For all those times that you whined and complained about Mumbai's terrible roads, or garbage problems, did you ever consider registering an actual complaint at the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) office?
Well, these kids are here to tell you how to just that. And before you get cynical about its efficacy, hear them out first.
“Our central goal with this project was to spread awareness among the citizens of Mumbai on how the BMC works, specifically its complaint management system,” explains Akash Jaiswal, student at Institute of Forensic Science, and one of the fifty fellows selected by the Blue Ribbon Movement (BRM) as part of its Community Connect Fellowships programme organised in association with the National Service Scheme.
Through intense campaigning, surveys, street plays and some good old fashioned legwork, Akash Jaiswal and other fellows spread across the length and breadth of the city, starting with their own colleges, to spread the good word.
“Our selected fellows, through citizen engagement, have raised awareness about the 1916 BMC complaint management system,” explains Sunny Chheda, programme lead at BRM. “In the process, they have collectively registered over 1300 complaints,” he adds with much pride.
Working the BMC
Anis Fatima, Jai Hind college student and a BRM fellow, narrates how they went about with the project, “Along with my two fellow members Kejal Savla and Sayli Shinde, we arranged an opening workshop for volunteers in our college. Our volunteers then discovered various civic problems around Mumbai and registered complaints with the BMC.”
Jaiswal adds to that, “We took to the streets with out campaigns, conducting surveys while simultaneously making people aware of this complaint system. We also filed complaints given by those people in front of them so that they could see how it is not such a difficult process.”
But it wasn't without challenges, of course. “We didn't get any help from the BMC. At the beginning, they were polite with our initiative but after as time passed they became very rude, and even started to ignore our calls.”
However, as the efforts began to yielded concrete results in terms of numbers and knowledge, it was hard not to feel ecstatic. Fatima talks about the success of their campaign, “The BMC, much to our surprise, showed us a lot of support, which resulted in us filing a total of 350+ complaints by our college unit as a whole. It was such a pleasure attending the Saturday follow-up sessions, that every week, I actually waited for a Saturday to come.”
Engaging community leaders
The point of the programme, though, was to instill leadership values among the city's youth. “Forty six per cent of India is youth and engaging it socially in a self-beneficial way is the need of the hour. The programme aims to build young civic leaders that can work together to solve significant city-level issues,” says Chedda. “It was started in the memory of late Prof Rooshikumar Pandya. Designed based on our conversations with the late professor, it takes the fellows through stages of intensive leadership development,” he explains.
So what next?
“The fellows will explore ways to make the project they have initiated sustainable. The programme concludes with a boot camp where a concrete individual plan to follow up will be created,” they state.
As the nation prepares itself for our magnanimous show of democracy, political factions across cities are raising key issues that they believe concern Indians the most. And even as popular public discussions orbit national policy issues, there are those who continue to strive for basic civic issues at the grassroots level, much like the work by student fellows of the BRM.