A little activism, a little politics

The High Court has ruled in favour of the citizens in the Agara-sirisi corridor project. The order essentially says ‘hear them out,’ to the State and BDA.

For the moment, the order comes as relief to thousands of Koramangala residents who have fought a prolonged battle for almost a year and a little too late for the numerous trees that were surreptitiously cut, even before the project formally took off.

The Rs 119 crores project at four junctions – Jakkasandra (flyover), Koramangala 80 feet road (underpass), Krupanidhi College (underpass) and St John’s hospital-Koramangala 100 feet road junction (flyover and underpass), kicked off without a single Koramangala resident’s consent.

People of Bengaluru are used to the high handed way most of the infrastructure projects are implemented. The protests, be it against Metro or Sankey road’s widening, have largely been ignored by the corridor of powers.

For months, the Koramangala residents screamed hoarse about the impracticality of the entire project. They dug up documents that showed lack of planning, distortion of facts and bore the brunt official apathy.

The then BDA commissioner, and CM both assured citizens of a fair hearing; only, the residents woke up to dug up roads and cut trees in the morning. Most of government action happened at midnight. Fed up, the residents hired security guards to keep watch.

With this verdict, Koramangala residents have had their way. Persistence is just one aspect that paid off. Little bit of political clout in the form of MP Rajeev Chandrashekar’s backing, did go a long way in the fight.

For years activists and concerned citizens have pushed for area sabhas, to ensure citizen participation but what they got was a watered down version, with the power to take local decisions still lying exclusively with elected representatives and bureaucrats. Of course, even the watered down area sabha bill hasn’t seen the light of the day.

It is a shame that citizens have to hold dharnas and ask the courts to intervene to be heard in a democracy. The hope though is that this will set a precedent of a new kind, where the government realises that residents won’t take it quietly.

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