The #MahadevapuraDemands protest against elected representatives last Friday seems to have had some positive impact. But residents of the constituency are not yet ready to celebrate.
The protestors, who highlighted the lack of basic infrastructure and facilities, had demanded the resignation of all their elected representatives – eight corporators, Mahadevapura MLA Aravind Limbavali and Bangalore Central MP P C Mohan.
While none of the corporators responded to the protest, Limbavali and Mohan claimed that the new state government had already released funds for the constituency.
Top BBMP and state government officials visited the constituency and made promises to residents, and two BBMP engineers are apparently to be transferred for dereliction of duty. However, the residents are sceptical about whether work would actually get done on the ground.
Who promised what?
Randeep D, BBMP Special Commissioner in charge of Mahadevapura zone
B H Anil Kumar, BBMP Commissioner
E V Ramana Reddy, Additional Chief Secretary, UDD
How elected representatives responded
Though the protestors personally approached the eight corporators and gave demand letters, none of them responded to the protest. We tried to contact Hagadur corporator S Uday Kumar and Bellandur corporator Asha Suresh several times, but they were not available for comment.
Nitya Ramakrishnan of the citizen group Whitefield Rising says that MP P C Mohan had called her after the protest. “He said he had done his best to push for suburban railway, but that his efforts had failed since the party in power at the state and centre were different previously. He assured us that since the same party is in power at the state and centre now, the project would be taken up in a more serious manner,” Nitya says.
Speaking to Citizen Matters, Mohan blamed previous state governments for not giving enough funds to Mahadevapura constituency. “Since the BJP government came to power, a lot of grants have been released for the constituency. The funds will reach corporators very soon, and developmental works in all sectors will start in 45-60 days,” he says. However, Mohan did not give further details about the funds or works planned.
Mahadevapura MLA Aravind Limbavali, who has been at the centre of the citizens’ ire, took a similar position. A few days before the protest, Limbavali released pamphlets on Twitter on grants that were apparently released by the new BJP government for developmental works in the constituency.
Speaking to media persons, Limbavali had alleged that the protestors were “doing politics” and couldn’t blame him. He said he could give proof for all the works he had done in the constituency. When we contacted Limbavali, he sent across the pamphlets already released on Twitter, but was unavailable for comment.
BBMP promise on underpass, roads, garbage collection
A day before the protest, D Randeep, BBMP Special Commissioner in charge of Mahadevapura zone, met Whitefield residents. He heard their grievances on the lack of streetlights along most roads, irregularities in waste collection, slow pace of road works, and so on.
Afterwards, Randeep said, “I have instructed health inspectors to ensure regular collection of segregated waste from all the households of the zone.” He also directed officials to identify land in each ward of the zone, for the setting up of wet and dry waste collection centres.
Randeep said that a Whatsapp group of all BBMP officials in KR Puram and Whitefield divisions will be created, to address complaints quickly. He also inspected the ongoing construction of Kundanahalli underpass. A major demand of protestors was to release Rs 42 cr to acquire land around the underpass, to build service lanes and footpaths.
As per the DPR (Detailed Project Report) of the underpass, the service lanes are to be 7.5 m wide. But due to apparent lack of funds to acquire land, BBMP had decided to reduce lane width to 3.5 m. Residents then demanded that BBMP acquire land and stick to the original DPR design.
A couple of days after the protest, BBMP commissioner B H Anil Kumar and other senior civic officials inspected many areas in Mahadevapura. Speaking to Citizen Matters, Kumar said that additional land would be acquired for the underpass, and the original DPR design would be followed. He said, “Land acquisition should be completed in the next 15 days, by mid-November, and we are expecting the entire project to be completed in another three months.”
Anjali Saini of Whitefield Rising says, “E V Ramana Reddy, Additional Chief Secretary of the Urban Development Department, said on Saturday that the money for land acquisition will be released from the Rs 8015 cr Nava Bengaluru Kriya Yojana funds, which was part of the 2019-20 state budget. And that it would take a week.”
