When action speaks louder

Changing landscape

When action speaks louder

Even if few people come out and take an initiative, many others will support them. Else one only keeps cribbing that no one does anything.

The need is for someone to show leadership and enthusiasm and get the ball rolling – this realisation struck Ashok Kaliyamurthy, a resident of Bhuvaneshwari Nagar locality in CV Raman Nagar, when he came up with the idea of ‘ACTION Bhuvaneshwari Nagar’. A citizen action group, it stands for ‘All coming together to improve our neighbourhood’ and had its genesis in October last year.

“There was a huge garbage dump at the locality entrance since many years. It not only had a terrible stench but also blocked the road and became a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Some of us decided to get it cleaned up but we wanted community ownership and a sustainable solution to it. So we ran a door-to-door campaign and called everyone for a meeting,” says Ashok.

“Surprisingly, 200 people turned up. With the momentum that was created, we spoke to the BBMP and they were forced to come and work on a public holiday. A group of volunteers supervised the cleaning task. Everyone contributed funds towards cementing the road and kids painted the walls, converting the dirty ‘black spot’ into a beautiful public art space. Now people have stopped dumping garbage there and only give it to the BBMP staff who transfers it to their lorries without dumping on ground,” he adds.

In fact, the group has been applying pressure on different government bodies for the improvement of various amenities. Landscaping, cleaning and setting up lights in the park, a campaign on garbage segregation and appeals to the Bengaluru Traffic Police to erect speed humps in accident prone areas – these are some of the highlights. Besides, they also regularly organise activities for residents to interact with each other.

“We have a throwball league for kids and everyone gets to bond with each other over weekend get togethers. A directory of the 400 households has been maintained,” shares Ashok. Nikhaat, another energetic member, adds, “Our children’s pro-active approach in the cleaning drive made us realise that it doesn’t take rocket science to bring change in our surroundings, a baby step is enough.”

Fortunately, residents in several localities across the City seem to share the common belief that responsible citizenship lies in taking effective action. So instead of complaining about the existing problems in their surroundings, they have taken out time from their busy schedules to form citizen action groups that are tackling a multitude of long-standing issues and also encouraging close interaction between people in the process.

KAMPS (Kaggadasapura Kere Abriruddhi Mattu Parisara Samrakshane Samiti) came into being in a similar manner. Due to the large populace, the small village of Kaggadasapura was transformed into a congested urban locality. But its unplanned nature spelt several problems– narrow roads and lack of piped water and parks. Aiming to reclaim the last open space there, a group of active residents came together to revive the neighbourhood Kaggadasapura Lake.

“We filed an RTI with the BDA to get the lake development plan and also started an awareness campaign to get more people in the group. Through our efforts, we were able to get encroachment clearance done followed by sewage diversion and walkway development. Today, many residents visit the thriving lake area to enjoy refreshing nature walks,” says Suvajit Sengupta, a corporate professional and pioneering member of KAMPS.

He says that the vibrant group has 350 members and acts as an online and offline forum for residents. “To foster togetherness among residents, we have been organising tree plantation, voter registration and cleanliness drives through the years. We soon have a painting competition, bird watching and photography workshop coming up,” adds another member, Shagird.

‘Whitefield Rising’, that focusses on four to five wards of Mahadevapura, likes to be called a ‘movement’ rather than an organisation. It started in March 2013 with a resident’s plea to save an old tree from being felled, which triggered the realisation that strength comes from citizens uniting. Its volunteers work as traffic wardens, try to repair footpaths and mend potholes, sweep streets and plant saplings, engage in solid waste management and impart teaching at government schools.

“We learn about the issues facing us, seek out subject matter experts on that, learn from experiments in other cities and then try to effect change in our own area,” shares volunteer Pravir Bagrodia. They have successfully organised ‘cycle days’ on Sundays, along with music and street games like badminton, chess and hopscotch.

“There was a colourful stage programme on the occasion of ‘Women’s Day’ wherein we honoured two women achievers in our area. We conduct safety workshops and have a safety app customised for our area which triggers alerts to volunteers and the police,” he adds.

Volunteering through such groups, citizens in Bengaluru are not only confirming their active participation in their communities but also making elected representatives work for what they’ve promised, making them aware of their vigilant presence.

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