If you have been in Cubbon Park opposite the Bangalore Press Club entrance between 2.00 PM and 4.00 PM on the month’s last Saturday, you have probably noticed a group of around fifteen or twenty people discussing the RTI Act (Right to Information) and relevant laws. This could be the free RTI clinic that several Civil Society Organizations (CSO’s) in Bangalore like the South India Cell for Human Rights Education and Monitoring (SICHREM), Urban Research Centre (URC), Centre for Advocacy and Research (CFAR), OpenSpace, Mahiti Hakku Adhyayana Kendra (MHAK), Anti Corruption Forum (ACF) et al, have been organizing jointly since May 2009. The purpose is to share successes in using the RTI Act especially in public interest and also highlight some important sections and facts about the legislation with anyone who is concerned.
The cases that figured in the session on 28th March 2010 included one on the policy of adopting public parks in Bangalore under the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model. This is based on the "Adopt-A-Park" scheme that the BBMP introduced in the year 2000 to encourage private organizations, Residents Welfare Associations (RWA’s), educational institutions, community groups, etc. to partner with the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) in maintaining parks detailed in the BBMP’s Horticulture Services Guide.
Finding a low level public park in Sadashivnagar ward no. 35, charging an entry fee, Mallikarjun L. S., a local resident, wrote many letters to the BBMP between September 2009 and January 2010, to know why. Receiving no reply, he filed an RTI application to the BBMP in February 2010. In response, the Joint Director, Horticulture, BBMP, disclosed that the park in Sadashivnagar was given to the Sadashivnagar Residents Welfare Association (SRWA) under an adoption contract, for the years 2000-03 and 2006-09. The Terms and Conditions of this contract clearly mention that the adopted park should be developed and maintained by the adoptee, at its own cost and in turn its name shall be displayed at a prominent place in the park. Totally 34 parks within BBMP limits have been adopted out under similar contracts to other entities. 33 of these parks are developed and maintained at the cost of the adoptees with no entry fee to the public. The only exception is this low level park in Sadashivnagar.
Further, according to Mallikarjun, during the adoption tenure, an open air stage was planned and built unscientifically in this low level park, under the Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS). Due to the requirement of the audience seating facility for the performers on the platform, the water-logging area was filled up with earth. Play equipment for children was also installed under the MPLADS but their entry is curtailed by levying entry fees of Rs. 4.00 on weekends and public holidays and Rs. 3.00 on weekdays for kids above 3 years.
Investigating the accounts of the park’s adopter, the SWRA, Mallikarjun and other residents learnt that the body has not transferred the excess gate collection of six lakh rupees generated from this park to the BBMP’s Horticulture department. They believe that the BBMP has failed to stop the SRWA’s misdeeds and malpractices with regards to the Sadashivnagar low level park that the latter has adopted since the year 2000. Additionally, although the adoption contract expired on 17th November, 2009 and has not been renewed yet, the SRWA is uninterruptedly charging an entry fee for using the park from the public including small children, which is unauthorized.
Due the BBMP’s continued silence and inaction, in mid March 2010, Mallikarjun forwarded his earlier letters to the BBMP and the Horticulture department’s response to the Chief Minister of Karnataka and the state’s governor requesting them to intervene. He has appealed to them to demonstrate that the government is not negligent in preserving its resources and in maintaining the public character of such parks and that, children below twelve must be able to utilize this public park in a justified and hassle free manner. He plans to seek justice through appropriate legal forums if the state fails to respond favourably.
For guidance and training on the RTI Act, one can contact the following persons:
R. Manohar (SICHREM) : 95350-37596
Anand S. (ACF) : 92410-12730
K. Sudha (CFAR) : 94820-50981
Vikram Simha (MHAK) : 98860-20774