We, at V Citizens Action Network (VCAN), believe in being a catalyst for change. Our initiatives aim at educating citizens, so that they know their rights and understand the processes through which they can enforce them. An enlightened citizenry is essential for democracy and ensures better governance.
VCAN conducts and organises seminars, workshops, conferences, meetings, awareness campaigns and public lectures for disseminating information and knowledge of laws and governance issues on a regular basis. We collaborate with other NGOs and Networking Partners to achieve this end.
We have conducted many successful Public meetings along with our Networking Partners, some of the most recent ones are as under:
Public Meeting on “Municipal Policy on Property Tax & Various Aspects of its Implementation:
Speakers were, Jt. Municipal Commissioner, MCGM, Mr. S. S. Shinde and Mr. Vimal Punmiya, noted Chartered Accountant and the Chief Guest was the Hon’ble Mr. Mangal Prabhat Lodha, MLA Malabar Hill Assembly Constituency.
The speakers explained the newly introduced Municipal Policy on Property Tax, various aspects of its implementation, as well as the status of the Public Interest Litigations (PILs) in the High Court. The Executive President of the Property Owners Association, Mr. Bhagwandas Bhattad, also shared the perspective of property owners.
The networking partners for this particular meeting were the Malabar Hill Residents’ Association, SIGNATURE, Forjett Hill Residents’ Association, Haji Ali – Tardeo Residents’ Welfare Association, Carmichael Road Citizens’ Committee, All India Business Council, Property Owners Association, and the Marine Drive Council.
Public Meeting to Increase Voter Awareness for the 2014 Lok Sabha Elections – South Mumbai Constituency:
A “Meet Your Candidates” meeting with participation by four Candidates, comprising Mr. Milind Deora, the then South Mumbai sitting MP, Mr. Bala Nandgaokar, sitting MLA from Sewree, Mrs. Meera Sanyal and Mr. Arvind Sawant, (who eventually won and is now the sitting MP).
The meeting was very well attended and the speakers had enough time to explain their positions and what they intended to do for the City, if elected. There was a robust Q&A session with the audience after the speeches, where Citizens posed some tough questions and expressed their wishlist.
The candidates took due note of the people’s aspirations, and requested the Citizens to come out in numbers to vote.
The networking partners for this particular meeting were the Malabar Hill Residents’ Association, Forjett Hill Residents’ Association, SIGNATURE, Peddar Road Association, V.P. Road Westend Citizens Group, All India Business Council, Property Owners Association, Saidhamwadi Neighbourhood Association, Haji Ali – Tardeo Residents’ Welfare Association, Godrej Baug Residents’ Welfare Association, A-Ward Federation, C-Ward Citizens Network, Bhuleshwar Residents’ Association, Parelgaon Seva Bhavi Sanstha, Mee Lower Parelkar 13 – Lower Parel, Sham Sadan Navaratri Mandal – Girgaum, Om Sai Mitra Mandal – Sewri, GM-Free Maharashtra, Engineering and Industrial Stores Merchants Association (EISMA), Builder Association of India, Bulk Drugs & Allied Dealers Association, and Popatwadi Bal Mitra Mandal.
Right to Education (RTE) Compliance and Implementation Workshop:
VCAN along with Citizens Association for Child Rights (CACR) organised a workshop for Right to Education (RTE) Compliance and Implementation, which was held under the aegis of the State Education and Sports Department.
The workshop covered the implementation process of the RTE Act, the role of NGOs, the State School Bus Transport Policy, as well as the way forward.
It was attended by School Principles and Administrators, and was presided over by the then Additional Chief Secretary Mr. J. S. Saharia.
Seminar held by the Council for Fair Business Practices (CFBP) in association with VCAN, on “Genetically Modified Crops: What should A Consumer Know and Do”:
Eminent Speakers were Mrs. Dilnavaz Variava, noted Environmentalist and Mr. Devinder Sharma, a leading Voice on Indian Food and Agriculture Policy. Both the speakers drew the attention of the audience to the significant concerns that many people, including scientists, have with Genetically Modified crops, and their effects on the environment.
