Bengaluru’s Civic Issues: The Karnataka Election Game Changer?
Will the anti-incumbency arising from civic woes dig the Congress’ grave, or can the party overcome the challenge?
Video Editors: Vishal Kumar and Purnendu Pritam
Bengaluru alone holds 28 seats in the 224-member Karnataka Assembly. Apart from being in power in the state, the Congress has also been at the helm of the BBMP, Bengaluru’s municipal body.
Will the anti-incumbency arising out of civic woes dig the Congress’ grave in Bengaluru, or will the party be able to overcome the challenge? Listen in to the city’s residents.
The City of (Poisonous) Lakes
If Bengaluru could be called a City of Lakes, today it would be known as the City of Poisonous Lakes.
35-year-old Shalini Batra, who lives near the toxic Bellandur lake, is exasperated at the failure to clean up the foamy water bodies.
We have been fighting with the Karnataka government to fix this lake but we can see, they have not been working on it and this is all toxic fumes coming from industry effluents. We’re meeting all the candidates who are going to stand from the Bellandur area. The first thing we’re asking is to clean up the Bellandur lake, that’s it.Shalini Batra, Bengaluru resident
Batra adds, “Foam flies all over this area and goes over to the kids' area and the swimming pool area across the road. Sometimes, it travels up to the 14th floor of that building. We don't even come out for a walk, we don't let the kids come out to play.”
Where’s the Water?
On being asked what she demands from the next government, Swarna Venkatraman, a 44-year-old resident of Indiranagar, replies, “We would like our water table revived, our potable water revived. Our biggest problem today is that there's no water.”
A list by BBC states that Bengaluru will be the second city in the world to run out of water. The government is doing nothing; no action is being taken to conserve the water of Bengaluru.Shalini Batra, Bengaluru resident
Illegal Commercialisation of Residential Neighbourhoods?
Indira Viswanathan, 56, is visibly furious, “You can do whatever you want as long as you have the money to do it, that's all you need, and that is not right.”
There are three buildings being built right now on the 12th Main Road, in Indiranagar. One of them is six floors high, but we have the sanction plans with us, and it only sanctions three floors! There are two buildings on 9th Main, which is a residential road as per the Master Plan 2015, and they are both commercial buildings and they are near completion right now.Indira Viswanathan, Bengaluru resident
48-year-old Minakshi Prabhu wants better and more accessible public transport in the city. “Our demand is a good transport network for Bengaluru. We have the metro, buses and an upcoming rail network but it is all piecemeal, all disintegrated.
We need the government to provide
- A good transport network
- Parking facilities at the main metro stations
- Buses which reach directly to the metro stations
- Integration between the metro and the rail network.”
The Citizens’ Charter of Demands
Toxic lakes, depleting water levels, public transport woes and illegal commercialisation have driven a group of citizens to draw up a Citizens’ Charter.
Minakshi Prabhu explains, “We're all from different Residents Welfare Associations (RWAs). We know what we want and this is the first time that we're getting together to put it down.”
Her neighbour Indira Viswanathan adds, “We are going to present our Citizens’ Charter of demands to each and every party. And we are going to ask them point-blank whether they are prepared to go along with it.”
They explain that the group doesn't want to align itself with any of the political parties in the fray.
We’re not canvassing for votes for any party. Instead, we’re canvassing for people to go out and vote!Jyoti Kalapa, Bengaluru resident
Municipal Issues to Decide the Fate of an Assembly Election?
See, the whole problem today in Bengaluru is that every civic body has failed us. There's no other way to work on this than to work at the state government level.
Swarna Venkatraman comments on the anti-incumbency against the Congress.
BBMP is under the Congress. The state government too has been under the Congress. So we are expecting some benefits on the ground because of this Congress-Congress combination, but that doesn’t seem to be happening, right? So, what is happening is that while these are municipal issues and BBMP can easily handle them, the state government needs to support it, because finally it is the Congress party we’re talking about, right?Swarna Venkatraman, Bengaluru resident
But Indira Viswanathan doesn’t agree, “I don't think it really matters. When the BJP was in power, they did exactly the same things.”
Jyoti Kalapa adds, “Our point is that we are going to make it very, very clear to whoever is contesting from our constituency about what we don't want and what we want.”
So what lies ahead for Bengaluru? We’ll find out soon enough!
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