Govt tries to curb BMTF powers p 4 Indira Nagar park site given to a private club p 11 CAG’s latest bag of exposes p 13 EWS flats exist but not for Ejipura evictees p 14 What’s the point of dissecting the state budget? p 19
What makes Bangalore unsafe for walkers p 23 “We women know what we want. It is the men who should be here” p 26 From a tiny village: Bellandur’s century of change p 28 Loved by butterflies & parasites! p 32
Citizen Matters Local news like no one else does
How Manyata Tech Park got hundreds of acres
What makes Bangalore unsafe for walkers
Big names try to change the elections game
A chicken dare not cross road in Bangalore ! I wrote to TIME magazine in 2002 with this heading about this problem when I moved here from Mumbai. The letter did get published ! I have written about this in newspapers and citizen matters several times.The problem has only gotten worse with time.
If this clicks it will really do wonders to the society.the candidates history should be scrutinized and published by B.P.A.C.MEMBERS well before the election.the scrutiny members should be held responsible in the case of any misleading information of the candidate.
How Manyata Tech Park got hundreds of acres
Big names try to change the elections game
Ms.Navya, THANKS TO CAG. Excellent write up. Let the Government and the affected farmers wake up and inquire about the entire sordid drama of foolchand and company by Lokayukta, CBI, Enforcement directorate and Income tax investigation wing.
This is a good initiative. In fact long overdue, considering the gap between the high literacy rate and the low levels satisfaction (report cards of the PAC) of the public with the city goverment. Dissatisfaction on governance in an educated society leads to formation of such institutions which will demand accountability from the
government, and also will support good initiatives, which appears to be the agenda of BPAC. The three critical and relevant factors will be: 1. Transparency in its functioning: The accounts and activities should be online, real-time, so that its credibility is not questioned. 2. A democratic way of decision making, involving cross section of the society, not only the ‘successful’. 3. Engage the government persistently, specifically and vociferously. My two cents. Manivannan
From a tiny village: Bellandur’s century of change Really enjoyed both the contents and the narration. If each of us delves into his neighbourhood as the author does... Palahalli Vishwanath
Be a Citizen Journalist! www.citizenmatters .in WRITE ARTICLES on problems you face, ideas you propose, local events you organise or attend and your experiences in day-today living in the city. SUBMIT ALERTS on issues SHARE EVENTS that your COMMENT & DISCUSS on that need to be investigated. neighbours may like to attend. whatever matters to you. Submit your articles online at
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This is your own community newsmagazine. A forum for topics that matter to you. All about your city, your neighbourhood, your concerns and your initiatives.
Come on, Time to get involved!
CITIZEN MATTERS 3
City news THE DETAILS OF STATE VS BMTF SAGA
Govt tries to curb BMTF powers and fails, again As biggies get booked by the Bangalore Metropolitan Task Force, and Urban Development Dept and Home Dept issue contradictory notifications, BMTF continues to function -- with constant interruptions.
BMTF Office located at BBMP Office. Pic courtesy: bmtf.gov.in
ver since the Bangalore city), is an accused in a criminal Metropolitan Task Force case filed by BMTF. So is Bharat Lal (BMTF) started functioning more Meena, Principal Secretary at UDD actively, especially after current now. Suresh Kumar was booked for chief Rajvir Sharma took over, the state government has been denotifying land that was meant for at loggerheads with it. Its latest EWS (Economically Weaker Section) attempt to cut down BMTF's powers quarters, to favour an individual. As has gone awry, and has become UDD Minister, Kumar's jurisdiction another embarrassment for the excludes Bangalore; UDD matters in Bangalore come directly under government. BMTF is a police force which Chief Minister Jagdish Shettar. can investigate grabbing of public Meena was accused of widening a land, and building violations, in road to help DLF and Hiranandani Bangalore Metropolitan Area. It can builders develop a project. The UDD order said book cases against that BMTF was formed government officers only to protect land, who abet such crimes. but it was exceeding It can also file criminal its jurisdiction by cases on associated filing cases under IPC. crimes, like document BMTF actually has fabrication. powers under 12 Acts, On February such Karnataka Land 2nd, Karnataka's Rajvir Sharma Revenue Act, BDA Act, Urban Development KMC (Karnataka Municipal Department (UDD) issued an order saying that the BMTF cannot Corporation) Act, IPC, Karnataka file criminal cases against culprits Police Act etc. The order said that BMTF cannot anymore. Suresh Kumar, minister in charge of UDD (excluding Bangalore act under these 12, but only five 4 CITIZEN MATTERS
acts that are specifically on land protection. With this, BMTF would have had to stop investigation of many of its existing cases, and file further cases only under civil laws. The penalty for land grab/abetment as per these laws is 1-3 years in prison and fines.
