Draft rules fail to ease poll norms for small housing societies
The promise to simplify rules for elections to housing society managing committees remains a pipe dream, say representatives. In 2013, the state amended the Maharashtra Co-operatives Act to say elections would be conducted through the State Cooperative Election Authority (SCEA). But as SCEA was overburdened, it led to delays and cost overruns. "Rules were framed keeping in mind enterprises, such as sugar and bank co-operatives, where huge money is at stake. So those elections were taken up on priority while housing societies were neglected," alleged Federation of Grantees of Government Lands president Salil Rameshchandra. Government was also asked to relax rules for societies with less than 250 members to conduct their own polls. "But nothing has changed: a society can't conduct its own election and has to choose a registrar from a SCEA-appointed panel," said Rameshchandra. The draft states societies should prepare a provisional list 60 days before elections and put it on the notice board for objections/suggestions. Scrutiny of papers and election are to be held on the same day. Ramesh Desai, member of the Co-operative Court Bar Council, said the draft rules allow elections by a show of hand unless one-third members demand a secret ballot. "How will you print ballot papers and hold elections the same day?" he asked. This, he said, is in violation of the Maharashtra State Cooperatives Act that mandates 15 days between nomination and scrutiny. Desai said panel of observers to oversee elections has barely 15 members currently; he said it must be increased to 200 by including advocates and retired registrars. Mumbai District Co-op Housing Federation secretary, advocate D S Vader, said, "There is a shortage of elections officers. There are 36,000 housing societies in Mumbai alone." Rameshchandra said the state must revert to the system that existed prior to 2013 and allow smaller housing societies to conduct their own elections. The last date for filing objections or suggestions to the draft rules is November 25.