Reach out to grassroots activists

Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy has done well to give immediate attention to Bengaluru’s infrastructure and waste management problems. Less than a fortnight after his swearing in, he met Infosys co-founder N R Narayana Murthy and sought his guidance on tackling the city’s infrastructure woes. The chief minister is considering setting up an expert committee to study Bengaluru’s infrastructure problems and it was in this regard that he reached out to the former Infosys chief. Such outreach to the city’s eminent residents is not new. Successive chief ministers have drawn on the ideas and expertise of prominent people from the city’s technology sector in the past as well. Public-private partnership to address Bengaluru’s infrastructure woes was set in motion by the then chief minister S M Krishna when he set up the Bangalore Agenda Task Force in 1999. Another initiative was the Agenda for Bengaluru Infrastructure and Development Task Force set up by former CM B S Yedyurappa in 2010. More recently, the Siddaramaiah government had created the Bangalore Vision Group to develop an integrated vision for the city. Thus, the city has seen a procession of ‘vision groups’ and ‘task forces’ come and go. While these have provided governments with ‘to-do lists’ and put in place some best practices and procedures, the city’s problems have gone from bad to worse.

It is in this regard that Murthy’s advice to Kumaraswamy assumes importance. He is reported to have told the chief minister to consult non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working on Bengaluru’s development issues. He is right. It is civil society activists who work amongst Bengaluru’s residents at the grassroots level who have the best understanding of the needs of the city’s common people. Several of Bengaluru’s technology czars and czarinas are undoubtedly concerned about the city’s abysmal infrastructure. However, their insights have more to do with the needs of these rather elite sectors than with the challenges that Bengaluru’s masses face in living, working and commuting in the city.

The Kumaraswamy government needs to shift its focus away from maintenance of a few roads in the central business district or waste management in up-market neighbourhoods to improving mass transportation for the middle and lower-sections of society, providing affordable housing for the poor and marginalised and safety for all Bengalureans on the streets of this city. NGOs and residential welfare committees are working daily with ordinary people cleaning Bengaluru and keeping it running. They have their ears to the ground and a better sense of what the city and its people need. Kumaraswamy should heed Murthy’s advice and reach out to grassroots activists. 

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Reach out to grassroots activists

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