Bhaskar Prasad is a candidate contesting in Mahadevapura, from Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). Gauri Mullerpatten and Shravya Sharath interview him, to understand his views on various issues related to Mahadevapura.
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You are a first-time contestant in Mahadevapura. People don’t seem to know much about you. Could you please tell us a little bit about your background, education etc?
I have a diploma in Electrical Engineering and a diploma in Performing Arts. These are my educational qualifications. It is not that the people of Mahadevapura don’t know me. For the past 20 years, I have been working for people. In the past couple of years, I have been involved in movements like Udupi Chalo, Chalo Tumkur, Diddalli Chalo, Chalo Gudibande, Bengaluru Chalo etc. I have been part of every citizen activist movement here. Besides this, I have been fighting for the implementation of the Sadashiva Commission report. The verdict recommends internal reservation among SCs. Tirelessly over the last 10-15 years, I have been fighting for this verdict. Through this, the community of untouchables in Mahadevapura knows me very well. This is a large community that constitutes close to 1.75 lakh voters. The sitting MLA from BJP in this constituency, Aravinda Limbavali, has given a statement that if this report is implemented, he will cause bloodshed in Karnataka. I am contesting in the elections as a protest against Aravinda Limbavali, the statement he has given on this verdict and his negative attitude towards the untouchables community.
What are the three major issues on which you are fighting this election in Mahadevapura?
On the state level, I am majorly focusing on the Sadashiva Commission verdict. To give a statement that one will cause bloodshed (raktha paatha) in the entire state is something only thugs would do. Secondly, BJP and RSS representatives across the country are speaking in favour of perpetrators of rape. They have the mindsets of rapists and murderers. It is our mission to destroy such people (in elections). This is my stand on state and national level issues.
In terms of Mahadevapura constituency, this is an area of extremes. On one side, there are skyscrapers and apartments. On the other, there are slums that are almost impossible to dwell in. Development is non-existent. You can see the roads- their state is dismal. This is a huge constituency of 5 lakh voters. There isn’t another constituency like this in all of Karnataka. It is connected to four important areas – Anekal, Hoskote, Devanahalli and Bangalore urban. The condition of traffic is such that it takes 1 hour to travel 2kms. The water problem is even worse. Without water tankers, life here is impossible. The population of K R Pura and Mahadevapura put together is 10 lakhs. For such a large number of people there is only 1 Government hospital. For even a small illness, people have to go to private hospitals and pay ₹500-600. Construction workers earn ₹200-300 per day. Housemaids earn ₹2000-3000 per month. The area is filthy and as a result, people here are prone to diseases. If you try to travel in Mahadevapura at night, the cockroaches everywhere are unbearable. Even if a person falls sick, there isn’t an affordable hospital to go to. Schools in this area are terrible. If given an opportunity, I want to deal with all these issues.
What is your personal ambition in politics and why have you chosen to contest from AAP? What makes it better than the rest of the parties?
I have been competing in the elections since 2004 as an independent candidate. In the current scenario, competing as an independent candidate is not result-oriented so I am contesting from AAP. I have specifically chosen AAP because the work that they have done in Delhi, be it health, education, water or electricity, no other party in the entire country has done. In Delhi, the revenue and police departments aren’t under the control of the AAP government. These things are controlled by the Center. Despite that, the AAP has managed to improve Delhi. Imagine the possibility of growth and development in a state where we can have complete control. The possibilities are endless. This is what motivated me to join AAP. AAP has supported my ideology of working for the Dalits. It is pro-development and anti-corruption. If there is even a hint of corruption, the people involved will be thrown out of this party.
Mahadevapura is one of the areas in Bangalore that is affected by bad solid waste management. What would you do to improve it?
If given the chance, I will improve all of it – whether it is finding land for management of waste or recycling. The corporation has tried its hand at waste management and there has been a lot of corruption. The planning is good, but the implementation isn’t. I will ensure that the implementation also happens. I will ensure the proper recycling and transportation of solid waste. If there are 5 lakh voters in this constituency, the total population including children and those registered in the other places exceeds 8 lakhs. Before winning the previous elections, Aravinda Limbavali had said that he would ensure that there is one civic worker (pourakaarmika) for every 500 people to ensure waste management. But in such a large area, there are only around 160-170 civic workers. It is impossible to maintain this area with that kind of numbers, it has to be increased.
Cauvery water is yet to come to Mahadevapura constituency. How do you want to solve the water problems?
The problem here is not water shortage, but water maintenance. There are not enough workers in the concerned department. Water wastage must be curtailed. For example in Delhi, 700 litres of free water is supplied to every house. When the AAP government promised this, opposition parties laughed at it, saying that so much water doesn’t even exist. But the government focused on preventing leakage and created awareness among people. If the people used more than 700 litres, they had to pay for water. So not having to pay for water was an incentive to people to conserve water. Employing a sufficient number of people for maintenance, using the available water efficiently, creating awareness among people, protecting groundwater, this is what should be done. Lake encroachment scandals must be looked into and lakes must be revived. If the groundwater increases, there won’t be a problem of failed borewells. So maintenance of water is not a big issue.
