Different citizens, different energies

As stewards of this local publication, we are often at the intersection of a variety of public voices, energies and attitudes. This fortnight, we’ll present to you three different sides to one larger emerging story.

One, is the usual scenario of frustration. The unending delays and ubiquitous inefficiency in any public works projects appears to draw only a feeble response.

The pushy few complain that their fellow citizens are full of apathy. The only pressure citizens appear to able to put on local authorities is repeated phone calls, and a closeddoor meeting or two. There are isolated successes, and life moves on. Ultimately, the lack of accountability of our officials shows up most visibly in these projects, and this is the deeper malaise everyone understands.

In direct contrast to this is the work of the chief minister’s elite brigade, the ABIDe task force. Striking at at least one part of the problem, the committee has proposed a comprehensive law for Bangalore. The law will bring to life a new metropolitan elected authority to democratise and coordinate planning, taking such powers out of the BDA and BMRDA, and truly decentralise local powers to elected neighbourhood citizen committees, claim its drafters. They also claim that local accountability will improve.

So, shouldn’t we look forward to it then? Well, take pause. Reactions to the draft legislation have been mixed – from ones of support to some in anger. Read Supriya Khandekar’s article in this issue for more.

In the meantime, a small group of energetic and neversay-die citizens decided they will not wait for this stream of reform energy to trickle down. With the state government having issued an ordinance to allow a part of Lalbagh to be used for the Metro and tree cutting going on within the park, the green group Hasiru Usiru has charted a spirited campaign to stop this.

This network of lawyers, architects, infotech professionals, students, NGOs has responded to government machinary step for step, move for legal move. On Thursday May 7th, their arguments led the High Court of Karnataka to issue a stay on Metro work inside Lalbagh and the Lakshman Rao Road. The courts may yet lean towards the Metro, but governance law or otherwise, the citizens have pushed back hard.

What’s in store? Plenty. Stay tuned.

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