Decentralization for Development: The Human Levers Involved In Gandhi's Vision for India


Reap Benefit is a non-profit organisation that focuses on driving citizen-led change in urban local governance. The organisation believes in the power of small actions and believes that every citizen has the potential to drive change in their community.

Reap Benefit works with citizens, institutions, and local government bodies to address pressing issues in urban areas such as waste management, water conservation, and air pollution. By using innovative technology and providing citizen-led solutions, the organisation helps communities to improve their quality of life and create sustainable environments.

One such initiative of Reap Benefit is to empower strategic citizens (such as locally elected representatives, administrative officials) to take ownership of their surroundings and become active drivers of change in the governance process. The organisation’s approach is based on the idea of creating a bottom-up change where citizens are not just passive recipients of services, but are active agents of change.

What this means is that imagine a situation where locally elected representatives at the smallest unit of governance “the ward”, used civic engagement tools and technology to meet the needs of the large body of citizens they serve, if they could involve them in the governance of the ward in a democratic way, and drive systemic change endogenously (by the representatives of the system) rather than exogenously (citizen protests)


Following is the data from one Reap Benefit’s offerings for these strategic citizens (locally elected representatives) under the the active governance model. Read more about the offering here. Beginning of any such partnership involves a baseline assessment of the capacities and the expectations of the elected representatives themselves. This blog offers an insight into the diversity of background and contexts and limitations that these implementers of Gandhi’s vision have to work with.


The information of elected representative (name and ward name) are hidden to maintain the privacy of the individual, the insights of the way their ward office functions as well as the context they operate under is shared to derive as much academic value as possible


Ward A, Councilor A also referred to as ER (elected representative)

  • The ward has a population of 76,596 people.
  • Councillor’s office is open from 10am to 12pm on a daily basis and is also open on Sunday. Their weekly off is on Monday or Tuesday.
  • On an average day, they meet around 30 people and attend various events like marriages and school programs.
  • They meet with about 20 officials per month and have a team consisting of 8 volunteers, two sons, one office staff, and one chaiwala.
  • The top 3 priorities for this term are: no restrictions on work in unauthorised colonies, increase in the number of garbage vans and compactors, and the construction of a new MCD school in Wazirabad Village.
  • The top 3 challenges faced in developing the constituency are: people throwing waste in open plots, public sharing their problems that come under MLA, and slums in the Timarpur area.
  • Councillor A communicates with the public through meetings at home, WhatsApp messages/calls, and normal calls on a daily basis, especially for issues related to sanitation.
  • The top 3 complaints they receive are: increasing the number of garbage picking up vans, management of parks in Nehru Vihar, and proper construction of street drains.
  • The ward receives around 300 complaints per month, and the top issues are sanitation of street drains, cleanliness of streets, and garbage-related issues.
  • They face challenges with MCD officials refusing to work in unauthorised areas and the public not giving their problems in writing.
  • There is no soft or hard copy highlighting her achievements/work.
  • There are no details provided on budget allocation for the ward and how it is utilised.

Ward B, Councilor B also referred to as ER (elected representative)

  • Ward B (pop 60000) has a mixed caste demographic with a Hindu majority, 80% educated and 20% uneducated, and 1 slum with a population of 500.
  • An average day for the ER includes starting work at 9 am, meeting 150-200 people, attending 4-5 events, and travelling up to 30 km. They learn from the internet and books.
  • The ER has a team of 20-30 volunteers and 2-3 full-time office workers.
  • Their top priorities for the ward are cleaning, water, and market development. They want to transform the ward’s MCD parks and solve cleanliness issues.
  • The top challenges faced by the ER include RWA internal politics, shortage of MCD staff, encroachment, and outsiders’ influence.
  • The ER communicates with the public through broadcasting, social media, physical meetings, and sharing updates and suggestions.
  • The top complaints received by the ER are related to water, park clean-up, and waste. They receive 1500-2000 complaints per month and resolve around 40% of them.
  • The ER faces coordination, process, and people level challenges in resolving issues reported to them, and they have not received any data from MCD yet.
  • The top skills required by the ER’s office include quality orientation, Excel, planning, and knowledge.
  • The ER has not conducted any activities or events to involve citizens and party cadre in CD in the past 6-12 months.
  • When partnering with NGOs/CSR, the ER looks for their commitment, experience, and transparency. They have not worked with any NGOs/CSR yet.

Ward C, Councillor C, also referred to as ER (elected representative)

  • The ward has a population of 1.5 L, with 70% SC, 20% General, and 5%-10% minority population. There are 60000 voters in the constituency.
  • The ER begins his day at 9 am and meets around 50 people daily. He attends around 3-4 events and has 12 hours for himself.
  • He consumes information from people, officials, party, and newspapers. He has a team of 30-40 volunteers and 3-5 full-time members for office management work.
  • His vision for the constituency is to develop beautiful parks, roads, and proper parking spaces for citizens.
  • The top 3 priorities for this term are parking, roads, and ward beautification.
  • The challenges faced by the ER are funds, support from the department, and a shortage of staff.
  • The top 3 complaints he receives are related to Jal board, police, parks, cleaning, and animals.
  • The ER receives around 300-400 complaints monthly, and the top 3 issues reported are repeated complaints. The ER faces coordination and process-level challenges while resolving issues. He receives required data from the MCD.
  • He keeps a record of the development work completed, complaints received and resolved, and visitors to his office.
  • The top 3 skills required by the office of the ER are MS Word skill, knowledge of office management, and self-capacity building.
  • There have been no activities/events conducted in the past 6-12 months to involve citizens and party cadre in CD.
  • There are no plans for involving them in the future.

Food for thought

  1. What do you think are the top 2 challenges that are barring the delivery of effective governance?
  2. As a policy enthusiast, did any of these data points provoke a policy level intervention idea?
  3. Do you think there is value in having a ward level public grievance redressal?

Comment below to let us know what you think?

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