Next, Ashoka's Home Department steps in But on February 6th, Home Department issued a notification saying that BMTF did indeed have police powers. It does not refer to the UDD order at all, but only says that BMTF is a police station that can act under all 12 Acts. It clarifies the sections of IPC that BMTF can use, to book cases. A senior BMTF officer says that these sections are the same that BMTF is using now, to file cases. In effect, nothing has changed for BMTF - its powers remain the same. While BMTF was formed in â€˜96 by the UDD to protect public property, its police powers was given by the Home Department the same year. The government orders at the time say that police powers were given,
city news to book cases. BMTF had booked the meeting," says Sharma. BMTF Bharat Lal Meena under KTCP sends details of all cases routinely to Left hand knows not what the Act. Pradeep Singh Kharola, who the government. "If there was a concern with is now Principal Secretary to CM, right hand does and former BBMP Administrator the stays, government should Officers at both the UDD and K M Shivakumar are other biggies have gotten BMTF, home and law department to do an analysis. If the the Home department are not booked under this Act. The order also says that BMTF issue was valid, the cases could be keen on talking about the mess. UDD Undersecretary N Gopalaiah, was ‘encroaching' on the powers of transferred," says Sharma. The UDD who had signed the February 2nd other police stations by filing cases order said nothing on transferring order, says that he does not know under the IPC. The BMTF senior of cases, but only wanted about the issue. "The directions officer is agitated when he says, "If investigations to be stopped. we are investigating Advocate General S Vijay Shankar come from Chief a land grab case and did not respond to questions by Minister and I only find other offences, we Citizen Matters over email. sign it. I don't know if have to file cases for the Home notification BMTF not worried that. Otherwise who supersedes our order," will investigate those he says. The senior BMTF officer (quoted aspects? It cannot be first) says that government cannot On the other hand, transferred to anyone take away BMTF's powers, whether Sujothy Muthanna, else. If we let go of it likes it or not. He says that there Additional Secretary Suresh Kumar those offences, it will is no such thing as a ‘special police at Home Department, only benefit the culprits." says that she cannot station' anyway. UDD also uses a High Court comment on the UDD order. She All police stations - including clarifies that BMTF can act under order of ‘97 which says that BMTF BMTF - are formed under the CrPC the IPC sections mentioned in the cannot file cases under the IPC (Criminal Procedure Code), which is Home notification. "BMTF comes alone. But it was after this order that a central government act. "Section under UDD and reports to UDD, but the Home department 156(2) of the CrPC says had a in terms of its police powers it is up issued that a police station to the Home Department to decide," notification in 2002, can investigate any which clarified that she says. offence coming under A senior BMTF officer said that BMTF had the powers its jurisdiction. It's only they had written to the Home of a general police police's training or department about the UDD order. station. Meaning, it intelligence wing that Even before the Home notification could file cases under are exceptions to this." came, Rajvir Sharma of BMTF had any offence. He says that a state told Citizen Matters that the UDD government cannot Bharat Lal Meena Accused get stays, order itself was invalid and could override a central not be followed. According to law, govt does not clear them law, and hence cannot cut down only the department that issued UDD order also says that, powers. "The only way government the initial notification can modify it, because cases are booked under can reduce BMTF's powers would Sharma had pointed out. IPC alone, court has given stays in be to shut it down completely. UDD order could have benefited many BMTF cases. Rajvir Sharma of Government can shut down BMTF BMTF says that government never or Lokayukta - but it is unlikely to do accused gave any hint of this aspect to BMTF, this as they will lose face," he says. The UDD order is carefully and that the stays are only interim The officer is frazzled about BMTF having to deal with interruptions, crafted, giving many reasons for orders anyway. "I had written to the Advocate but for now, there is no worry about why BMTF should not have powers. It is easy to see how this order would General 5-6 months ago to get the losing powers. stays vacated, but there has been no have benefitted many accused. Navya P K is Senior Staff The order says that BMTF has no response. I had also requested for a Journalist at Citizen Matters powers to use the KTCP (Karnataka meeting with the Chief Secretary on Town and Country Planning) Act this aspect, and I am still waiting for so that BMTF can effectively do its job.
