A building blocks approach

While high profile, high powered summits on urban infrastructure development are hogging media headlines, a more low-key process taking place on the ground holds out hope for the beleaguered residents of one corner of the city.

We citizens know all about politicians who promise the earth and the sky while canvassing for votes and are then seen and heard from again only on the eve of the next elections. But residents of Koramangala and surrounding areas have been pleasantly surprised to find their elected representative proving to be an exception to this rule – at least for now. Last Saturday (21 June) MLA Mr. Ramalinga Reddy attended a public meeting in the locality for the third time since he was elected to the state’s Legislative Assembly in May.

The occasion was used by residents from the various blocks, layouts and colonies that make up what is broadly known as Koramangala to present him with memoranda outlining their problems as well as their respective views on what needs to be done to solve them. Concerns ranged from heavy duty matters such as improving (and in some cases creating) drainage systems for both rain water and sewage, and reclaiming or repairing roads (which in some pockets have hitherto never been asphalted!), through familiar issues concerning traffic and garbage, to relatively simple questions of street lights and parks.

News about the newly elected MLA’s visit to the area had obviously spurred some local functionaries into action, with the streets leading up to and around the park where the meeting was scheduled to be held being spruced up in a hurry early in the morning. But, more importantly, his presence ensured the attendance of two full rows of local officials representing a range of civic agencies – from the police to the health department.

However, what was heartening was the elected representative’s obvious familiarity with the residents’ woes, his apparent awareness of what needs to be done, his evident acquaintance with the officers responsible for improving infrastructure and providing services at the local level, and his avowed determination to make a difference. As various problems were highlighted by residents, he requested officials to explain what was being done about them and when solutions could be expected. Occasionally he also intervened to mention steps he had taken towards the resolution of various issues.

It is, of course, easy enough to make exhortations from public platforms but what seemed different in this case was that he appeared to have a realistic view of what could be achieved in the short term and what would probably take more time and effort. With regard to the former he called upon the concerned officials to ensure prompt and effective action. With respect to the latter, while he sought patience and cooperation from residents, he seemed to have specific ideas about the way forward.

So far so good. If this approach is sustained and yields positive results it will certainly make life much better for the residents of an area that has been suffering from chronic civic problems for several years. Equally importantly, if the approach works it could also serve as an example for other elected representatives, encouraging them to do what they are supposed to: look after their constituencies and do their duty by the people who elected them into power, in urban as well as rural areas.

Even this process is not as local as it could get if the Nagarpalika Act (the 74th Amendment to the Constitution), passed in 1992 and meant to decentralise urban governance, is revived and implemented. But this kind of bottom-up, building blocks approach, with an elected representative actually interacting with citizens after elections in an attempt to tackle civic problems and enabling every interested citizen to be heard, is certainly a welcome new trend. Citizens will be watching and waiting to see how the process unfolds.

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