Parisar, in collaboration with Centre for Environment Education and Curtin University Sustainability Policy Institute (Western Perth, Australia) conducted a two day workshop - "Towards Deliberative Democracy" in Pune on 23rd, 24th May 2015. The workshop focused on testing a platform for deliberative processes involving citizens representing different categories in the city.
Pune, and India in general have a rich culture of ‘organic’ or bottom up public participation, including rights-based social movements, formal and in-formal sector labour movements, citizens’ activism for a variety of urban issues ranging from waste management to biodiversity conservation, planning, education, health etc. ‘Induced’ participation or top down, refers to participation promoted through policy actions of the state and implemented by bureaucracies, and includes decentralization and community-driven development. For urban India, the 74th Constitutional Amendment is the primary legislation in this regard.
While both these forms have enhanced participatory governance, they do not necessarily provide a simple, easily accessible platform for participation for ordinary citizens.
The team had organized a citizens’ workshop for street design in Dattawadi along with BN College of Architecture a couple of years ago. This year, the team’s focus is on Participatory Budgeting.
Pune Municipal Corporation has been conducting the Citizens Participatory Budget process since 2006. Over 800 projects for neighbourhood improvement have been included in the PMC Budget of 2015-16 under the Citizens’ Budget section. These include installation of benches, trees, footpath repair, signage, vendors’ platforms, toilets, drainage etc. A study of Participatory Budgeting in Pune, done by CEE in 2013, showed achievements - simple process, conducted regularly by PMC since 2006, substantial quantum of funds has been allocated and there is some response to suggestionsfrom the poor. Some of the major areas of improvement are:
- Number of people who participate is increasing but still low
- Citizens are not able to track what happens to their suggestions
- There is a perception that requests from slums are not given priority
- Citizens feel that Prabhag Samiti is not paying attention to their requests
- It is not clear how many of the projects that are listed in the budget are actually implemented
The organizers feel that such a collaborative effort of Corporators, citizens groups, educational institutes etc can make Participatory Budget in Pune much more effective for responding to citizens' needs. It can also be an exemplar process for the whole country.