Bengaluru

2018 sees citizen campaign victories in Bengaluru

Members of Citizens for Bengaluru holding Placards saying Concrete Saaku, Chuku Buku Beku infront of the Chief Ministers Office Krishna in Bengaluru.

Members of Citizens for Bengaluru holding Placards saying Concrete Saaku, Chuku Buku Beku infront of the Chief Ministers Office Krishna in Bengaluru.   | Photo Credit: Sampath Kumar G P

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For citizens of the city, if their collective voice made an impact in halting the steel flyover proposals in 2017, the past year has seen them continue to champion many causes. The consequence was a larger role for citizens in governance, the culmination of a decades-long fight for rights, a Supreme Court case against pollutants and even stopping of mining around the city’s most important wildlife space. Citizens have shown in 2018 that results are indeed possible through collective action.

Ward committees

What if citizens could be the eyes, ears and voice for local governance? This was the idea successfully pushed by Citizens for Bengaluru (CfB), a citizens’ group, who lobbied with the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) to ensure that Ward Committee meetings are held regularly. Following a Karnataka High Court order, the Ward Committees were instituted, but meetings were not being convened regularly.

The group even got city Mayor Gangambike Mallikarjun to issue a direction about holding Ward Committee meetings on the first Saturday of every month. After CfB successful campaign, Ward Committee meetings were held in 68 of 198 wards on December 1.

“It has been heartening to see that the meetings of the ward committees have begun and local issues are being discussed at the ward level. Our volunteers continue to call councillors to ask for the meetings, and also reach out to residents to attend these meetings,” said Srinivas Alavilli, co-founder of CfB.

The first series of ward committee meetings were held in December and CfB held a campaign #NammaSamitiNamagaagi in the run upto the meetings. “In several wards, councillors are inviting active citizens to be special invitees for the ward committee meetings,” he said. The minutes of these meetings find a place in the BBMP website.

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LGBTQ

On September 6, 2018, a landmark moment descended on the country, particularly for the highly-marginalised sexual-minority community. The Supreme Court passed a judgement decriminalising homosexuality and even sought forgiveness from the LGBTQ (Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) community for their “brutal” suppression.

As the judgment reverberated outwards from Delhi, for Bengaluru-based transgender activist Akkai Padmashali it was the culmination of the decades-long fight against Section 377. Ms. Padmashali was also one of the petitioners before the Supreme Court regarding this issue.

“It was relief when the court said that I am not a criminal any more. It was heartening to note that the only morality that should be practised is constitutional morality,” she said.

She placed her petition before the court as she felt that someone from here had to take responsibility for the problems of the community. “Automatically” this responsibility fell on her. But, there is much more work ahead, particularly in ensuring that the judgment is implemented in letter and spirit and to change the discourse, which often villifies the community, in society.

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Graphite India

The citizen’s group that has grabbed a lot of eyeballs this year has been Whitefield Rising for the work that the continuous campaigning they have done against Graphite India Ltd (GIL) and their involvement in the rejuvenation - particularly, their suggestions and complaints to the National Green Tribunal-appointed committee - of Bellandur and Varthur lakes.

While much work is left for the lakes, this year, citizens had a significant victory in their fight against pollution from GIL’s factory in the heart of Whitefield.

The legal fight against the 50-year-old factory was on through various forums for two decades, but earlier this year, lawyers for the group appended the case of the factory when the Supreme Court was hearing a case on Pet Coke. Expert committees were sent to Whitefield to inspect the factory, and by October-end, the court directed the factory to pay ₹50 lakh as compensation under the ‘polluter pays’ principle.

“Citizens played a very important role campaigning for change in these issues as we had got no help from the authorities and there was a lack of accountability for a long time,” said Zibi Jamal of Whitefield Rising. Apart from this, the group has themselves established 10 air pollution monitoring units in the area.

Bannerghatta Mining

Bannerghatta National Park has been under assault from urbanisation and mining for many years. But in 2018, citizens decided they had enough. Months of campaigning and reaching out to political leaders - including Union Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan - saw officials stepping in and closing five mines.

After the campaign spearheaded by Vijay Nishanth and citizen groups such as United Bengaluru, the Union Ministry issued a letter stating that there can be no mining within a 10-km radius of the park until the final eco-sensitive zone was notified. By September, the Department of mines and geology had closed mines that were within 1-km from the border.

“We were shocked to see the vehicular movement in the park which had affected the flora and fauna and changed the landscape of the park. After the closure, wildlife has returned,” says Mr. Nishanth.

Citizens, who have been made aware of the problems of the BNP, will also be key in opposing the draft notification that will trim the eco-sensitive zone around the park by 100 sq.km. Over 45,000 signatures opposing the proposal have dotted online petitions.

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2020 11:52:53 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/bangalore/2018-sees-citizen-campaign-victories-in-bengaluru/article25872274.ece

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