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6 CITIZEN MATTERS
In Focus 3 STORIES FROM CAG REPORT - PART 1
How Manyata Tech Park got
hundreds of acres The CAG report explains how the developer got public land in chunks - of 99, 27 and 43 acres, much of it through illegal and improper actions of KIADB and BDA and various state governments.
he recent report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has exposed that Manyata Tech Park in Hebbal had illegally grabbed majority of its land. The tech park is a mixed development project spread across about 300 acres. Of this, over 160 acres was public land which Manyata Developers got from different government agencies, though there was no provision for this. Manyata Developers is a real estate company based in Bangalore, headed by Reddy Veeranna. Manyata tech park has commercial spaces including a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) and mixed residential development. In this case, it is clear that the developer could not have gotten the land without some major favours from two governments, that of S M Krishna and Dharam Singh. The report, which exposes other major scams also, is now being discussed by a legislative committee. The committee has had a preliminary meeting, and has sought more time to discuss the report.
CITIZEN MATTERS 7
In Focus Manyata Embassy Business Park, an IT SEZ (Special Economic Zone) is one of the biggest tech parks in the city. The land grab saga is spread over many years, starting from the year 2000 and ending only in 2008. Overall, it got about 170 acres from government, of which only eight acres was legal. According to Manyata Developers' website, out of the total 300 acres, 88 has been used for landscaping and about 105 acres for civic amenities (roads, drainage systems etc). It got the 8 acres initially, in the year 2000, on applying for approval of IT park to the state High Level Committee, of the Department of Commerce and Industries. Manyata told the committee that it already owned 190 acres and needed only another five more. CAG report says that Manyata did not in fact own the entire 190 acres, and that this number includes the land that it expected to get from KIADB later (around 100 acres). The committee granted 8 acres based on this, and KIADB (Karnataka Industrial Areas Development Board) was asked to acquire this land and give it to Manyata. Soon after this, Manyata asked KIADB to acquire not eight, but 100 acres for the project. It said that the project was for a mixed development, including residential area. KIADB has no powers to decide on land acquisition on its own; it can only acquire land when the government asks it to. But in this case, the Board acquired over 99 acres for Manyata in Rachenahalli and Nagavara villages. So instead of the eight, the company got 99 acres. After this first illegal allotment, the next happened in 2007, of 27 acres. In 2001, the S M Krishna government had decided to acquire 130 acres for a separate biotech park planned by Manyata. In 2004, when BDA notified agricultural land for forming Arkavathy Layout, Krishna ordered that 131 acres of land should be left out of the notification and acquired on behalf of Manyata. The company's request for denotification was pending before BDA's Denotification Committee. Government's IT/BT department, which was supposed to work with Manyata on the biotech park project, informed BDA that Manyata had shelved the project. The department was going ahead with the project on its own, and needed only 50 acres to be acquired. BDA then rejected Manyata's request for denotification. But the next Chief Minister Dharam Singh came to the company's rescue. He said that IT/BT was a thrust area for government, and hence Krishna's 2004 order should be implemented. A senior officer at CAG says, on condition of anonymity, that Manyata had not mentioned the name of the project in any of the applications, but only says that it needs land for an ‘IT park'. 8 CITIZEN MATTERS
2000: Government approves 8 acres for Manyatha‘s IT park. But Manyata asks KIADB to acquire 100 acres 2000: KIADB decide on its own to oblige Manyata with about 98 acres, against its mandate 2004: BDA notifies agricultural land for forming Arkavathy Layout. S M Krishna orders that 131 acres of land should be left out and acquired on behalf of Manyata. 2006: Dharam Singh orders 60 acres to be given to Manyata. 2007: BDA finally denotifies 60 acres from Arkavathy Layout. 2008: Manyata requests 25 acres from this and another 2 acres, to get 27 acres. It also gets 43 acres from farmers whose land was originally notified by BDA and then denotified at the Governor’s recommendation.