Anil Kumar has also responded to protestors’ demand for good roads. He says work order for the construction of 14 roads that connect to the Outer Ring Road will be issued in 10 working days. These projects cost Rs 80 cr overall. Work order for 20 more roads costing Rs 250 crore, and for nine other road construction/repair works costing Rs 34 crore, will be issued in November end.
Two engineers to be transferred
R L Parameshwaraiah, BBMP Chief Engineer for Mahadevapura and Yelahanka zones, told Citizen Matters that an Assistant Engineer (AE) and an Assistant Executive Engineer (AEE) from Hagadur ward were being transferred. When asked about the reason for their transfer, he declined to comment, citing it was an administrative decision.
Promise or eyewash?
Nitya says the promises of fund release shows BBMP does not have a systemic process. “We have seen such promises on fund release and work order issue many times. The previous commissioner had also promised land acquisition for the underpass, but this was not done,” she says, adding it is all about the work on the ground now.
Though Anil Kumar says land acquisition for the underpass would be completed in just 15 days, protestors are sceptical. Anjali says residents around the underpass are clueless about the acquisition process and the compensation they would get. It’s unclear how BBMP can complete the acquisition in so short a time.
“There are some changes happening, but we want these to translate into work,” Anjali says.
Residents unhappy with MLA’s response
A few days before the protest, Limbavali had started publicising his visits to the constituency. On his Twitter page, he mentioned that the following grants were released for Mahadevapura because of his diligence, within two months of the BJP coming to power:
- Rs 475.15 cr for the development of major roads in Mahadevapura
- Rs 245.15 cr for development of the wards in Mahadevapura (See image below)
- Rs 470 crore for lake development
- Rs 75 cr released, and tender work in progress for SWD and bridge works
- Rs 85 cr released for developmental works in Mittaganahalli and Mandur villages
- Rs 3.6 cr released for Panathur and Doddanekkundi railway vent tender initiation
- Rs 40 cr released for development of Munnekolalu and Carmelram railway bridges
- Rs 14 cr allocated for work on 49-km-long new drinking water pipeline
- Rs 10 cr additional grant released to complete UGD work, which shall start soon.
Limbavali’s claims came with a footnote that said: “A brief description of all works has been provided and complete details of the developmental works will be given in due course.”
On Twitter, he also accused the previous two governments in the state of “discriminating against the development of Mahadevapura, which is the highest tax-paying constituency.”
However, residents were not impressed with Limbavali’s response. “Stop this blame game. Resign if you don’t have the capability to deliver the promises made,” said a resident on Twitter. Another said, “Sir, please come and stay in Varthur road for a month and I am sure you will forget the blame game and things will start rolling.”
Montu Makadia, a resident along Alur road and an activist with Save Bellandur campaign, says, “I can say that the MLAs’ response to residents’ demands is positive only when the ground-level execution happens properly. For this, there should be transparency and proper coordination between the MLA’s office, residents and civic authorities like BBMP and BWSSB.”
Another resident says, on condition of anonymity, “The MLA has not called us or even acknowledged our demands, but has been posting a lot of updates about where he went and how much money was released. If he does not perform, and keeps labelling the residents’ demands as politically motivated and subduing public voices, people will learn from their mistake and he will not be elected again.”
She says the protest would continue if no work happens on the ground. “If there is no action, the protest will be back. In fact, we are already thinking of having another protest very soon,” she says.
BJP, Congress or JDS, they are going to milk Mahadevapura and give the money to Rajaji Nagar, Jaya Nagar and Indira Nagar. That’s the broken process. 50% of property tax collected in a ward must be spent only on that ward. If the elected reps can’t bring in and implement such a rule, there is no local governance and they are all just useless.
Even whitefield, vurthur, channasandra is the major connected rd. All peripheral rds are heavily damaged. Kids struggling to go to school, catch bus, others having difficulty even to step out due to rain. Noone is bothered.
If nothing works, lets start again and stop paying tax until all cleared. We pay tax regularly from our hard earned money. We get nothing out of this.
At the onset, I was not able to be part of the protest. My sincere apology and thanks to the organizers and those who turned up. The spark has let to some initiation of action. Let’s try and follow up. We need to learn from other successful citizen movements and become better.