Civic activism reached it’s peak in Bengaluru with the 'Flyover beda' movement against the steel monstrosity that was threatening to destroy more of its green cover. The man who was the backbone of the protest, Srinivas Alavilli, is now once again preparing to do battle with the government indicating fresh interest in the project. Having spearheaded an anti-corruption movement that eventually manifested as the Aam Aadmi Party, he is no stranger to battles and warns the government could once again have a fight on its hands should it proceed with the steel flyover project. AKNISREE KARTHIK reports
As the dust settles on the New Year’s revelry, Bengaluru is waking up to the reality that little has changed on the ground where its civic troubles are concerned. Although the many Bengalureans, who had marched through the city , formed a human chain and shouted “Beda!(no)," thought they had won their battle against the steel monstrosity that was threatening to come up in their midst at the cost of hundreds of more trees, they have been jolted out of their euphoria by Deputy Chief Minister, Dr G. Parameshwar once again talking about building the multi- crore steel flyover from Chalukya Circle to Hebbal as planned.
And preparing for fresh battle against it is the man, who played a pivotal role in the last protest, Srinivas Alavilli, a techie with a leading MNC in the city. While the proposal for the steel flyover could be pulled out of cold storage, he believes it will have to be shelved again as the people will once again rise up against it to protect their city.
“Politicians believe in numbers. They need to be conveyed things in the manner they understand. They don’t feel the full heat of public pressure from mere protest rallies and dharnas as they end up becoming small news items in newspapers. That was why many activists came under the banner of ‘Citizens for Bengaluru’ and devised ways and means to get their voices heard in the corridors of power,” he says about the tactics employed in the last “Flyover beda” protest.
Not only did thousands gather to form a human chain, but also used the “Call your MLA/MP” tactic to convey to their elected representatives that the city did not need a steel flyover but more multi-modal transport. Hundreds also tweeted to their national leaders and the media to draw attention to the disadvantages of the proposed flyover. Children too participated by doing paintings on the theme and short films were made to convey the disaster the steel flyover could unleash on the environment. Eventually, a whopping 42,000 “beda” votes were registered, opposing the flyover.
This may have been different from the usual rallies to Vidhana Soudha, but Mr Alavilli believes that as the world changes, so should democratic expression.
“Today, building a flyover may not be a big issue. But as years pass, it will reduce green cover, add more cars and choke the city, forcing people to run for clean air and water,” he warns.
Having worked in the Silicon Valley, USA, for 13 years, Mr Alavilli settled in Bengaluru, its Indian counterpart, 12 years ago. Even during his stay in California, he closely monitored the state’s politics and after moving here began an anti-corruption movement called “Corruption Saaku,” which later went on to become “India Against Corruption” and transformed into the Aam Aadmi Party.
“Bengaluru has been reduced to this state with heavy traffic and other major civic problems because we do not have the right people at the top. That’s why we campaigned for new age candidates in the elections like urban expert, Ashwin Mahesh and solid waste management expert, Ramakanth” he explains.
Defending the idea of a “Beda brigade” to take on the flyover , he says there are many movements with “Beku(want)” in their titles like ‘Bus Bhagya Beku’, ‘Chiku Buku Beku’, ‘Footpath Beku’ and ‘Ward Samithi Beku’ but few with “Beda” as their focus. “ Over 50 flyovers have been built already in the city, but why has the traffic not reduced ? Flyovers are not the only solution. Metro and suburban rail and improving public transport are the only means to curb traffic in Bengaluru,” he underlines, indicating that the fight is far from over.
His aim, he says, is to make Bengaluru a Garden City again and liveable once more. “I believe its problems are all reversible and have a sustainable solution. This is what encourages me to keep going,” he smiles, the civic crusader in him clearly alive and kicking, and ready to take on the challenges ahead....