When the authorities don't care

Last Updated 31 December 2013, 13:38 IST

Bangalore has increasingly become popular for the initiatives taken up by citizens. From cleaning up lakes and footpaths to awareness drives and rallies, there is no dearth of people willing to get their hands dirty. 

With urban problems like potholes, garbage disposal, traffic congestion and loss of biodiversity on the rise, somebody needs to clean up the mess. But while citizens continue doing their bit, where are the authorities?

Dasarathi GV, an entrepreneur, has worked towards sustainable transport in the City for the past decade and cycles 26 kms everyday. “There is no proper town planning authority and the government hasn’t done much to find a permanent fix to the traffic problem. The BBMP, for instance, is an executing body, not a planning one. Every time there is congestion, they take knee-jerk reactions like widening the roads or putting a flyover,” he observes. He adds that while individuals from government bodies have supported citizen endeavours during their tenures, the system as a whole isn’t with them. “The City is too deep-rooted in an approach where politicians and bureaucrats do something only when there is a crisis. Plus, the extent of corruption is known to everyone. That’s why I’m pessimistic when it comes to Bangalore,” adds Dasarathi.

On ‘Sada Zero’, where he and other residents of Sadashivanagar collect and segregate garbage, he says, “We started the initiative three years ago when the garbage crisis and court case hadn’t even hit the City. We had used the Mavallipura angle to create awareness saying that our waste was destroying their lives. Even then, there was no waste segregation done.”
Arushi Poddar, a pro-active citizen, sees the work she does as civic duty. 
“What I’m doing isn’t filling in for what the authorities aren’t doing. I’m just doing a citizen’s duties, be it stopping a tree from being chopped, looking after a stray dog till it finds its own territory or stopping someone from littering,” she shares, adding, “People should reach out to make a difference whenever they see the need. Unfortunately, the awareness is lacking. Ninety per cent of the citizens don’t know what to do when they feel for a cause.”

Pranav Jha, co-founder of a research analysis and advocacy group called ‘Praja’, feels that a solution-oriented focus is better than undermining government efforts. 

“We started the ‘Bus Day’ campaign, the recent ‘Cycle Day’ campaign and are working on cutting the City’s traffic congestion by half by using the commuter rail system. 

But there is no ownership of the problem. If there is no water or power, we know who to complain to. But who is accountable for one’s commute taking an hour instead of 30 minutes?” he questions. 

He adds that despite the flawed governance structure, there is scope for progress. “It’s a convenient set-up for authorities to play the blame game. But we take detailed proposals like the Bus Priority System to BMTC and concerned authorities, who have shown interest. It’s not like we are here to criticise the authorities. As long as the work is done, we are more than happy to work with them,” concludes Pranav.

(Published 31 December 2013, 13:38 IST)

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