The rains and the chaos that follows have become part of Bengaluru’s annual schedule. People washed away in storm water drains, flooded homes and offices, power cuts and fallen trees - the Bengalurean's list of woes goes on. Even so, the issue fails to draw the attention of the BBMP, which makes a feeble attempt at providing solutions after the rain has arrived. RWA member Nandalal Shankar Tilve and RTI activist MCK Anil Kumar, who have been relentless in their attempts to reach out to the BBMP, talk to Joyeeta Chakravorty about self-serving authorities and the need for a long-term plan during the monsoon.
It's raining heavily again in Bengaluru and surfacing are all the related problems. Although a seasonal and cyclical phenomenon, they fail to draw the attention of the BBMP and other civic agencies, which wait for the rains to arrive to come up with their plans, a lot of which are not followed through. Nandalal Shankar Tilve of the Venugopal Swami Layout Resident Welfare Association and MCK Anil Kumar, an RTI activist and convenor of Ashwini Layout Residents’ Association, have been tirelessly approaching both the BBMP, BWSSB to complain about waterlogging and other civic problems caused by a heavy spell of rain.
"In March 2016 I sent the first letter and to the BBMP pointing out vulnerable points in Ashwini Layout, Koramangala and other areas and the desperate need for precautions before the monsoon. I have sent four more letters since and o action has been taken," says an irritated Anil Kumar.
Both men are sceptical of Bengaluru Development Minister, KJ George's recent instructions to the BBMP, ordering the complete dredging and repair of the stormwater drains in Shinivagalu Tank (ST) Bed Layout, Koramangala, within 20 days.
"Why can't he restore the old storm water drain course according to the survey maps at the Shanthinagar House Building Co-operative Society? Why can't he restore the Rajukalve near Shinivagalu Tank (ST) Bed Layout which is also responsible for the flooding?" they ask.
"In the 90s a lake existed where NGV now stands. Water would flow into it from city railway station and then to Bellandur lake. Heavy rain was never an issue. Now flooding seems to be an every day story. We try to reach out to corporators with plans and grievances, but they want to please the elected representatives. It is all about politics. Everyone wants a piece of the cake and money," adds Mr Nandalal frustratedly.
Reacting harshly to the BBMP’s statements about low lying areas, Mr Kumar asks, "Who is responsible for these? Who made residential layouts on defunct lakes and tank beds?"
While he has a point, government apathy continues with problems of stormwater drains and garbage management remaining unsolved. "It is not like you can trust one party to make a change. We have heard promises from the BJP, Congress and Janata Dal." adds Mr Kumar.
Both men recall an elected representative of the then ruling party telling them it was all about real estate and parties were out to make money in such crises. "It reminds you that such issues have to be solved not with a political or twisted intent, but politically. Even the ward committees are filled with the chelas of elected representatives,” continues Mr Tilve.
“If there is a permanent plan then no one would be able to make money. Everyone is happy this way as everyone's pockets are being filled. In 2013 Rs 10 crore was allocated for remodelling of the 80 feet peripheral road from Infant Jesus Church bridge to Sony Signal and from Sony Signal to Sarjapur. But what happened? There was no work done from the Passport Office to Infant Jesus Church Road. There has been no audit and no questions have been asked," adds Mr Kumar gloomily.
"What we need is an independent regulator like in Western countries to regulate work and focus on storm water drains, lake rejuvenation and audit the work done by the BBMP, BWSSB and other government agencies, look into the funds flow and ask questions. This regulatory committee should be free from the control of elected representatives and have only civic activists on board," suggests Mr Tilve.
"They have failed in their duty and wasted public money. Unless there are vigilant citizens nothing can change," the two sign off....