At Janaagraha, we believe in the power of citizen participation. When we collectively take charge of our quality of life, we can make a real difference. Over the years, we have been able to consistently demonstrate this through our work with a range of citizen groups, community volunteers and engaged citizens in the city of Bangalore.
One of our recent successes in engaging with citizens is our B.E.S.T project. The Bangalore Electoral Systems Transformation project resulted out of an M.O.U that we signed with the Election Commission. We promised that we would get citizens involved in cleaning up the electoral rolls in one constituency of Bangalore – Shantinagar. Once this is done, the Election Commission agreed to replicate our model across Bangalore city, and consequently, in other cities as well.
Over the period of eight months, we mobilised 851 citizen volunteers in Shantinagar who agreed to perform a task that most people would dismiss as grunt work. Termed the Area Voter Mitras (Friends of Voters in the Area) they went from house to house in their allocated areas, cross checked their names on the voters list, discovered gaps and missing people, updated the list and submitted it to the Election Commission. The next time a Shantinagar resident goes to vote, they will find their experience hassle-free and easy, thanks to the hard work of the Area Voter Mitra.
The Area Voter Mitras have now become an indelible part of Janaagraha. In the Shantinagar constituency, they are the faces, arms and legs of Janaagraha! It is with this in mind that we decided to hold an AVM meet at the Janaagraha office to introduce them to all our activities on the ground.
Held on the 24th of June, nineteen AVMs braved their way through rain and traffic to get to the Janaagraha office at 5.00 p.m. What followed was an informative and interactive session with the AVMS in which each of the grassroots programs were explained in detail.
It started out with Ramesh, the founder of Janaagraha, taking the AVMs through the progress of B.E.S.T.
Then General Prasad presented the work of Area Suraksha Mitra to the AVMs.
Following this, Valli Narasimha, Bala Janaagraha Manager discussed the crucial role of volunteers for the Bala Janaagraha project.
Valli says, “What really came across – from the reactions of the AVMs, after the presentation- was that the effort we have been putting into the Bala Janaagraha programme will bear fruit in the years to come as all those children who have been part of this programme will surely be more aware citizens and will be able to fulfill their duties correctly when the time comes.This reaction is very encouraging for us, as a programme. It shows us that we are on the right path.We are indeed, the agents of change.”
Finally, Gautham Ravichander, the coordinator of Ward Infrastructure Index emphasised on the use of data to improve urban infrastructure in Shantinagar.
By the close of the meeting, eight AVMs had expressed interest in joining the Area Suraksha Mitra program. Bala Janaagraha gained two more volunteers. And depending upon interest in the ward, a ward meeting with residents, Ward Corporator, Ward Engineer and the MLA from Shantinagar constituency will be organised to discuss how infrastructure can be improved in the ward.
Janaagraha prides itself on its community based initiatives. Watch out for more such events, both in the office and on the ground even as we start working on multiple levels to better the Quality of Life in our focus wards for the year.