In Focus owners went to Rameshwar Thakur, Governor at the time. Thakur recommended that 43 acres, which BDA had not acquired already, should be denotified. He said that this is in public interest, since poor farmers would be benefitted. So in May 2008, 43 acres was denotified for the sake of farmers. But the very next month, Manyata applied for a NOC (No Objection Certificate) to BDA to use these same 43 acres for a project, without giving more details of the project, in the application. The NOC was soon granted, and now Manyata had 170 acres of land for its use, as opposed to the 8 acres it was supposed to get originally. The CAG officer says, "Manyata may have made a joint development agreement or so with the farmers. Generally, there was a lack of co-ordination between different departments on what was happening. Manyata took advantage of this, and applied for land repeatedly." Manyata Developers was not available for comment, even after repeated calls and emails from Citizen â€œWe can only roar Matters. from the streets. The
What action will the government take? Manyata Techpark. Pic courtesy: manyatadevelopers.com
Dharam Singh ordered that only 60 acres needed to be given to Manyata instead of 131. Based on this, BDA finally denotified 60 acres from Arkavathy Layout, in 2007. CAG report says that, by doing this, public interest to form the layout was subjugated for the interests of a private party. Surprisingly, after all this, Manyata did not request government to acquire this entire 60 acres on its behalf, but only 25. It also asked for an additional 2 acres to be acquired separately. By now, the company had acquired 127 acres from the government illegally. The company got another 43 acres for its use a year later - this was done in a roundabout way. Soon after government denotified 60 acres for Manyata, some owners of the notified land said that they should also get this favour. Together, their land came to 49 acres; of this, BDA was yet to take possession of 43 acres in Rachenahalli and Dasarahalli villages. When government did not heed their request, these
only option is for someone to take these cases to courtâ€?
Though CAG has Narendra Babu presented the report, it MLA will take some time before any action may be taken. The report was presented in the winter session of the legislative assembly in December. Both opposition parties - Congress and JD(S) - asked for the session to be extended by a day, so that they could discuss the report. But the Speaker had turned this down, and there has been no discussions. Congress MLA Narendra Babu says that nothing could be done because of this. "We can only roar from the streets. The only option is for someone to take these cases to court," he says. But CAG reports go to Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the state legislature. PAC consists of 15 MLAs and five MLCs, and is chaired by T B Jayachandra, Congress MLA (Sira constituency) and Deputy Leader of opposition in the assembly. PAC is supposed to go through the reports para by para, identify important cases, and call the concerned Principal Secretaries of different departments for hearings. The Principal Secretaries will be asked to give explanations in each case. One or two senior members of CAG will also be present to assist PAC; they can also ask questions to 15-Feb-2013
CITIZEN MATTERS 9
Manyata Techpark masterplan. Pic courtesy: manyatadevelopers.com
Principal Secretaries. The meeting proceedings are recorded in-camera and are not open to public. So far, only one meeting has been held on the BDA report, on December 21st. The CAG officer says that this was only a preliminary meeting and not much has been discussed. PAC has sought more time to discuss the report. The number of meetings depend on the gravity of issues the scale of financial loss, impact on public interest, how contemporary the issue is etc. Sometimes, only a couple of hearings are required, but there are also those like the report on KIADB released last year. PAC had held 14-16 hearings on this report, which had indicted former Chief Minister B S Yedyurappa. M P Nadagouda of JD(U), a former PAC member, says that only 10 CITIZEN MATTERS
about one-twentieth of the report is usually chosen for discussion. "PAC consists of policy makers and hence they focus on macro level issues," says a senior bureaucrat at Vidhana Soudha. Since the proceedings are confidential, PAC members were not ready to divulge more details. PAC Chairman Jayachandra could not be reached for comment.
PAC will give its recommendations Once the hearings are over, PAC will submit a recommendation report to the government, which is a public document. This report is placed in assembly and goes to different government departments. The Vidhana Soudha officer says, "The recommendations are more like directives, and departments are supposed to implement them directly. Usually this report is not
contested in the assembly; it is accepted as is. Action does happen based on it." After some time, PAC will present an Action Taken Report (ATR) on how much of its recommendations have been implemented. If no action was taken, departments have to give explanation for this. Though assembly elections are approaching, the CAG officer is confident that all hearings on the BDA report would be completed before this. Some other cases in the report are that of Indiranagar Club and Suchitra Film Society.
