Dr Shankara Prasad is one of the leaders of the Sachidananda Nagara Nyayapara Andolana. This group of 120 residents of Sachidananda Nagar layout in Rajarajeshwari Nagar won a hard – fought battle this week to get their khatas without paying bribes. The protests, which went on for several months, resulted in an order by BBMP Commissioner Siddaiah on November 8th to issue khatas to all residents.
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58-year-old Prasad, though from Bangalore has spent nearly three decades traveling around the world, working as a consultant in the chip manufacturing industry. He completed his M Tech from IIT, Kanpur and got his Ph D from the State University of New York. He came to Bangalore in 2000 and has been an active member of Loksatta Party since 2009. He contested in the last BBMP Council election from Rajarajeshwari Nagar (Ward 160). His wife Lalitha Shankar, 51, is a sculptor.
Prasad also heads Inkroma, a Bangalore-based company that designs e-governance solutions to improve efficiency and transparency in government organisations. Inkroma’s ‘transparent panchayat’ system is expected to launch in a few months in 15 villages in the state.
On Tuesday, November 9th, Prasad received a letter assuring issue of khatas from the Additional Commissioner (Rajarajeshwari Nagar). Two BBMP officials hand delivered the letter to Prasad’s house. Citizen Matters caught with up Shankara Prasad over the telephone for a quickfire interview on the Andolana’s victory.
BBMP moving quickly
On Tuesday, November 9th, Prasad received a letter assuring issue of khatas from the Additional Commissioner (Rajarajeshwari Nagar). Two BBMP officials hand delivered the letter to Prasad’s house.
Why, do you think, the BBMP took so long to issue khatas to Sachidananda Nagara residents?
We have clear evidence to show that some BBMP officials were involved in the corruption and were working with the MLA to collect bribes. Not everyone maybe corrupt – some BBMP officials have also congratulated me for the work we did. But we are thinking about how to put those corrupt officials behind bars for forgery of documents. We are planning to take this matter ahead.
How difficult was it to keep the protests going?
It was difficult as the issue was not only about bribes but also bureaucratic mindsets. Bureaucrats take the laws in their own hands and involve many people unnecessarily. Bribery was only one part of it.
How did you get involved in the protests? What was Loksatta’s role in this?
I participated only because the cause was just. It had nothing to do with the party. I would have participated even if I did not own a plot in the layout, because the two residents – Mahesh and Uday Shankar – who initiated the enquiries, had a good legal standing. After understanding the issue, I presented it to Lok Satta and told them that this issue was not just confined to our layout, but to the whole city. That’s why Loksatta got involved. I am the only person in the Andolana, who was both a plot owner and member of Loksatta.
How did the residents respond to the idea of protests?
It was a major achievement that all 120 of us worked together. These residents could have just paid the money and got khatas. And usually this happens in many cases. But here we have grown as a community, and it is guaranteed that we will fight together against similar issues in future. More than getting the khatas, this is a greater achievement. The community is now a model for the whole city.
What reforms do you think are necessary in the system to prevent further cases like this?
There should be greater transparency and participation of citizens. Every workflow in BBMP can be digitised and the data made public. Citizens should be able to get khatas by paying a fee online, just like booking a railway ticket. If the data in Revenue office and Sub-Registrar office can be linked with BBMP data, khatas can be obtained easily online. These processes can be extended to the entire machinery too.
Do you think this success will help improve the party’s base in the city?
Definitely. It is a fantastic way for the party to move forward. Loksatta is planning to develop a template that will educate all citizens to fight corruption. People should lose their fear of the BBMP and be aware of their rights. Our aim is to bring clean governance in BBMP. We are planning to replicate our achievement in Sachidananda Nagara in other wards. We are already working with couple of other residents’ communities who have similar problems. Many times, the RWA also exploits residents as it is money-making machinery and has control over the plots.
What would you say to residents in other communities who suffer from similar problems?
I would say, act collectively. If you protest individually, it is easy to get de-motivated. Also trust is important in building a community. Indians have so many identities, which is a barrier in developing trust. In Sachidananda Nagar, we took an oath on day one itself that we all would work together, and all of us followed it. ⊕