What would I do if I become the Mayor of Bengaluru? That’s a very tricky question because it is always easy to sit on the opposite side and keep giving free advices and suggestions. Sitting on the hot seat means significant change.
Anyway, for an old Bengaluruan, who has enjoyed the English climate of Bengaluru, the slow pace of life, the clean and beautiful avenues like Margosa Road, Sampige Road, Coconut Avenue, the lovely huge circles with beautiful gardens and the neat roads with minimum traffic, today’s Bengaluru is a shocker!
Crime rate was low. People were friendlier. Every home was surrounded with a small garden with flowering plants, herbs and curry leaf tree. Today, almost everyday we hear of murders taking place for silly quarrels over parking space or some such civic issue! Where did that Bengaluru of my childhood and youth vanish? How did such a peace-loving city become so chaotic? A Mysurean or Bengalurean did not venture out of their cities, even when offered better positions and salaries! Such was the attachment.
Today, I feel like escaping out of this chaotic city, where there is the least respect for senior citizens, pedestrians and ordinary people. The Government is only bothered about wooing corporate companies and so is concentrating only on building infrastructure. In the bargain, commoners are saddled with problems of all kinds — garbage, endless traffic woes, power and water shortage, epidemics of all kinds of viral attacks, polluted air, noise pollution and chronic physical and psychological diseases and many more!
So, what would I do, if I become a Mayor? I cannot bring back the old Bengaluru that I enjoyed. But, I would like to make the following attempts, if I am given enough powers to implement my ideas, with support from all civic agencies:
- First, I feel local self-governance, as Mahatma Gandhi recommended, is the most effective way of managing such a populated city. Thus, ward-wise committees should be set up, involving at least five-six citizens living in that ward. This Committee should be empowered well to attend to the civic issues of that ward, like garbage clearance, maintenance of roads, management of parking spaces and traffic, maintenance of lung spaces in the form of parks and mini-forests, maintenance and management of the Government schools and health centres in that ward, attending to the electrical, plumbing and sewage problems of that ward, etc. The citizen representatives should be old enough to grasp the issues and young enough to take part in the management.
- These Committees should ensure that the laws governing the construction of buildings are followed. Corruption should be thwarted and illegal structures should definitely not be permitted to come up. Spaces should be reserved for commercial activities and not all roads converted to commercial roads. This rule is very important to give a quality residential life to citizens. All roads are dotted with haphazard shops and eateries, which block the footpaths, thus leading to so many accidents involving pedestrians, who have no space to walk. Chandigarh is probably the only city in India, which follows this rule. Residents, therefore, have a peaceful life.
- Traffic management is very important. Since layouts have mushroomed, flouting all rules, most of the localities are congested, with narrow roads. Traffic management is the only way to bring some order. Parking in unorganised manner is a menace, which must be attacked. For this, local residents, the local committee and the traffic police have to work jointly, making narrow roads one-ways, preventing entry of heavy vehicles on such roads, prohibiting parking on both sides of the roads and ensuring that drivers follow traffic rules and have civic sense.
- Garbage segregation at homes to be strictly insisted upon and garbage to be collected from homes regularly. Bigger homes to necessarily compost their green waste and use in their gardens.
- Garbage bins for wet and dry wastes to be installed near shopping areas and eateries, as otherwise, people litter the roadsides with paper, plastic and tin wastes. Citizen volunteers (college students and senior citizens could be used for this) can take turns and ensure that people do not violate traffic rules as also do not litter roads. They can be given a jacket each as uniform, so that people pay heed to their words.
- Eateries should be strictly prohibited from using the footpath to extend their business. Fines should be imposed on eateries responsible for dirtying the surroundings. They cannot pass the buck and say, ‘we cannot order our customers.’ They better ensure that their customers eat inside their shops and throw the containers into dust bins.
- The budget allotted wardwise should be known to these ward committees and all the financial transactions should be transparent to any citizen of that ward. Thus, the Committee will function within the budget and ensure its best use. At least once in two months a general meet of all citizens of the ward to be held to discuss the issues faced by them and present the accounts. Any big project like laying/widening roads, construction of new commercial complexes, land acquisition for civic amenities, should be done with the consultation of the local citizens.
- The Government school of the ward should be overseen by the Committee, so that it is run efficiently. This way, the quality of Government schools will improve and the localites will send their children to these schools.
- Health centres/hospitals should also be overseen by these committees, so that they function efficiently and are corruption-free.
- It should be ensured that all houses in the ward implement rainwater harvesting and the storm water drains and canals are maintained free of litter, to enable the rainwater to flow into the reservoirs/tanks.
Just as an individual takes all pains to maintain his house neat, clean and ensures the happiness of all his family members, local bodies should maintain their wards well. The Government can supervise the activities and may be, reward well-functioning wards with more funds and prizes for their representatives too. If all wards in Bengaluru are thus maintained, Bengaluru can become a better place to live in.
Sudha Narasimhachar is a homemaker and freelance journalist and writer living in Yelahanka Satellite Town, Bengaluru. This is one of the shortlisted entries in ‘If I were the Bengaluru Mayor’ contest launched by Citizen Matters in September 2017.