Part 2 of this article: Coming soon. Navya P K is Senior Staff Journalist at Citizen Matters
In Focus The children's play equipment at Indira Nagar Club, part of a park site. Pic: Navya PK.
3 STORIES FROM CAG REPORT - PART 2
Indira Nagar park site given to a private club BDA portioned out a public site meant for a park, to the Indira Nagar Club and the Indira Nagar Sangeeth Sabha. In another case, BDA has also donated money to a trust, quite against the rules.
arks are for public use and cannot be given to private parties. But in 2005, BDA gave away 1525 sq m of park site to Indiranagar Club. This was one of the examples of illegalities by the BDA, in a recent report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG). The site, located along 7th cross road of HAL 2nd stage layout,
was adjoining the club, and is now within club premises. BDA gave the site on lease, on the condition that it will be maintained as a park, and that no permanent structures will be put up in the site. But in 2007, the club management set up a bar in a gazebo built in the site. The site was originally a civic amenity site marked for park. BDA sent two show cause notices to the club. The explanation given by the then-club President S C Burman, who was former city police commissioner, was not satisfactory and BDA cancelled the site allotment in 2008. Soon after, the club removed the bar lounge, and BDA revoked the cancellation. The site has been back with the club since then - the gazebo remains, but there is no bar.
Currently there are only some trees, the gazebo and an old children's play area in the site. The club's current President B N S Reddy says that a park is going to be developed in the site soon. Only club members can access the park. The CAG officer says, "Giving the site itself was a violation. BDA took the right step in cancelling the allotment in 2008, but again gave the site back." The club's current President B N S Reddy says that the lease conditions are not being violated now. "The lounge was there for only a few months. There are no permanent structures now." The club had paid Rs 18 lakh as lease amount for the site. "When we pay so much for the land, it is for our use. Otherwise why would we get the land for such money?"
CITIZEN MATTERS 11
The gazebo at Indira Nagar Club, part of a park site. Pic: Navya PK.
The other part of the park, which measured 713 sq m, was allotted to Indiranagar Sangeeth Sabha located adjacent to the park. BDA officials say, on condition of anonymity, that the Sabha wanted the park site to be used for parking. Sabha officials were not ready to give details to Citizen Matters about the purpose for which the site is being used now. BDA officials are also unaware of the status of this land. They say that the sites were allotted only for maintenance, like how private parties are allowed to take care of public parks. "When the club and sabha approached us directly, we had denied the application. But they were influential people, and finally we allotted the site based on orders from higherups," say BDA officials.
Film society given Rs 50 lakh concession Suchitra Film Society in Banashankari stands in a 2400 sq 12 CITIZEN MATTERS
m CA site that BDA had allotted it in 1979. At the time, the lump sum lease amount for 30 years was Rs 1.5 lakh. The lease for all CA sites should be renewed in 30 years. When the society renewed the lease in 2009, the lease amount had risen drastically, to about Rs 65 lakh. The CAG report says that the BDA reduced the lease amount to Rs 15 lakh lump sum, based on directions of then-Chief Minister B S Yedyurappa. BDA lost Rs 50 lakh this way, but in he records it was shown that BDA had donated this amount to the society for setting up a cine academy. CAG report says that there is no provision by which BDA can donate money to a private trust. Suchitra office bearers say that the society is a non-profit and could not afford to pay the full amount. Its trustee Prakash Belawadi says, "Suchitra is a cultural, not commercial, organisation. We have no income sources. It took us 6-8 months to meet many officers and
the CM, and convince them to give us the waiver. It was not easy." BDA gives no waivers in lease amounts to non-profits - regular lease rates apply to such institutions too. S C Tagore, Chairman of trust, says, "All the infrastructure is built with donations from artists and art lovers. Since none of the activities here are charged, there is no revenue source." Tagore says that Trust is in fact seeking sponsorship from the government and others, to renovate the building. The Trust also works with government to promote education, Kannada culture etc. Though government may be right in supporting non-profits, the problem here was that the way this was done, was illegal.
Navya P K is Senior Staff Journalist at Citizen Matters.
