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AAP Victory and Some Tools for Popular Self-Government: Sagar Dhara

Guest post by SAGAR DHARA

The Aam Admi Party (AAP) has won a spectacular victory in the Delhi assembly elections and will form a government shortly. The party’s manifesto 2015 (http://www.aamaadmiparty.org/AAP-Manifesto-2015.pdf) promises to do many things—some positive, e.g., passing a Swaraj Bill and some that are not so positive, e.g., setting up pithead power plants to supply power to Delhi. Here are a few practical suggestions that may help AAP and its supporters to strengthen people’s participation in grasroot self-governance.

Participatory budgeting

AAP’s proposed Swaraj Bill is aimed at strengthening grassroot self-governance in Delhi mohallas and community neighbourhoods. Mohalla committees are designed to deal with local issues. However, they can also be used as platforms for Delhi’s polity to participate in decisions that that affect all of Delhi through a process called participatory budgeting.

Participatory budgeting first began in 1990 in the Brazilian city of Porto Alegre.  In the first quarter of every year, communities hold open house meetings every week to discuss and vote on the city’s budget and spending priorities for their neighbourhood.  Later, city-wide public plenaries pass a budget that is binding on the city council.  The results speak for themselves.  Within seven years of starting participatory budgeting, household access to piped water and sewers doubled to touch 95%.  Roads, particularly in slums, increased five-fold.  Schools quadrupled, health and education budgets trebled.  Tax evasion fell as people saw their money at work.  People used computer kiosks to feed communicate suggestions to the city council’s website.

Participatory budgeting is now being done in 1,500 towns around the world—Europe, South America, Canada, India—Pune, Bengaluru, Mysore and Hiware Bazar in Maharashtra. Twenty five years ago, Hiware Bazar was like any other drought-prone village in Marathwada.  Today its income has increased twenty-fold and poverty has all but disappeared. Continue reading AAP Victory and Some Tools for Popular Self-Government: Sagar Dhara