Poll fever shoots up
Even as all parties swing into campaigning, efforts are being made to increase voter turnout, hoping that it would go up to at least 75% from last time’s 55%. About 1.35 lakh voters in the age groups of 18-19 years will vote for the first time. About five lakh voters have been added since January 2023, said Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) Chief Commissioner and District Election Officer Tushar Giri Nath at a voter awareness campaign organised by Bengaluru Chamber of Industries and Commerce (BCIC) . The hope is that voting goes up to 100%.
A queue app and parking app are being developed, so that voters get real-time information. An SMS will be sent to eligible voters a day before elections, to remind them to cast their votes. Another voter slip with details of the elector, serial numbers and polling station details will be sent ten days before polls.
Almost 8,611 above 80-year-olds and 119 persons with disabilities have opted for the vote-from-home option, a first-of-its-kind initiative from the Election Commission. The BBMP will create temporary polling booths in the homes of voters with mobility issues and they can vote at least four or five days before the polling date of May 10th. The final number may vary as the returning officers (ROs) have four more days to submit the data.
Meanwhile, an investigation by the Bengaluru Regional Commissioner Amlan Aditya Biswas, based on the directions of the State Election Commission, has recommended a separate police investigation into the role of BBMP officers. It found that officials had enabled Chilume Trust, accused in the Bengaluru voter data theft case, to illegally collect voter data on an unauthorised private digital application (Digital Sameeksha) and store it in a foreign server, which would pave the way for opportunities of wrongful gain from personal data. The investigation by the Regional Commissioner also found that Chilume and its sister concerns were likely used for tax evasion and money laundering purposes.
On April 19th, the Income Tax department searched premises belonging to Congress leader Yusuf Sharif alias KGF Babu, whose wife, Shazia Tarannum, has filed nomination from Chickpet assembly constituency as an Independent. About 5,000 sarees meant for distribution among voters and a large number of demand drafts have been seized by IT sleuths.
Source: The New Indian Express, Deccan Herald, The Hindu, Indian Express
Read more: Civil Society Forum presents a comprehensive manifesto for Karnataka Assembly Elections 2023
Record rise in April temperature
On April 18th, the temperature shot up to 36.5 degrees Celsius, which made it one of the hottest days of the year, according to the India Meteorological Department (IMD). Last week, the temperatures hovered between 35 degrees and 36 degrees Celsius. On April 14th, it reached 36.4 degrees Celsius, with a relative humidity of 55%. The IMD data further showed that the Bengaluru International Airport and the HAL Airport recorded a high of 36.5 and 35 degrees Celsius, respectively.
So far, the highest recorded temperature this month was on April 24 2016, at 39.2 degrees Celsius. Earlier, it was 38.3 degrees Celsius in April 1931.
While the highest maximum temperature was 3°C above normal, the minimum strangely dipped a degree lower than normal at 21 degrees Celsius. It is expected that later, there will be rain or thunderstorms.
Within one week, the maximum temperature has been more than 35 degrees Celsius. Researchers suggest that the change in land use patterns and decreasing green cover could be factors behind the rise in temperature.
There is also a decrease in diurnal temperature range (DTR), or the difference between day and night temperatures, in which almost a two degree decrease has been observed from 2000 to 2023. Researchers advise that with increasing urban areas, climate-proof designs should be adopted and micro-level (ward) heat-risk assessments should be conducted to map hot spots. “Green wedges”, or continuous green spaces connecting the city to the outskirts should be adopted.
Source: The Hindu, Deccan Herald, Indian Express
Citizens oppose strict rules at Cubbon Park
Citizens raised an outcry against moral policing at Cubbon Park. “Is breathing allowed?” asked one tweeter.
The state horticulture department is enforcing many strict rules in Cubbon Park, including ban on eating food, playing games, public display of affection and climbing trees, apparently on complaints from walkers about activities inappropriate for children. However, the policing is not being taken well by many Bengalurueans.
Security guards are inspecting visitors to keep the park’s rules. One couple was asked to vacate a particular place “because of snake movement”, a family was directed to close tiffin boxes, children were asked to stop playing cricket, and a theatre group was asked to keep voices low. A security guard admitted that the authorities have directed them to keep watch on lovers.
Meanwhile, the state horticulture department has directed the 106-year-old Century Club to halt its “illegal” construction activities in the 300-acre Cubbon Park, without prior permission from the High Court. The Cubbon Park Walkers Association had registered a complaint that the club is violating the Karnataka High Court order of 1998. However, the club clarified that they are only installing an underground STP (Sewage Treatment Plant) on the directions of the Karnataka Pollution Control Board.
Source: Indian Express
Read more: Citizens for Malleshwaram constituency formulates Climate Action manifesto
Govt ‘failed’ in federalism
In its series of ‘report cards’, Bahutva Karnataka, on April 19th, ‘failed’ the government on Federalism. It alleged that the government has abdicated its constitutional duty to protect the state from the dangers of centralisation. Although India is a Union of States, the state is being run by the “whims of puppeteers in New Delhi”. It said that the double engine sarkara has been a failure and the state is being penalised for its efficiency.
The coalition of progressive organisations has been releasing a series of reports on the performance of the incumbent government, ahead of elections, on various issues of public concern. On April 17th, it released a report card on access to nutrients and listed various issues in the food social security schemes, public distribution system, Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) scheme, and mid-day meal scheme.
Source: The Hindu, The News Minute
Call for restoring lakes
ActionAid Association, an NGO, has demanded restoration works of lakes and cleaning of storm water drains and rainwater inlets to be completed before the monsoons. Sources said that silt and solid waste, including plastic around the inlets of lakes, need to be cleared for smooth flow of rainwater, and blockages from the sewage diversion channel should be removed. The aim should be to bring rainwater towards the lakes and improve the water quality.
They said that the BBMP’s lakes department needs to respond to the calls by local communities before the monsoons and address issues regarding blockages on a priority. A special 24*7 helpline should be active during the monsoons, with an information board at every lake, with details of the lake, biodiversity and contact numbers. It would help to inform officials regarding issues and plan to coordinate departments.
Source: Indian Express
Ramzan Food Mela opposed
On April 18th, in response to the Frazer Town Residents’ Welfare Association (FTRWA) asking BBMP to stop the Ramzan Food Mela, police officers and BBMP officials tried to close down food stalls. However, protests by the vendors managed to get the stalls to remain, on the condition that they do not spill onto the roads and remained on the footpaths. Vendors were also asked to close by 1 am.
The FTRWA had complained that the vendors often encroached on footpaths and created other problems. It sent a letter to the BBMP. It charged the food stall vendors of engaging in various offenses, including footpath and road encroachment, air and noise pollution and public nuisance. It said that they operate throughout the night, block the way to religious places, indulge in electricity theft from poles, and do not dump garbage waste as per solid waste management rules.
The vendors were accused of violating Section 61 of the Karnataka Police Act, 1963 and local bylaws and regulations prohibiting commercial activities at certain hours of the night.
Source: The News Minute, Indian Express
[Compiled by Revathi Siva Kumar]