Two teams, one aim: citizen activism in Malleshwaram

There's no alternative to getting out of homes, if one wants to connect with the neighbourhood and neighbours. These teams are doing just that.

In the last few years, citizen-led movements in Bengaluru have garnered major headlines for various success stories as they took on governments and made the administration work a little more effectively. But the tradition of community groups working towards making their city a better place is an old one in Malleshwaram.

Rekha Chari of Malleshwaram Swambhimana Initiative (MSI) and Suchitra Deep of Malleshwaram Social chatted with Citizen Matters on a Facebook Live, on the journey of the two groups, the hurdles of running a community group at a time when neighbours aren’t aware of each other and the various mediums that can be used to engage with citizens.

Rekha who works with MSI narrated the story of how four women, all of whom are now in their very sprightly 80s, started MSI in response to the problem of garbage in 1998, 20 years ago. “The irony of the situation is that, 20 years later, we are still fighting for the same issue,” chuckles Rekha.

But while MSI was started in response to a specific problem and started working in the civic space since its inception, Malleshwaram Social which is just two years old was started with the aim of making people meet their neighbours more often. “People should know each other! But once people got together and got talking, we realised that we were all facing the same problems… so it seemed natural to get into that space,” said Suchitra.

However the groups don’t see each other as competition. While MSI is a registered body with a governing council, Malleshwaram Social is still an informal group. The two ladies feel that they are more complementary than competitors. “Whenever we need the backing of a more formal setting MSI is right there” says Suchitra.

However their approaches, they admit, differ from each other. While MSI is still old school in engaging with the citizens, Malleshwaram Social made waves around the city when their video “footpath beku” went viral.

But neither of them has a fail-safe method of engaging with the regular citizen. “The only thing you can do when you start a community group is to not be afraid and just go ahead. You can’t let the idea of failure deter you,” says Suchitra.

Rekha, on the other hand, has some advice for people who should be part of citizen groups. “Come out of your home. Take care of just the lane that is in front of your home. That’s all,” she says, while Suchitra nods her head in absolute agreement.

Note: The FB Live was conducted by Manasi Pareshkumar on behalf of Citizen Matters.

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