Overflowing drains, flooded homes and waterlogged roads - the monsoon is a difficult time for Bengaluru. Authorities, who make many promises, rarely see them through, opting instead for short-term, reactive measures that no doubt line the pockets of corrupt officials and contractors. The Chief Minister’s inspection of the city, however, resulted in him waiting it out through a traffic jam, dealing with a broken down bus and walking, shawl over nose to keep out the stench, through some of the areas that were worst -hit by the recent flooding. Is this the push our authorities need to bring about a real change? Tara Krishnaswamy and Srinivas Alavilli, members of Citizens for Bengaluru, talk to Joyeeta Chakravorty about how patchwork solutions might be necessary but are not the ultimate answer to our city’s woes.
Earlier this week, CM Siddaramaiah set out on an inspection of the city. He may, however, have got more than he bargained for! At Kumbara Gundi off J.C. Road, the first stop, the CM found the stench from overflowing stormwater drains so unbearable that he covered his nose. He ordered the demolition of three buildings. On the way to HSR Layout, (the CM decided to board a Volvo), he got a taste of Bengaluru's traffic jams. His bus broke down towards the end of the journey and the CM was forced to depart hurriedly in his car. As Bengaluru awoke to the news the next morning, it seemed as if hope had come at last. Is a single bad experience enough to make the government pull up its socks?
"I don’t think this will bring about a long lasting solution. A single event can’t contribute to a lasting change, or even create a lasting ripple effect,” argues Tara Krishnaswamy, coordinator, Citizens for Bengaluru. Srinivas Alavilli, also a CfB member, agrees, however, that the experience is a rare one. “He is known to be a grassroots person, not an A/C politician. I felt a sense of joy that he could finally feel, smell and hear the real problems dogging the city.”
The CM may have made a sombre exit but not without ordering a host of remedies, including an allocation of `15 crore to the Shanthinagar MLA to fix problems in the area. “This patchwork is necessary,” emphasises Tara. “However, the city needs far more than that. The issue is so much bigger than a single day! The CM has made promises and assurances, yes, but whether or not they are brought to fruition remains to be seen!”
Nodding his agreement, Srinivas says, "The problem is not what a CM or the PM can do, but what the mayor or the local corporators can do. Mr Siddaramaiah’s instructions to officials aren’t exactly long term. He has no real power or intervention in this effort. The real solution is to empower the city government, local corporators and Mayor and enable them to bring about the necessary changes. We may have seen a better solution emerge if the Mayor had been caught in traffic instead!"
Perhaps this attitude boils down to the remnants of a feudal mindset, one that the Indian bureaucracy simply hasn’t been able to shrug off. “Elected representatives think of themselves as monarchs who need to pay their subjects a visit,” remarks Tara. “This isn’t true only of Karnataka, it happens in every state. Sadly, citizens are to blame too, for we treat our politicians like kings. We need to be more vigilant and act as one of the strong pillars of nation building. Unless we do this, we will continue to fail our city. Let’s play our roles as vigilant citizens and demand what is rightfully ours.”
Sums up Srinivas, “We have to let go of this VIP attitude and give local corporators and government more power to change the city. Otherwise, the CM’s plight in traffic will end up being just another incident....