A fortnight for handing out bouquets

A pourakarmika being given the Namma Bengaluru award worth Rs one lakh, is particularly heartwarming when last year’s winners included the BBMP commissioner.

Along the road in front of my apartment is a tree that has sprouted lovely, delicate pink blooms. Big deal, you say? Lots of trees around town are festooned with these pink flowers now – but this one is special.

Sakuntala NarasimhanFifteen years ago, this tree did not exist. When the BMP (as it was then) put in a road divider, it left a narrow strip of earth, less than half a metre wide, inside the divider, and planted some bougainvillea and assorted saplings within the strip, protected by metal fencing. The saplings have grown, and this small tree is blooming, providing salve for sore eyes irritated by the dust raised by passing traffic. Bougainvillea barely a metre high are sprouting colourful red-and-orange flowers too. Good initiative, and a pat on the back for the corporation authorities responsible for these plantings — in the midst of all the flak for cutting down trees.

The pleasant mood gets extended as I read reports about a pourakarmika named Lakshmamma, figuring among the winners of the Namma Bengaluru awards this year. Working for wages that are scandalously low, she nonetheless refuses to blame citizens for littering (if citizens did not litter so thoughtlessly, would our streets be full of so much trash?) and goes about cleaning the area that her duty extends over.

There are, doubtless, many more pourakarmikas like her, who tirelessly sweep what passersby toss callously over their shoulders, but not many of us make the effort to give them a pat on the back or nominate them for recognition.

This year’s Namma Bengaluru Award winners. Pic: Abhishek Angad

This woman being given an award worth Rs one lakh , is particularly heartwarming when seen along with the list of last year’s winners – the corporation commissioner figured among those honoured, and that did generate some caustic comments from residents.

At least one other winner said, angrily, "I felt like returning the award, because of the farce of including the commissioner as an awardee". A spokesperson of the Namma Bengaluru foundation explained that the award was actually meant for one particular ward where "good work" was being done, but protocol demanded that when the commissioner was present, he should receive the award, not the ward representative.

OK, but why did the person who was chosen for "good work" not acknowledged? What message does this send out to other "good workers" if their work results in some higher authority taking credit?

Take a poll, any day, any time, anywhere around the city, from residents or visitors, and you will get an earful of caustic comments about "garbage everywhere, pavements becoming threats to pedestrians, rubble from dug up roads, bus stops shifted arbitrarily due to prolonged underpass and other construction work, perennial traffic jams, the city going to the dogs". Not a day, literally not a day, passes without news reports of some scam or the other, from the BBMP. The credibility of the awards got restored somewhat, with the inclusion of Lakshamma among this year’s winners.

It does seem to be a fortnight for handing out bouquets – I have just received news that persistence by a group of RWAs (residents’ welfare associations) has resulted in Katriguppe corporator Venkatesha Murthy being prevented from appropriating, illegally, 7 sites for himself and his family. Hearing that he was being proposed for the post of mayor by the ruling party, the RWAs went to the police, and despite threats, have won an assurance that the land appropriation will not be allowed.

Perhaps this will enthuse other groups around the city, to persist, and not let corrupt deals pass unchallenged. It is after all, namma ooru.

Tailpiece

Stop the press! Having just heard from a reliable source, a RWA representative, that an extra  2% rebate is available for property owners who have installed rainwater harvesting, I tried checking with BBMP. There has been no response. I checked also with a stream of citizens heading towards the BBMP counter for paying their dues, and not one of them knew about this additional rebate. The rebate has not been publicised through the media, and the BBMP website does not mention anything either. Which means those who have already paid up, get penalised, for no fault of theirs (or, for being prompt and law abiding). Another case of a ‘service organisation’ trying to hide information so that citizens will not claim their entitlements? Time for brickbats.

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