So we have a new Mayor now. Time for celebration – or introspection? You decide, after reading the backgrounder described here. Three weeks ago, a group of RWAs (residents’ welfare associations) sounded jubilant that justice prevails, at least some of the time.
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Abhyudaya, a federation of RWAs of old ward no. 55 of the city, put out details of the six year long battle that they had been waging (since 2005) with the BBMP. The residents discovered that out of 11 CA sites meant for common use, as community parks or playgrounds, sanctioned by the BDA, seven had been illegally appropriated and encroached upon. The people implicated in these encroachments were the then Corporator (now Mayor) Venkatesha Murthy and his family members.
Abhyudaya, along with CAF (Citizens Action Forum) have pursued the matter and have been persecuted by way cases filed against them by Murthy. Three weeks ago the residents were assured by the police that the cases would be dropped.
It is a known fact that some BJP corporators including Vijayakumar of south Bengaluru, were against the selection of Venkatesha Murthy as the next Mayor. This came as a relief to activists who often spend time pursuing public wonder if it is a waste of time.
Their relief was short-lived – Venkatesha Murthy has now been chosen Mayor, and has gone on to make the usual promises, about addressing the city’s problems. There were no questions put to him by the media, on the allegations of illegal encroachment.
So, where do we, as residents stand now? Reports from a RWA secretary say that Venkatesha Murthy called up the person who was pursuing the complaint to ask why he was taking up the matter. He terminated the call when the person acting on behalf of the RWAs refused to back down.
If dissent or whistle-blowing is frowned upon, even muzzled or punished, it is a sad indicator of the way our administration functions. Public officials like mayor and deputy mayors have a mandate to uphold the highest norms of honesty in public life and also ensure the protection of the common good.
It is the mayor who receives distinguished visitors to the metropolis from overseas, and represents the city as its head. Perhaps the new mayor will take it up from here, and win our approval, by clearing up the matter?
Sky walks or signals, to facilitate movement for pedestrians? The city fathers have opted for the former, despite a huge financial crunch, and we the public have not voiced our preferences in sufficient numbers. Though plans either way, are meant for our convenience and safety; skywalks mean climbing a lot of steps, and senior citizens as well as those who are differently-abled, pregnant women, those in poor health, will be unable to negotiate them
The inevitable result will be illegal road crossings, perhaps more accidents. A skywalk was constructed at a huge cost, at the 4th block bus terminus at Jayanagar some years ago. Hardly anyone used it – it was cumbersome and time consuming, to climb up all the way and climb down again, just to get to the other side of the road. Everyone just scurried across.
The result was that the skywalk was torn down, again at huge cost to the public (demolition also costs money too) two years ago. Did that experience teach anyone any lesson in the judicious use of taxpayers’ money? Why are we doing this, to the city and to our lives?
I am aware that the plans promise to include elevators and lifts, but believe me, given our tropical, dusty and humid conditions — and our record in terms of maintenance — such facilities, especially in the open, break down faster than you can say BBMP. So, in a matter of days we will have all that money gone to waste.
More traffic signals, then? That does sound like a better, and more workable, option. Cheaper, more convenient and certainly more citizen-friendly. Are these criteria on the radar while taking decisions, or , as one cynic puts it, is it all about which contractor (with connections) stands to benefit through the award of work orders, irrespective of what the public would benefit from?⊕