ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Resident Welfare Associations

I read with great interest the articles ‘Neighbourhood Associations and Local Democracy: Delhi Municipal Elections 2007’ by Stephanie Tawa Lama-Rewal and ‘Middle Class Neighbourhood Associations as Political Players in Mumbai’ by Marie-Helene Zerah (November 24, 2007).

Democracy, apart from being a form of governance, above all, is a way of life. It is from this point of view that the Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs) stand apart from the traditional instruments of self-governance. While the two brilliant essays have the merit of pioneering enquires into this new, emerging social institution, they have, nonetheless, failed to look “holistically” at them, or rather failed to look at the holistic democratic aspects of these institutions. Democracy, of course, is also about elections. But, more than that, it is about people organising themselves. That form of governance in which the people take part is the best. That way, direct, participative democratic expressions are more worthy of appreciation, normatively speaking, than representative and consent-based governance, wherever it is possible. It is, thus, the RWAs, to the extent that they try to manage their own affairs (not others!), that are intrinsically democratic. The two authors observe that, originally, the RWAs were not democratic and that they are becoming democratic. Actually, this is not the case. They are a legitimate and democratic institution by creation.

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