The speakers stressed on the fact that while the reported ill effects of these crops are still being heavily debated in developed nations, they are being introduced in India.
They also emphasised their belief that the problem of availability of food is the mismanagement of produce, and that while surplus grain rotting in warehouses is a common sight in India, proper management of the chain of distribution rather than potentially harmful GM crops is the solution.
The Moneylife Foundation, an organisation with whom VCAN has shared a long history and a close bond, organised several seminars which were supported by VCAN; some details of which are as under:
Screening of documentary movie ‘Brokering News’:
A lot of what appears on news channels and newspapers are sponsored by people. Unfortunately, not many readers or viewers know of this. The movie ‘Brokering News’ throws light on this phenomenon and the damning report on paid news by the Press Council.
Seminar with Ms. Aruna Roy and Mr. Nikhil Dey on the Grievance Redressal Bill:
The Grievance Redressal Bill is one of the most important upcoming legislations. Eminent activists Ms Aruna Roy and Mr Nikhil Dey have drafted their version of the Bill and have been organising awareness programmes across the country, pointing out the defects in the government’s version.
VCAN along with Moneylife believes that it is important to educate the people as to why the Bill is important; and how they can use it for ensuring better governance. Through the seminar, people were made aware about the constituents of the Bill that the government proposed, how it would affect them and how they could use it to their advantage. They also learnt about the changes required to make the Bill a strong law.
Other Seminars where VCAN has supported the Moneylife Foundation are:
- Country, Before Party and Self – Discussion with Former Railway Minister, Mr. Dinesh Trivedi
- A Holistic approach to wellness and healthcare – Alternative treatments and streams of medicine by Prof. (Dr.) B. M. Hegde, a Padma Bhushan awardee
- Screening of the Documentary Film “The Journalist and the Jihadi – The Murder of Daniel Pearl
- Detoxify your body – The Truth Chelation Therapy, by Mr. Bhalchandra V. Gokhale
- Open House with Dr. K. C. Chakrabarty, Deputy Governor, Reserve Bank
VCAN and Moneylife Foundation also jointly organised a seminar on Electoral Reforms with Dr S.Y. Quraishi, Former Chief Election Commissioner:
Under Dr S.Y. Quraishi, the Election Commission of India has moved from strength to strength. There are however, a lot of undesirable aspects of elections that need to be done away with. Hence, it is important to bring in electoral reforms.
The seminar organised with Dr Quraishi, was attended by citizens, activists and independent candidates who had participated in the 2012 MCGM polls. The aim of the seminar was to educate people about the need for reforms, and why they should participate in the process to ensure a clean government. Dr Quraishi explained how little changes can make a lot of difference and ensure clean polling.
The seminar also shed light on an important issue: the need for an accurate voters list. VCAN had conducted a survey before the MCGM polls of 2012, where it was discovered that the electoral rolls were seriously inflated because names of deceased voters and those who have shifted to other locations had not been deleted.
Dr Quraishi himself admitted that inaccurate voters list seems to be a major issue. VCAN also put forward its proposals as to how the list could be made more accurate~ via coordination between co-operative housing societies and booth level officers.
A lot of other factors also were brought into light: like the participation of candidates facing criminal cases, auditing of election expenses and media coverage of elections.
In addition to VCAN and the Moneylife Foundation, this seminar was supported by around 20 other organisations.
Other Activities of the Trust:
VCAN has edited, collated and worked on the layout of the Community Resilience Index (CRI) with the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai, a book with implementation tools, to be followed in case of emergency
VCAN has assisted the Election Commission of India in creating awareness and facilitating the revision of electoral rolls.
VCAN facilitates voter awareness by giving information regarding all aspects of the revision of the electoral rolls through circulars and by working closely with its Networking Organizations.
VCAN also assisted the Election Commission in the process of Implementation of Section 79A of the Maharashtra Cooperative Societies Act.