Citizens’ Charter presented to Bangalore MLAs

The event organised by Namma Bengaluru Foundation saw the presence of only half the MLAs in the city, out of 28. The scheduled interaction did not take place as the programme started late.

H S Doreswamy inaugurating the event. Ministers Ramalinga Reddy and Dinesh Gundu Rao too are seen. Pic: Kedar Nadella

Namma Bengaluru Foundation (NBF) which spearheaded the campaign ‘Govern Right, Govern Responsibly’ presented the citizen’s manifesto to the newly elected 28 MLAs on 7th June 2013, at the Town hall. This manifesto/charter gives voice to the woes of Bengaluru’s citizens and also outlines their demands and suggestions about what should be done for the betterment of the city.  

The charter was formed after days of discussions and deliberations with more than 300 Residents Welfare Associations and various citizen groups who categorised the possible solutions to their problems under three fundamental sections: Transparency and accountability in the use of public money; Planning, development and maintenance of existing infrastructure;  Responsive public services.

Mahalakshmi Parthasarathy, Director, NBF informed the gathering that, the Foundation which had already established the spirit of citizen-government partnership with Namma Bengaluru awards will take it a step ahead with this charter. “The NBF and RWAs have resolved that we will not allow exploitation of the city or its resources. We will perform the role of a watchdog for the next five years and bring out timely appraisals and report cards about the performances of civic agencies and the MLAs,” she said. She affirmed that this campaign will not hesitate to take up the role of an activist to ensure that the people’s voice is heard.

MLAs speak:

Laying proper roads and setting up of parks is my main agenda. There are a lot of lakes in my area and their cleaning and revival is also something I intend to do. I want to do everything possible for my constituency. And then, lights. Because the population has increased today and they face a lot of difficulties once it gets dark. There a lot more things we want to do. Some roads suffer from a lot of traffic congestion, so these have to be widened. My top priority right now is the provision of basic needs. I know 100% what my job is and I will do it well. I’m the MLA of my constituency and the Corporator of my ward. I’ve brought about last 50 years’ worth of development in my ward in just the last five years. And the best gift of acknowledgement that the people could give me was through their votes. During elections I didn’t even step into my own ward but still people voted. Why? Simply, because of my work.

Munirathna, MLA, Rajarajeshwarinagar Constituency

I’ll let you know what I want to do for my constituency after a few days. There are a few basic plans, of course. It is a backward area. Lot of development has to happen. There are a lot of people who are poor and deprived, not to mention the slums. There is widespread water problem too. The charter what is presented to us may have different demands but my main concern is the poor class. They need hospitals. It’s not that we don’t have hospitals. But they do not have the financial capacity to go there and get treated. So I have plans to build more government hospitals and have also spoken to the Health Minister in this regard. I want all poor children to be educated too. I want to encourage them to get into the government schools and study hard.

B A Basavaraj, MLA, K R Puram Constituency

Today Bangalore must develop and make progress in various aspects. And I don’t believe that the elected representatives can do this all by themselves. We need to work with the citizens, the officials and the administrators to bring about wholesome development. Firstly, we need to bring transparency in the administration. We must make sure that people get access to all the information they need. Every work we take up should be done in a democratic manner. We should look into what the citizens need, what their requirements or demands are and give them priority. Whatever projects we take up, we should rethink and see if it really is required. Even in the last 5 years we all worked in unison so there were no problems at all. I’m confident about that this time too. Because each time we worked we consulted citizen groups before that. During elections everyone has to work according to what their party demands. But after elections we work for and with the people.

Ravi Subramanya, MLA, Basavanagudi Constituency

All they have asked us of is what we usually do. They just talk because they want to. What we can do, the work that is possible in reality, we will do it for sure. What we can’t do, even if people put pressure on us, how will it materialize? What can be worked, will be worked on. What can happen, will happen. For example the garbage work, is it enough if only we work? People also need to get involved in that. So it’s a good beginning, but let us see. Further on we can get together and maybe do much better things.