What steps would you take to support the slum dwellers and underprivileged who play the role of civic workers in Mahadevapura?
There is a government rule that manual scavengers should not have to enter manholes. Yet there are so many instances where these workers have died in manholes. If I am elected as an MLA, I will make sure that not a single civic worker has to do manual scavenging. Their protection is most important. From the very first day, I will look into what machines can be used to help them in their work. Other than this, they don’t have slippers and hand gloves. They have to sweep the streets in the early hours of the morning where they might accidentally get hit by unruly drivers. There was a case of a sweeping woman who died when in road accident when a truck hit a pole and the pole fell on her. Her family was given ₹7,500 to arrange her funeral. This is the poor state of affairs. Their lawful protection will be my duty.
Mahadevapura is a reserved constituency, but it also has a sizable chunk of upper class citizens working in IT and other salaried jobs. How do you see yourself reaching out to them? Or do you plan to focus only on a particular set of people?
Salaried workers are 2.5-3 lakh of the total number of voters. They have big demands. They don’t have demands regarding health and education. They are capable of sending affording private schools and healthcare. However, they also have problems. The first is the traffic problem. Secondly, they find it hard to live in their apartments because of the slum areas surrounding these apartments. Water stagnation, bad drainage systems, the lack of proper playgrounds for their children, badly managed U-turns on the streets – there are many small demands regarding these matters. Besides this, we want to give them other benefits. In Delhi, the government has started 27 new government schools. No other school in India compares to the standards of these schools. They even have swimming schools. The teachers have received training in foreign countries. People prefer to send their kids to these government schools rather than private schools.
We want to give people this opportunity here as well. Per month, they’ll be spending between ₹5,000-10,000 on their children’s education. If they can save this money and receive quality education for their children, it will surely be beneficial to them. In Delhi, we have also opened Aam Aadmi Mohalla clinics everywhere that provide healthcare free of cost. These facilities can be used by everyone – those living in slums and those living in apartments. They will have no need to go to private hospitals and spend thousands of rupees. In the money that they earn, if they have to spend ₹10,000 on education, ₹10,000 on health, ₹2,500 on water, ₹5,000 on electricity, what are they left with? All these facilities will be available to everyone without any discrimination based on whether they’re from slums or apartments.
What area of governance/ which department interests you? And why?
There is a saying that goes, “Kere thumbadre, kanaja thumbadhange” (If lakes are full, so are our granaries). We should protect our rich water resources and lakes. If we have water, agriculture will flourish. As a result we’ll have money. Schools, education and hospitals will flourish. If the basic necessities are taken care of, everything else will automatically fall into place. So that is what I’m interested in.
Do you think there is enough monetary reward for the work an MLA does? Are the salary and allowances practically enough to run the show? How will you manage, if you win?
The amount of salary given to an MLA is unnecessary. 1.5 lakhs salary, ₹15,000 for a PA, ₹25,000 for telephone usage, ₹10,000 for internet usage – this is too much. As we all know, if you pay ₹300 you get internet for three months. What is the government even thinking when allocating so much money for internet usage? Thousands of rupees are given for petty expenses like provision of tea and coffee. When I go to the homes of voters, they invite me in warmly and they provide the tea/coffee. If I become an MLA, I will utilise only what is necessary and reject the rest of the funds.
What’s your take on corruption in public life? Do you think it is avoidable?
It is definitely avoidable. I don’t have to do anything beyond my duty to stop corruption. My job is to not do anything wrong. When appointing a tahsildar, I should do it on the basis of credit and let them know that they will be removed from their position if they become involved in corruption. I just have to do my duty. That is the way to end corruption.
How are you finding your campaign?
I am campaigning door-to-door. In our pamphlet, we have provided a comparison between what the Karnataka government has done in terms of education, water, health, electricity, traffic and what the AAP government has done in Delhi. Schools and water are free. We are providing electricity at the rate of ₹2.65/unit against ₹9/unit that has to be paid in Karnataka. Currently people are selling their votes for ₹2,500, to suffer for next five years. If they vote for AAP, they can save ₹10-15 lakhs over the course of 5 years. We are simply providing people with these facts. The decision lies with them.
Whitefield/Mahadevapura area has a lot of citizen activism and active citizens. If you lose, will you still work for the people along with any activist group like Whitefield Rising, or will you move away from public life?
There are lots of organisations like Whitefield Rising. They are dalit groups, Kannada groups and all of them have good intentions. Some of them lost their way. But if the decide to do good work, we will support them. These groups take initiative and save lakes, I have heard. I will do my best to support them and encourage them. For the past 20 years, I have been doing this. If I do become an MLA, I will have greater opportunity to help the people. But it doesn’t mean that I will stop working for the people if I don’t become an MLA.
Why should people vote for you? What is your pitch?
Besides all that I’ve already said, there are other reasons why people should vote for me. Rowdyism is big in Mahadevapura and Limbavali is the reason behind it. There is also drug dealing. If this has to stop and our youth have to prosper, people should vote for me. If corruption has to stop and all the money that the government has stolen has to come back to the people, the people currently in power (here) must be removed and I must be appointed instead.