CAGâ€™s latest bag of exposes for Karnataka
The CAG's bag, full of exposes. Pic: Subramaniam Vincent.
very year, the state AG (Accountant General) prepares audit reports on state government and some of its agencies. This year's reports were presented on February 14th in the Karnataka legislative assembly. The same evening, CAG held a press conference to distribute the reports. There are five reports this time. As usual, the reports are full of CAG's exposes, all leading to loss of hundreds of crores of rupees. The reports come in a study bag, overall weighing somewhere around 7-8 kgs. A bagfull of exposes, you might
call it. Except two smaller reports, others come in books with about 200 pages each. The CAG bag had the English and Kannada copies of all these books. Accompanying each book is a booklet with summary of all chapters. These booklets also come in both languages, and also have a soft copy of the entire report attached to them. There is also a summary of all the reports, in a press brief, which the two AGs - who had prepared the reports - read out in the conference. The conference started with
one of the AGs, Anita Pattanayak, saying that the press had done a good job of covering CAG's last two reports which had some major exposes. Unlike most government press conferences, this one was well-organised and data distributed properly. Many CAG officers were present, giving details and clarifications to reporters in between. The contact details of all those attended, was collected.
Navya P K
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Many families stayed out for days initially, even though most flats in the complex were vacant. Pic: Navya P K
EWS EJIPURA EVICTION AFTERMATH
EWS flats exist but not for Ejipura The Slum Board quarters at Kudlu, off Sarjapura Road have more than a 1000 flats, mostly vacant, even as the families evicted from Ejipura who landed there, struggle to find houses. What are the Slum Boardâ€™s plans for them, then? 14 CITIZEN MATTERS
hen 900 families of Ejipura slum were thrown out last month, it was chaos for the families. While most have dispersed across the city, trying to find housing, about 55 families have moved into a Slum Board quarters in Kudlu, along Hosa Road (off Sarjapur Road). About 80 families (450-500 people) remain in the footpath near the Ejipura site as they could not afford alternate housing. Most of those who are in the Kudlu quarters, reached here by accident. They claim that supporters of MLA N A Haris (in whose constituency Ejipura falls), had dropped them off here. "During demolition, they got us into a tempo with our belongings, promising to give accommodation. We were dropped here. We do not know why they did this, as this place is meant for others," says Pinto, an Ejipura evictee. A few others from Ejipura came here later, on knowing about those who came first. There are about 200 Ejipura people here now. Some 5-6 families have managed to find houses for low rent nearby. About five families moved to another older Slum Board quarters nearby, which is already occupied, but had some houses on rent. For the remaining families, about 45 of them, finding flats in the Kudlu quarters is still an issue. The paradox is that majority of the flats here are vacant. Though this project was completed in 2011, Karnataka Slum Development Board (KSDB) is yet to allot most flats. The quarters has 1076 flats, and only 208 have been allotted so far. The current state of the quarters does not inspire much faith in Slum Board's rehabilitation programmes - allotments have lagged, basic facilities have been lacking, and it is said that flats are sold illegally. The quarters was built under JNNURM. The flats here are spread across
two complexes. One complex, with 544 flats, is for those displaced from different slums across the city. It is in this complex that Ejipura evictees are living now. H M Shashidhar, AEE at the Board in charge of the project, says that construction started here in 2009, and that allottees started staying from 2011. The 208 families staying here, include those displaced from Arasu Colony in Gandinagar (107 families), Geddalahalli near Sanjay Nagar (73), and 28 families displaced from the Board's former quarters which was in one part of the Kudlu site itself. That quarters was demolished and the land given to BWSSB to build a reservoir. Except the 73 families from Geddalahalli who came here six months back, others have been staying in the new complex since 2011, for about 1.5 years. The Board is still preparing the list of people for whom the remaining 336 flats here will be given. Shashidhar says that this list was approved in a Board meeting couple of months back, and that the final list will be available in a week. Though people have started staying here from 2011, much of the infrastructure works were not completed at the time electrification, laying of main sewer lines etc were not done. Water supply is also an issue there are 2-3 common taps now from which everyone is drawing water. Officers say that individual supply lines have been laid, but water is not coming in pipes since ground water level is very low in this area. They say that there have been cases of thefts, and of anti-social elements misusing and damaging the vacant flats, breaking windows etc. Executive Engineer N P Balaraj says that many original allottees are not staying here because of the incomplete works. He says that works will be completed soon,