N A Haris, MLA, Shantinagar Constituency

Already I have interacted with the welfare associations in my constituency and whatever suggestions they give have all been taken into account and worked upon. I’m in constant touch with them. However, I have not been able to meet their expectations completely. They have given some important suggestions pertaining to the the development of Bangalore. We will look into them, discuss them with the government and the BBMP and see that more work will be taken up. All of them cannot be done immediately or completely. Because some projects will be long term and some will be short term. Short term projects we can start with immediately however the government will decide about the long term projects because they will involve policy matters. But nothing is impossible.

S R  Vishwanath, MLA, Yelahanka Constituency

We can’t promise immediate change just because of the charter. But we will take up their suggestions and work on it. But you see, till people realize that it is also their work and they have to be a part of it, any amount of development we try to bring about will not work. For instance, if the stone that covers the drain in front of your house is broken, then you call BBMP. But no one thinks that his is my house, my frontyard, my work and I should rectify it. If everybody does their own work then you won’t need any BBMP or MLA. People must also change themselves, their mentality. We will for them, no doubt. But if they too could start owning responsibility for their work then the problems will come down drastically is what I mean.

B Shivanna, MLA, Anekal Constituency

N S Mukunda, President, Citizen’s Action Forum, highlighted the specific actions as mentioned in the charter to the 14 out of 28 MLAs who participated in the event. He stressed on the significance and need for citizen’s participation. “We have solutions for the problems but they don’t. I bet you they will not solve either the garbage or water problems,” he told the gathering, referring to the MLAs.

Ramalinga Reddy, Transport Minister and the MLA of BTM Layout and Dinesh Gundu Rao, Food and Civil Supplies Minister and the MLA of Gandhinagar, were among the present.

H S Doreswamy addressing the gathering Pic: Kedar Nadella

H S Doreswamy, the nonagenarian freedom fighter came down hard on the MLAs at the event. When called upon to speak, he bombarded the MLAs with questions regarding traffic congestion, air pollution, water shortage and its conservation.  He advised them to work in unison towards the development in Bangalore.

“The state should be governed as per rule of law,” he said. He also questioned about how much of the state’s expenditure is really meeting the needs of the people. He suggested that the government keep the interests of the poor in mind when they take up any work, and keep the expenditure in check. “We want all kinds of development but whom for? Don’t the poor have the right to live too?” he asked. He also suggested that a street be allotted solely for roadside vendors and hawkers so they can continue working in peace and the government can widen any roads they wish to.

Ramalinga Reddy in his address acknowledged the remarks made by H S Doreswamy. Among the problems that he felt were bothering Bangalore were garbage disposal, traffic congestion, lack of potable/drinking water. “It hadn’t been a problem earlier but since the last one year the produce of waste has gone much higher. We have begun tackling the problem and are planning to execute corrective measures about waste disposal. But citizens share equal responsibility when it comes to waste management. Even they should be aware about the problem and about how they deal with the waste generated. Unless that happens, none of our plans will work effectively,” he added.

Commenting on the state of Bangalore traffic, he said: “The onus of reducing traffic falls on the people too. Probably the Metro will also aid in decreasing the traffic menace.”

About illegal constructions and acquisition of government property he said, “None of the ministers or MLAs, be they from Congress or BJP, have any problems with taking action on those who have violated the rules and razing the buildings down. But when there are so many people living there, how can we do it?” He committed himself to serve for the betterment of the city and make it an ideal place to live in.

Town hall packed with audience Pic: Kedar Nadella

MLAs who attended the event
Ramalinga Reddy, BTM Layout (INC)
Dinesh Gundu Rao, Gandhinagar (INC)
S Suresh Kumar, Rajajinagar (BJP)
B N VIjayakumar, Jayanagar (BJP)
R Roshan Baig, Shivajinagar (INC)
B A Basavaraj, K R Pura (INC)
S T Somashekhar, Yeshwanthpur (INC)
N A Haris, Shantinagar (INC)
B Shivanna, Anekal (INC)
S R Vishwanath, Yelahanka (BJP)
Ravi Subrahmanya L A, Basavanagudi (BJP)
R Jagadeesh Kumar, Hebbal (BJP)
Munirathna, Rajarajeshwarinagar (INC)
Krishna Byregowda, Byatarayanapura (INC)

The event was concluded by Kathayayini Chamaraj, RWA member and Executive Trustee, CIVIC who pointed at the dichotomous identity of the city which divides it into Bengaluru and Bangalore. She said that the development in the city is pro-rich. “The urban poor are not even acknowledged in our development plans. We need to eliminate this partial development.” She also raised the issue of land encroachment which is not only done by the poor but even the rich and emphasised that strict actions should be taken against them too.

