Why is citizen participation important?
It is because participation from citizens in governance related matters makes our local elected representatives accountable. We elect those who govern us, and therefore our participation is the only way to get them to deliver to our satisfaction. Also, participation allows us to be part of the decision making table at the local level, at the footprint that matters to us most -- our neighbourhoods. This means decisions on our local water supply, our roads, our sewage, our traffic, approvals for land use and zoning and so on.
While urban areas continue to struggle to have basic infrastructure and services meant to ensure liveability, making it happen is not the responsibility of the government alone. The democratic process does not end with voting. We, the residents of a city’s locality are as much responsible for it as are our elected representatives and civic agencies, and need to take ownership of it as individuals and a community.
Fixing our drains, our roads, our garbage, our water, our traffic, therefore, is fixing the nuts and bolts of our democracy. It takes the ideals of democracy into the realm of concrete action. And this is what ichangemycity is all about; active citizenship to facilitate action, and to bring about change on the ground.
As Delhi chokes on its foul air, the cars on its roads continue to spew poison while getting a clean bill of health every three months from the 661 pollution check centres dotting the city.
This is because only about 5% of these certified pollution check booths actually conduct emission checks while the rest lack the proper equipment and end up just handing out fresh certificates, according to the city’s transport department.
Of the 661 centres located in various fuel stations, 388 cater to petrol vehicles — the remaining being for diesel cars — but only 19 of these have the right tools. And forget about emission checks, they aren’t even equipped to carry out repairs.
“It ideally takes 15 to 20 minutes for a vehicle to be checked but here, the person at the booth does not spend more than a few minutes on a vehicle. He just tears your old certificate and issues a fresh one,” said a senior department official.
He also admitted this was long known to the department but it had only now launched inspections after the AAP government issued new pollution guidelines. Under these, the department has till July-end to check all booths for equipment, workforce and licence to operate. The absence of any of these will lead to the licence being cancelled.
With Delhi grabbing the dubious distinction of having the dirtiest air in any city in the world according to WHO, there have been several efforts to bring down pollution. The National Green Tribunal has ordered diesel vehicles over 10 years old off city roads and banned open burning of garbage.
The AAP gover nment’s maiden budget last week announced a 100-1, 500 entry fee for all commercial diesel vehicles other than buses and taxis. More than 50,000 heavy vehicles enter the city every day.
For the ordinary Delhiite, driving without a valid PUC (pollution under control) certificate invites a fine of 600 under the Motor Vehicle Act 1988. The only person checking these certificates, the official said, are traffic police who “will only think that if a vehicle has a PUC certificate, it is good to go. He neither has the time nor the understanding of the process of how these certificates are issued”.
A proper emission check requires several tests, including those of the vehicle’s exhaust system to check for leaks and of the gas cap to ensure it effectively keeps vapours from escaping as fuel evaporation is a major cause of ground-level smog.