD-2 at Prabhag-15, Zone-2 on 10th August, 2018
Majority of complaints were regarding cleanliness from all areas of Dharampeth zone. All complaints are noted by the commissioner and commitment has been given that immediate action will be taken. Asst Commissioner Morone gave example of Indore city’s cleanliness where everyone did their duty enthusiastically down the line. Biometric attendance system is used for safai karmachari and the system is outsourced. The attendance is updated regularly on website and Commissioner can directly monitor the attendance of safai kamgars. He said that administrative ward changes every five year.

FGD-3 at Prabhag-31, Zone-3 on 20th August, 2018
The major problem observed in the area was contamination of well water because of seepage from old sewer line and inadequate water supply since past one year even though new water supply line has been provided. According to the Corporators, Orange City Waters (OCW) is responsible for the worsening the condition of water supply and the Nagpur Municipal Corporation should take the action against them and also the old sewer line should be replaced as it is contaminating most of the wells of the area. The solid waste management services are average in the Prabhag and can be improved if attendance of Safai Kamgars is improved.

FGD-4 at Prabhag-12, Zone-2 on 29th August, 2018
The distribution of individual taps and supply of water is unequal in the area. Availability of potable water is limited to some part of the area. Late timings for water supply causes inconvenience for working population. Also, lack of drainage network in most of the area lead to frequent water logging. Poor road network and narrow lanes are major problems which hamper service provision in all parts of the Prabhag. Irregular door-to-door waste collection service noticed due to narrow lanes which causes difficulty in moving garbage collector vehicle. Demand for dustbins and regular cleaning facility in the area is prevalent.

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