It is not uncommon in the least to spot a fellow citizen question the workings of a local municipal body or complain about some kind of inconvenience faced due to a glitch in the ‘system’. Although it is in our right to voice a concern or point out something negative, we often forget that it is also in our capacity to initiate the improvement that we want to see.
Is your immediate thought, ‘easier said than done?’
Mrs Kanika Deshmuk* has been a resident of Nagpur for the past 24 years. She is a go-getter and believes that waiting around for someone to take charge is not an option, at least, not for her. Having noticed that several women in her neighborhood faced an inconvenience in paying electricity bills because of the lengthy queues and the elaborate procedures, she proposed an idea and saw it through.
In conversation with Mrs. Kanika Deshmuk.
Mrs. Deshmuk, how long have you been a resident of Nagpur?
I am quite proud to say that I have lived here for the past 24 years.
I am sure that as a homemaker, you have a tremendous amount of responsibilities. How packed would you say is your average day is?
I'm a housewife, so my schedule is very packed. I juggle quite a few things but I do seek help as and when I require it.
I understand that you are quite social. How many women do you interact with frequently?
I do have some very well-deserved social engagements when I can make time for the same. There are around 80 women in my neighborhood and it’s safe to say that we are all well acquainted.
Do you feel like you influence these women?
I would not say I am the ring leader but when a bunch of housewives come together, we have common issues that we have to deal with. More than often there is a unanimous decision or a solution to a particular problem we are facing.
Would you say that these women are satisfied with the services that the concerned municipal authorities in your area provide them with?
There can never be a macro solution to how the municipality helps a woman in doing her chores. Of course, some amenities like garbage disposal are the municipality's responsibility, so if your question is, ‘Is the municipality is up to the mark? Then, yes.’ But of course, there can instances where it overlooks certain needs but as responsible citizens, it is our right to point it out and amend the same.
I understand that you, along with a couple of women in your neighborhood faced some issues with paying the electricity bill. How often did you have to wait in queue to pay bills?
Yes, we did find it quite tiresome to stand in queue to pay our bills. We also found the process to be quite elaborate and faced some difficulty in getting this done.
Was there any particular reason you decided to approach your local office?
It was actually in a meeting of friends that on one of us joked that we should hire a guy to collect the money and do the same.
How many women in your locality were on board to see this through?
A housewife doesn’t need to leave her busy routine to go and pay a bill? Who wouldn’t want that?
When did you first approach the department?
We initially hired one of our house maid's husbands to collect the money and pay the same at the offices. They initially thought that he was a dalal i.e. a point man, like at the RTO. But soon found out that it was our initiative. They offered the same services within 3 months. Of course, we insisted that our man be given the job. Though now he earns a fixed amount instead of 50 Rupees for each household.
Are you pleased with their current services?
Yes, it was quite reassuring to see that they understood our problem, even though it was small, and did their part to resolve this inconvenience. We were quite pleased to see that they are quite approachable.
Does the man who was appointed by the office come regularly?
Yes, he is quite efficient and dependable.
Are you currently facing any issues that you would like to see resolved?
In fact, we are trying to resolve an issue that we are facing with the street lights outside our homes. We have already approached the concerned authorities and I am sure we will find a way to amend it.
Are you someone that believes that you can make positive changes in your civic environment if you take initiative?
Of course I am a believer, but even if it’s the government's duty to provide you with something, it’s the citizen's responsibility to ask for it and we have managed to build a very good rapport with our local municipality. We have faith that they take a genuine interest in meeting our needs.
Lastly, Mrs. Deshmuk, do you vote?
Yes, quite regularly I must say.
Do you think your vote matters?
It matters, but personally, I think that we need to make informed decisions. We need to understand who does what and how. I strongly feel like we need to be well aware of every decision being made and be quick in our response as well, to any change that our local government bodies prescribe. I speak for all of us when I say that my fellow neighbors are extremely involved and take responsibility in seeing that our government performs responsibly towards us.
Mrs. Deshmuk and her group of enthusiastic friends are just one example of how a collective and conscious effort can resolve an issue that can be neglected or brushed off as irrelevant. Her ability to realize that she has the potential to initiate a small and relevant change is a sheer example of the much ignored Power Of 49!
*Kanika Deshmuk is the alias being used for the lady in question as per her request.
She lives in Jaytala PO, Nagpur, Mahrashtra.
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