Have Resident Welfare Associations’ (RWA) Instituted Best Practices for Residents Safety against Covid-19?

Note: Scroll to the end of the article to take the survey to evaluate the best practices measures taken by your RWA to facilitate safety of Society against Covid-19

Whoever thought that Covid -preparedness of RWAs of societies could ever become an important research topic. The pandemic has managed to expose the long simmering voices of discontent over the functioning of RWAs and their utter unpreparedness in dealing with umpteen residential issues. The jury is out whether the RWAs are utterly inept or whether it is the residents that are unrealistic in their expectations without necessarily focusing on their roles and responsibilities as residents. The reality in most probability would be somewhere in between.

The one thing for sure is that RWA managements require a much closer look by policy makers because it has multiple layers of impact on quality of urban living. Unfortunately, policy makers have largely tended to ignore the large number of multi-dimensional miniature cities within large cities preferring to let RWAs along with the local area administration deal with their inherent and recurrent squabbles.

This neglect became extremely costly when “the Pandemic” descended on to the cities and the administration turned to the RWAs to help implement the lockdown which tried within its means to rise to the occasion. When the rules were strict, it was relatively easy going since it was pretty much about nothing and no one either coming or going out of the gates. There were some minor relaxations to ensure the business of daily life and survival, but manageable for the RWA to implement. But then lockdown 1.0 proceeded to 2.0, then 3.0, to 4.0 and finally with everything opening in the background of a raging and preying virus stepping up on numbers, the RWAs seemed to be on shaky grounds. Long years of non-adherence to active resident participation affected decision making because who really knows what the resident wants or does not want.  Finding out may have been possible if societies had a culture of an active resident participation which would have elements of discussion, inquiry, and consensus. There is little of all that and that is yet another subject of research. Instead most RWAs did what they did in the past, the office-bearers came out with guidelines that were hardly the outcome of consultative processes and in general, hardly ever involved women and their concerns.

Some of these guidelines have pertained to entry of domestic workers and self-employed workers in the societies and even though the Government has now permitted them to enter, societies continue to put restrictions making life difficult for residents specially women who are juggling with multiple responsibilities of home management, children, home-schooling of children, care of parents and in-laws, and supporting work from home spouses. Women who had work from home responsibilities were additionally pressured. Senior citizens were worst affected and those who lived alone would have and continue to face daily days of agony and neglect. It was doubly unfair on domestic workers because it meant loss of incomes affecting even their basic survival and amenity access. They too had children to educate, rents to pay, health costs just like the rest of us. In ostensibly ensuring safety for residents, the RWAs forgot their larger responsibilities to the rest of the society, which too is integral to our existence.

The RWAs found it easier to govern by stricture rather than on advisories and best practices which has proved costly not only for residents but also for the larger society and governments. Agreed, it was not entirely their fault, because like the rest of the country, they too were caught unprepared and governments did not involve them actively in making them part of the Covid education and dissemination campaign. Some governments like Karnataka are slowly waking up to this need and reaching out to residential society managements in putting together best practices within their societies.

The fact is, the pandemic is here to stay for a long time and shutting down society gates will also aid and abet the shut down of the economy as well. Therefore RWAs will have to completely re-orient their approach to a more advisory role and focus on putting within each society, a bouquet of best practices that benefits all stakeholders that may have either residential or a professional relationship with the society. They too are workplaces and hence must also abide by some standard operating protocols which need to be put into place much like any other organized work area. In fact, their responsibility is far more because they cater to number of residents of varying age, health and occupational profiles thus making them sometimes more susceptible.

Given below is a link to a questionnaire which also mentions some best practices that RWAs can and should implement within their societies’ so as to make them better prepared to protect their residents without hampering societal interests and equity. Please do take the survey to find out to how many of these best practices is your society following?