One Year On, Where is Bengaluru’s ‘BekuBeda’ Campaign?
The ‘BekuBeda’ movement often involves multiple voices, due to which there is an eminent conflict of interest.
Citizen activists in Bengaluru have had an eventful year. From fighting a proposed steel flyover to protesting the lack of development, the members of the BekuBeda campaign have been instrumental in getting the authorities’ attention, and for all the right reasons.
The BekuBeda platform has been enabling citizenry to express what they want (beku) and what they do not (beda). They have managed to bring about refreshing transformations in the last one year despite being brushed aside as “anti-development’’ activists.
As the robust campaign completes a year, here’s a look back at what started it all where it is headed.
Presentation of the First Ever Citizens’ Manifesto
A few days ago, in classic case of role reversal, citizens presented a manifesto to the state’s political parties. This manifesto lists out a set of demands for improving public spaces – like fixing bad roads, ban on garbage burning, and tree plantation drives – as part of the BekuBeda campaign.
The manifesto was submitted exactly after the completion of one year of the anti-steel flyover protest.
We have presented a manifesto to the MLAs of three political parties namely Dinesh Gundu Rao (Congress), Ashwath Narayana (BJP) and Tanveer Ahmed (JDS). The idea behind this was to ensure that these parties, include public demands in their election manifesto, immaterial of who forms the government.Tara Krishnamurthy, Coordinator, Citizens for Bengaluru
Transformation in the Realm of Public Transport
Over the last one year, there have been several success stories as a result of the BekuBeda crusade. However, the most recent ones have been in the realm of public transport.
The citizens launched the Chikku-bukku-beku (signifying the sound of the train) campaign in which they laid down a demand for suburban railway lines across the city. The movement resonated with a lot of Bengalurians and led to commissioning of 14 routes and a whopping Rs 350 crore being allocated. Another initiative called the BusBhagyaBeku (bus welfare) movement was kick-started to achieve the ‘Half the Fares and Double the Fleet’ agenda.
The Rise of ‘BekuBeda’ Movement
Around the same time last year, Bengaluru saw the birth of a collective movement with regard to the proposed construction of a steel flyover on Ballari Road. Eventually, the hashtags #SteelFlyoverBeku and #SteelFlyoverBeda landed up creating a storm across social media platforms.
On 16 October 2016, thousands of people took to the streets and formed a human chain from Basaweshwara Circle to Mehkri Circle in Bengaluru to protest against the construction of the steel flyover. The large scale protests and strong citizen activism resulted in their demands being met.
Emerging Conflict of Interest as Part of the Movement
The BekuBeda movement re-surfaced with full force on 11 December, 2017 when residents of Sanjaynagar in Bengaluru protested with the slogan, ‘Adjust Beda! Footpath Beku’ demanding for wider and more stable footpaths. However, motorists objected to the plan of widening pavements claiming that it would obstruct vehicular movement. The debate turned out to be a ‘motorists vs pedestrians’ issue.
Many a time, the BekuBeda movement, as it involves multiple voices, there is an eminent conflict of interest. In such cases, the interest of various parties tends to be at stake. “In such instances, the government needs to take a decision based on larger public interest and should attempt to bridge differences. In a democratic space, negotiation is always the key,” said Tara Krishnamurthy.
From a Public Policy Standpoint
Bengaluru has been witnessing a flood of beku (yes) and beda (no) hashtags. But, the question is whether this trend has led to some vague and unworkable set of ideas.
Public policies are framed and articulated based on a set of legislative procedures. However, there have been instances where citizen activism has taken over the protocols of good planning.
One such case is that of the Hebbal Flyover Interchange in Bengaluru, which could have been integrated with the NHAI Expressway so as to ensure a higher capacity with 4-6 lanes. However, poor planning led to a civic mess.
“Citizen activism should not be prioritised over procedural implementation. The government should ensure that a systematic structure is in place before giving a nod to citizens’ demands. Also, some civic groups might have vested interests behind their demands. Hence, it is important to be wary of their intentions before implementing projects,” said MS Sriram, Visiting Faculty for Public Policy, IIM Bangalore.
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