The 74th Amendment to our Indian Constitution made in 1992 was a milestone in empowering urban local bodies, redefining their roles, powers and functions. Among other things this Act calls for devolution of functional and financial powers to local governments, along with more participation from citizens in planning, with a special emphasis on including women and weaker sections of the society.
Under the clause 243S of this amendment, ward committees must be formed, consisting of one or more wards, within the territorial area of the Municipality having a population of three lakhs or more. These ward committees are expected to act as links between citizens and administration by active participation in planning and implementation of policies and projects. Respective ward councillor acts as the Chairman of this committee (in case of multiple wards included in the committee, councillors elect a chairman amongst themselves) and representation from women, scheduled castes and tribes is ensured. The Act also allows nominated, apolitical members with experience in municipal administration or civil society representatives to become part of this committee. The nominated members however, have no voting power.
Ward Committees in general have run into various problems in other states and cities, resulting into diluting the essence of the Act. In Maharashtra, section 29A was added to the Maharashtra Municipal Corpations Act, making formation of ward committees mandatory. While the ward committees were established in Pune, selection of nominated members has been largely compromised - resulting in either lethargy to nominate members or nominating politically affiliated proxy citizen representatives to the committees.
With this history, three Parisar members applied for nomination on these committees out of which Ranjit Gadgil got selected in the Ghole Road Ward Committee. This is significant as it is the first time since the ward committees have been formed that a truly apolitical member has been selected.