Talking about the right of the footpath vendors, she suggested that the government should focus more on ‘The Right To Livelihood Than The Right To Drive a Private Car.’ She endorsed Doreswamy’s suggestion to provide a separate road for the street vendors and asserted that the eviction of people from the slums should only be done after “prior informed consent” and must keep in view all the human rights.

Residents and representatives of RWAs, on the other hand, were disappointed by the event. The interaction session with the MLAs they were looking forward to was cancelled due to time constraint and the delay in starting the programme.

‘No interaction; but will follow up’

It’s a good initiative by Namma Bengaluru because off-late we have lost trust on our politicians. And even if they do something good we always suspect them so we need to actually have a healthy relationship. Whenever there is a meeting between the politicians and the people, the first thing is we start with an argument or by pricking them with our comments and complaints, instead by starting on a friendly note we can speak better.
The best thing is to call your MLA home, discuss with them one-on-one and ask for what you want and get it done. And today we all came here to tell them that, ‘We’re together. We’re united and you cannot overlook us.’

Nirmala Venkatesh, President, RWA, Kumara Park West

We wanted the interaction part. But it seemed like everyone was in a hurry so even before someone could conclude the event properly, the MLAs got up and left. The programme was supposed to start at 3pm which it didn’t. I think people only started coming in by 3.30pm. So they should at least take the citizens and the associations seriously, right? And yes, it would really have been better had we given them the charter a little in advance. See, the manifesto was given to them at the tail end of the programme and you could see that instead of listening to the speaker on-stage the MLAs were browsing through it and some did not even have the courtesy to open it. So probably there has been in a lapse in planning from our side also. Of course, we will follow it up with them. We have put in lot many hours to form this manifesto and we don’t want all our attempts to go waste.

M L Anupama Reddy, Member, RWA, K R Puram and Founder, Anubandha, NGO

It more or less fulfilled our basic requirements but one thing is that, unless we take it forward by organising meetings with the local MLAs and people and institute the practice of conducting quarterly meetings then its purpose is lost. If we do it it’s worth it. The next time, we should give it a week in advance so they come prepared to answer questions. But we have made a beginning and hope to keep it up.

– N S Mukunda, President, Citizen’s Action Forum

It was good in a way because we did get the attendance from the ministers. We had the Minister-in-charge who actually spoke for the city. And since he is the minister for our city, he is in power to do a lot for us and we can take that with a lot of seriousness. He has assured us that the doors at Vidhana Soudha are open for this platform as well as the fact that he can also meet us at his constituency. That’s a good beginning actually.

Mahalakshmi Parthasarathy, President, Namma Bengaluru Foundation

As the charter was presented towards the end of the programme, none of the MLAs had the time to go through the booklet. Most just browsed through it. Cabinet ministers, Ramalinga Reddy and Dinesh Gundu Rao and Suresh Kumar, MLA, Rajajinagar constituency requested some time to go through the manifesto before they could comment on its contents. Some others, however, clarified their plans and the impact the manifesto could have on these plans.   

“We can’t promise immediate change just because of the charter. But we will take up their suggestions and work on it,” said B Shivanna, MLA, Anekal Constituency.

Ravi Subrahmanya, MLA, Basavanagudi Constituency, was confident that development will happen only with the help of citizens’ involvement. He said:We need to work with the citizens, the officials and the administrators to bring about wholesome development.

Mahalakshmi expressed satisfaction about the participation of the people as well as ministers who showed that they really care about their city. She said, “This is a good beginning actually. It’s only been a few weeks since they have been elected. We have to give them time. That is the reason we have done this charter as an initial document where we just flagged off issues that can be taken up. We have to get into specifics now. They have spoken about acts that will govern the whole city. So we have to work with them to an extent too.”

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