Emergic: Rajesh Jain's Blog

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Neighbourhood Action Committees

February 2nd, 2010 · 23 Comments

One idea I have been thinking about recently has been that of Neighbourhood Action Committees (NACs).

These will be apolitical and based on volunteering. They will focus on making the neighbourhood better across the country, especially in urban India. This means ensuring delivery of local services, working to solve local problems, creating citizen activism.This idea came up because the weakest link in the governance chain in India is the delivery of local services. The neighbourhood is where we all live and where we also have the greatest angst and frustrations.

What we need to create a society which starts to think and solve its own problems at the local level. Governance is weak in India, and to strengthen it needs work at the lowest level. We need to show people how to self-organise, how to create proposals, conduct meetings, debate issues and arrive at decisions, and finally get action done.

People should be able to help out in the NACs with as little as an hour or two a week. They can use the Web and mobile to help inform, educate and organise.

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23 responses so far ↓

  • 1 wicknicks // Feb 2, 2010 at 6:46 am

    Really like the idea. A lot of apartment complexes already have “management” services to take care of these issues. Maybe you can start off by connecting them together, so they can help each other sort out their mess.

  • 2 naman // Feb 2, 2010 at 11:01 am

    I think Osutra.com is addressing exactly the same problem. They are trying to bring the neighborhood closer by bringing issues together at one place.

  • 3 Tarun Anand // Feb 2, 2010 at 11:44 am

    Hi Rajesh,

    I find these views interesting… maybe you should expand your blog’s charter to beyond emerging technologies, enterprises and markets to emerging governance..

    Is there a link you see between your other work and this?


  • 4 Sujai // Feb 2, 2010 at 6:02 pm

    areapartner.com is a neighbourhood services initiative. Do you think its scope can be expanded to NAC? But areapartner.com is a for-profit initiative, so should NAC be non-profit, then it can be CSR initiative of areapartner.com. Pls throw in your views.

  • 5 rohitaash // Feb 3, 2010 at 5:35 am

    Hi Rajesh,

    I see the most prospects of action in this writing of yours compared to any other.

    There are lots of websites out there which bring together home owner’s associations under one platform.

    What’s missing however is the common benchmark across parameters by which stats could be gathered and duties assigned and events created like
    1. security and survival, including voluntary neighborhood watch program, anonymous uploading of crime in action recording if any, voluntary or paid emergency services like 911 at the neighborhood level etc.
    2. infrastructure and its maintenance
    3. display of civic sense by residents and complaints and actions
    4. Maintenance of building code
    5. collaborative events like hiring, learning, festival celebrations, sports leagues within and across neighborhoods, payment of monthly maintenance dues on time, voluntary efforts for local society and neighborhood, political activism, community radio and online tv, volunteer presentations in schools where neighborhood kids go, etc.

    The intelligence coming out of the transparency of data could be equivalent of yelp and much more when one determines a future residence

    I believe india can benefit a lot across HDI parameters by this effort and a kaizen mindset of continuos improvement could be established/ enforced across residents, management and builders in 8-10 years of its launch and we can see its immense benefits in our lifetime.

    As you said, this must be apolitical as nation can not afford political parties making its neighborhoods their new battle grounds

    Here is why I like the idea a lot.

    It all starts with few capitalist versus socialist majority turning rapidly into corny capitalists themselves.

    India and indians do not and would not understand for a long time that capitalism means no guns and that the law of land must be able to control the anti competitive and customer and vendor manipulation urges of capitalists and prevent nexus between criminals, capitalists and politicians.

    Rather Indians in their innocent but highly opinionated way, wonder why politicians and beaurocrats do not favor rules and regulations that would usher in era of internet and greater transparency and opportunities by flattening the level playing field and why they are corrupt.

    I feel corruption is a by product of survival instinct. Any great capitalist is corrupt. Otherwise a capitalist can not survive the competition. Unfortunately for india, its politicians are capitalists and there is no one to check on them.

