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What Karnataka can learn from the demolition of twin towers in Noida

If history is any guide, once the urgency is over, all will be forgotten. And it is here that the responsibility of citizens plays a role
Last Updated : 29 September 2022, 18:00 IST
Last Updated : 29 September 2022, 18:00 IST

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One may wonder if there is any connection between the demolition of twin towers of corruption in Noida and the scenes of sufferings caused by flooding in Bengaluru, India’s IT capital. Both have attracted the attention of the international media and may end up as footnotes. Be that as it may, we, the people, should not allow the recent crisis caused by flooding to end merely in a blame game.

While the Opposition parties, Congress and JD(S), have blamed the ruling BJP for not doing enough to deal with the crisis, BJP has pointed fingers back at the Opposition by highlighting the illegal approval of encroachments on rajakaluves.

IT executives have highlighted their problems and warned the government that future investments may be hurt if steps are not taken to prevent such flooding. But, all the political parties have blamed the IT industry in particular and others in general, for their construction activities -- often illegal -- that have contributed to the crisis.

NGOs, retired bureaucrats and urban development experts have jumped in by placing the blame on all three: corrupt politicians, complying bureaucrats and profit-driven private sectors. But what of citizens’ responsibility of building a democracy by electing honest and competent leaders?

Chief Minister Bommai has assured citizens that his government will do everything to remove encroachments. Already a few low hanging fruits -- houses belonging to the poor -- have been removed. Will he succeed in removing other more expensive encroachments?

No need to elaborate on the dire warnings given by scientists about climate change. They have been warning of excessive rains and unprecedented floods as a result of global warming for years.

Like developed countries, India has financial and technical resources in place to implement strategies needed to face such challenges. What it lacks is a proper governance system -- absence of political will and rampant corruption at all levels. Instead of discussing the governance system in abstract terms, let me illustrate it through an example of Mysuru City. Like Bengaluru, parts of Mysuru have also suffered flooding, which received little or no publicity even within the city.

Mysuru’s iconic Kukkarhalli lake is situated right in the heart of the city. It once was the source of drinking water for the city. Unfortunately, the lake is on its death bed because its feeder canal, the historic Dewan Poornaiah canal, is encroached upon. This is common knowledge. Mysuru Grahakar Parishat (MGP), an NGO, has been trying to make authorities take note of the encroachment for over three decades. In the mid ‘90s, it successfully prevented Mysuru University and Mysuru City Corporation from releasing sewage into the lake through a PIL. Currently, of the original 24 km, less than 4 km of the canal is manageable and the rest is encroached upon.

MGP has informed every DC about the precarious condition of Kukkarhalli lake and the encroachment of Poornaiah Canal. Mysuru University is the custodian of the lake but has done little despite repeated appeals. It has instead constructed many buildings on the banks of the lake .

In 2020-21, when Rohini Sindhuri was the DC, she started gathering information so the lake could be transferred to the Forest Department from Mysuru University. She also started looking into clearing the encroachments. Before she could take concrete action to save the lake, she was transferred.

This year, too, the NGOs approached the current DC, Bagadi Gautam, in July. He was quick to understand the problem and asked the concerned agencies (Mysuru City Corporation, Mysuru Urban Development Authority, and Zilla Parishat) to look into it. Despite an order by the DC, no plan was made or action taken.

When the heavy downpours and resultant flooding marooned hundreds of residents in August this year, the DC was requested to look at the encroachments along the entire original canal. Again, there was a delay in implementing his orders to give immediate relief to the affected. Local MLA, G T Devegowda, assured of financial aid, which is laudable. But is it justified to spend tax-payer’s money to compensate for administrative inefficiency?

If history is any guide, once the urgency is over, all will be forgotten. And it is here that the responsibility of citizens plays a role. They should urge the government to institute a high level committee to conduct a survey of all encroachments and develop a time-bound plan to remove them and restore the canal.

Most argue that it is impractical to remove encroachments without incurring huge costs. We can take inspiration from the recent demolition of the twin towers of corruption in Noida.

While the case was filed against the demolition, the initial argument was that it would be an impossible task to remove structures that cost over Rs 500 crore to build. But the Supreme Court ordered the demolition to comply with the rule of law. There was also a similar demolition in 2020 of four complexes in Kochi near the beach.

The Karnataka government can herald a new era in upholding the rule of law by removing all encroachments along the rajkaluves in Bengaluru, and Poornaiah canal in Mysuru and prosecuting all responsible. Bommai has promised such a bold action. We the people, especially the IT leaders, must now make sure he keeps his word.

(The writer is a former international oil and gas industry professional)

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Published 29 September 2022, 17:32 IST

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