Why you must go out and vote

Citizens can’t have a parallel existence, far removed from reality, and expect Bengaluru simply to accommodate them

The unwillingness of urban voters to identify themselves as builders of the city is perhaps a result of a larger disconnect at play.

As another election nears, this disconnect underlines the flawed representation of the urban populace, letting the administration go ahead with short-term plans on the sly.

Citizens cannot have a parallel existence, far removed from ground reality, and expect the city to simply accommodate them.

Paramount to any city’s well-being is how connected, conscious and aware the citizen is. Sadly, in Bengaluru, we are yet to get there. Perhaps we could all start over with the Lok Sabha polls.

An urban setting doesn’t become a city merely by being called one. Bengaluru is at a crossroads. Our regular commutes are punctuated by sights that cry for attention, effort and action. Uncleared garbage,
bad roads, polluted air, choked traffic, unending construction, ill-conceived public infrastructure--everything indicates we are headed for imminent urban ruin.

Collective apathy has resulted in this crisis. As concrete takes over green spaces, we run the risk of ending up like a Delhi or a Gurgaon, topping the list of the most polluted cities of the world.

Many global cities have gone through such crises at some point or other, and citizens have helped tide over the effects of haphazard urbanisation.

For Bengaluru, it is that crucial point in time. If we ignore and let the chaos continue, we lose. Why the electorate has absolutely no say in the direction which this young urban centre must take is baffling.

When we see protests against ill-conceived infrastructure projects, sure, it is a welcome sign. But these protests seem too late, and too faint. Real protests must begin with our choice of elected representatives.

When we vote, we must remind ourselves again of the role of democracy in urban governance. Not so long ago, when modern Bengaluru was in the making, with its sprawling IT campuses and allied enterprises, a wave of migration brought many along. Somehow, the new settlers seem increasingly uninterested in the workings of the city.

A large chunk of the population go about their business treating Bengaluru as a stopover, escaping to exotic locations to have their ‘well-deserved breaks’. This insensitivity is against an evolving urban society.

Bengaluru itself was initially thought of as an urban getaway. Perhaps there is no other city in the world that boasts as many lakes. Now those very lakes are a case study of how an urban settlement wasted away its ecological riches, depleting them so quickly and greedily.

The minor protests that show up are a beginning, weak as they are, and only a trickle of the guilty collective conscience of Bengaluru. Years of urban disconnect have rendered the citizenry powerless.

Public consultations and suchlike seem more a media exercise than a way forward. It is intriguing when one doesn’t see a protest or a consultation over a proposed railway that cuts through the Western Ghats.

So, perhaps we can all see the upcoming vote as a starting point in reclaiming the legacy of this great city.

Speaking truth to power is only possible if the residents are truly willing to transform Bengaluru in all-inclusivity. Otherwise, the city will collapse on itself as quickly as it came to be.

Great Smog of London, 1952

Acute air pollution due to smog in London, one of the world’s greatest and oldest cities, in the December of 1952, led to the deaths of thousands. At least 10,000 people -- mostly the elderly and those vulnerable to foul air -- succumbed to the air quality ruined by coal-powered industries. Four years later, the first clean air legislation in the world, the British Clean Air Act, came into force to check further environmental disasters.

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