    In order to survive in the “system”, a common man must be in direct live with the one at his/her top and so on. One may think that If my boss is corrupt and I am not, he is going to feel awkward in my company and I may lose my job!

    Water flows from top to bottom not the other way round. If political heads are clean and brave, everyone under would fall in line sooner or later. Right now, there is no incentive in india society for that. Indians bow to everyone in power regardless of the means used to acquire the same. The competition is often fierce, ruthless and law and police is weak.

    So the only alternate to bring transparency is starting from the bottom and going up and taking direct charge of issues most pertinent to the people at the bottom of the ladder which usually start at home.

    The question people like you and I would have though is Why should I bell the cat? Who is benefitting? What’s in it for me?


  • 6 rohitaash // Feb 3, 2010 at 6:10 am

    on Corruption – i want to add more

    I also feel one indulges in corruption when one feels inadequate.

    Indian society leaves no stones unturned in making the fellow person feel inadequate.

    Relatives do it. Friends do it. Seniors in position do it. Other religions do it. Other nations do it. Rich Neighbors do it. Glamourous Film Stars do it. Fair people do it. Healthy and physically well built do it. Powerful do it. You name it,

    In USA common firefighters, cops, new talent is honored but in india all awards go to those already at the top!

    You only have to watch various indian cine awards or various television soaps to see this mentality on full display!

    Local politicians never honor anyone, except on maybe republic day!

    While USA is a real hero worshipping nation, India is a fictional hero worshipping nation. From Ramayan to Mahabharat to Filmi Heroes,
    indians are so lost in practice they have lost total sight of why of the worshipping!

    What indian society sow is what it reaps! The same society has to face this “inadequate” person when they approach him to get their service requests addressed and they have to face his wrath at that time.

    Often the young or the youth wonder why things are the way they are but its important to remember and teach our kids that the seeds of their actions wold be reaped by their next generation!


  • 7 Sanjay // Feb 3, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    It’s indeed a good idea, but one issue that I’ve noticed is that these Committees soon become political. For example, my NAC broke down because one disgruntled member wanted to be the President, but could not get elected. He then took away his ‘loyalists’ and formed another committee!
    In my cousin’s apartment complex, one contestant for the president’s post sent out letters to all the residents that the rival candidate sexually harrassed his wife!!

    So taking for granted that politics is inevitable wherever human beings are in any sort of competition, we need to find a way to ensure that these NAC’s do not degenerate into mini-parliaments.

    Any ideas, people?

  • 8 Vishal // Feb 4, 2010 at 1:06 am

    I think the attitude of Indians needs to be changed.
    Just have look at the Short Video Clip, at ‘http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dc4UltkRJsw'(if URL doesn’t
    work please search YouTube for “Every Indian must see this Video”)

    Some people are seating Idle, Some Blaming System, but that child who instead of Blaming started to Remove the tree from the road.

    Every body thinks like..

    Why I should Start ?
    It doesn’t make any difference if I am going to start alone..

    This attitude needs to be changed

  • 9 kiramatalishah // Feb 8, 2010 at 10:02 am

    The Center for Media Research has released a study by Vertical Response that shows just where many of these ‘Main Street’ players are going with their online dollars. The big winners: e-mail and social media. With only 3.8% of small business folks NOT planning on using e-mail marketing and with social media carrying the perception of being free (which they so rudely discover it is far from free) this should make some in the banner and search crowd a little wary.


  • 10 plodder // Mar 8, 2010 at 7:41 am

    This is a really great idea. One option would be to leverage existing networks and groups like Cooperative Housing Societies, community organizations and trader guilds for this purpose.
    Government incentives such as property tax rebates for such organizations that take up public service tasks like garbage disposal, landscaping and local road maintenance, emergency medical services, and/or environmentally friendly projects like rain water harvesting etc. would also be helpful.
    Given the current high food inflation situation, such groups could play a critical role in securing good price bargains for their members. Again, the government could tailor legislation to allow such groups to buy directly from the farming community, further boosting their development

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