Bengaluru has a population of over 1.3 crores as a city. However, it has its shares of problems, problems that citizens rarely get enough platforms to address and problems that rarely make it to the media eye.
On Sunday, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)in Karnataka launched a dialogue series for the citizens of Bengaluru to raise their concerns and complaints as well as suggestions before a panel of experts. During the webinar, citizens raised their suggestions to politicians and experts who have been working at the forefront of development in the city.
In what was a spirited session, those spearheading Aam Aadmi Party's vision such as Ashwin Mahesh, Renuka Viswanathan and Prithvi Reddy began its series of sessions clubbed as 'Nammoora Charche' which literally translates to 'Our city's dialogue'. The party plans to conduct these sessions for each ward in the district. Similar series have been conducted in Delhi, Punjab and Goa by the party.
The series will be centered on 5 main issues in Bengaluru - Roads, Water, Garbage, Education and health, and public corruption primarily. Some would say those would be the essentials for any city. This week's conversation was centered on the Roads of Horamavu war which falls under the KR Puram assembly constituency.
The discussion was led by Dr Renuka Viswanathan a leader in Aam Aadmi Party and the former Secretary to the Government of India in the Cabinet Secretariat. With experts such as Ashwin Mahesh who has previously worked with NASA opined on the need for better clarity on the ward situation in Bengaluru, he had previously built a ward page for Horamavu ward with some transparency along with a discussion page for residents to discuss the ward and its issues.
Speaking about roads in Bengaluru, he said "We talk about roads only for the use of motorised vehicles, but I feel a road should be used by much more people than motorised vehicles, people who are walking, who are cycling, people who are using buses, all of these kinds of things are equally important. Therefore for each road, I recommend you make an assessment of whether these are walkable, whether these are cyclable and a number of tools that will come up on the AAP website." This would allow citizens to adequately point out deficits in the ward and budgetary allocation to fix these issues.
Raghavendra Adiga who previously worked for NATO and the UN and whose company works with PWD to build roads and bridges across Karnataka said about the situation of work proceeding at a slow pace in the ward, "The rapid growth in the Horamavu is tremendous and our bureaucrats and department are unable to meet that speed. If we look at it from that point of view we haven't got the basic infrastructure."
Residents came forward during the session to put forward suggestions and problems they face as well. A citizen called for the creation of a database of which roads are tarred and untarred and keep track of when they've been repaired at an expert level.
Another citizen gave an example, "They leave some work and are not bothered what's happening behind, only in 10th cross they're ready to tar the road, they want to complete and take the money back, from the government. This is the situation in 11th cross and 3rd main road in Horamavu which is very bad and we have lot of accidents happening there in the past 1 year."
A resident of 7 years in the ward said that they didn't have the room to speak and if they do discuss in forums like these, they discuss then disperse without resolution. He asserted that the situation made him decide to leave the country at some point due to the politics and lack of development despite paying taxes.
Another resident spoke about the BBMP's lack of accountability, "If you ask them they'll say, ask this person or that person. You can't even walk on the roads," they spoke about open drains and the health hazards where there are no health officers to oversee this. The citizen asked where accountability is in the civic body. Citizens also raised the point that the people are hesitant to speak up even in the media, where there is a lack of an open forum and a high level of fear among citizens.
State convenor for AAP, Prithvi Reddy said about Nammoora Charche tells IBTimes, "1.3 crore people can't feel helpless, we are the majority, it is our city, it is our money and we need to hold them accountable. Irrespective of which party comes, we are hoping this process will establish a culture of active citizenry." He said that the city needs committed people and that the system needs improvement, "We are trying to get as granular as possible so that people talk about things that are affecting them."