CITIZEN MATTERS 15
and allottees are expected to start staying here. So, only a few flats have been allotted so far. And even many of those allottees are not staying here because of poor facilities. For Ejipura evictees, situation here eerily parallels what happened in Ejipura EWS quarters years back. There too, original allottees had moved out because of poor construction quality and facilities. Ejipura quarters case was appalling in that part of the quarters collapsed in 2003, within 12 years of construction. The quarters was built by BBMP, not Slum Board. Finally tin sheds were set up in the site. Many original allottees gave the tin sheds on rent to those who were looking for houses, and went elsewhere. Those who were staying on rent got evicted unceremoniously, last month. Many Ejipura evictees had decided not to come to Kudlu quarters because they feared that they would be evicted from here too. It is also said that some agents are trying to sell off some flats, colluding with Slum Board officers. Haseena, who is middle-aged and lives with her husband and three children, had come here from Ejipura. She stayed outside the quarters for days with all her belongings, waiting for an original allottee from whom she can rent a flat. Though she contacted many of them over the phone, they did not rent out the flats fearing that it was illegal. Allottees are not supposed to transfer the flats to anyone else. But a resident in the quarters gave Haseena the contact of an agent. Haseena says that he was ready to sell the house to her if she paid Rs 2 lakh right away. Haseena could not afford this. "If I had such money, wouldn't I have found a house elsewhere for rent?" says 16 CITIZEN MATTERS
Kudlu quarters. Pic: Navya P K
On February 12th, some 60-70 residents of a slum in Laggere protested at the Slum Board's office in Risaldar Street, off Palace Road. M D Narayan, state President of Dalitha Samrajaya Sthapana Samithi (DSSS), who was leading the protest, said that about 500 families had been living in the site
for 30-40 years. "Now Slum Board has built a quarters here and allotted it to those from other slums." The defiant protesters had come with vegetables, pots and pans, and prepared lunch in the office premises itself, while officers looked on. An officer said that such protests were routine here.
A flat in the Kudlu quarters, where an Ejipura family has moved in. Pic: Navya P K
1076 Total flats in Kudlu quarters 208 flats allotted earlier (plus 512 being done now) 55 Ejipura families landed here 5 staying in nearby quarters 5 found houses nearby 39 staying in some flat they found on rent or just moved in 6 Ejipura families yet to find flats
Haseena. Mohammad Sameer, an original allottee who has been staying here for around a year, says that this gang has been operating for long. "They sell houses to better-off people, and give a cut to Slum Board officers. One of them asked me if I knew anyone who was looking for a house. Later they asked me to move out of my flat so that they could sell it, but I did not agree," he says. Sameer's flat is in the ground floor, and is supposed to fetch better prices from buyers. Balaraj says that he is unaware of agents selling off houses, and that there is no scope for this. Selling flats is illegal because these flats are only to rehabilitate those who live in declared slums. The Board does socio-economic surveys to find the details of residents in such slums, and lists them out in its website. Often people get houses many years after they pay the Board. Sameer says that he had paid the Board 12 years back, and had got the house only last year. About ten families like that of Haseena stayed outside for many days initially. Slum Board officers later allowed them to stay in an
empty community hall in the complex. Relief workers say that there are still six families there. The others are either renting flats from original owners, or are staying in empty flats after breaking the locks. There are also con men who have been cheating them from the start. A student at Azim Premji University who has been doing relief work for the Ejipura evictees here, says on condition of anonymity, that it is difficult to identify original owners. "Some people claiming to be original allottees collect advances from Ejipura evictees and allow them to stay in flats. Later, original owners would come and throw them out of the flats," she says. For those who managed to actually rent houses, the advance is Rs 10,00015,000, and monthly rent ranges from Rs 800-1600. While this is condition of one complex in the Kudlu quarters, the second complex is reserved for 512 families who are soon going to be evicted from SDS Sanatorium slum. This slum is located in the premises of SDS Sanatorium hospital, and there is a court order to evict them and give them flats here. Balaraj says that the residents
CITIZEN MATTERS 17
Slum Boardâ€™s representation of flats for Ejipura evictees being planned in Sulikunte. Many such G+4 buildings are to come up in a 5 acre land. Pic: KSDB
there have been refusing to move out as the new site is too far from their workplaces. "They want insitu development. We sent eviction notices to them six months back, but they did not move," says Balaraj. Currently, allotment letters are being issued to them. If they do not move out within one week of getting the letters, they will be forcefully evicted. Slum Board's plan for Ejipura evictees The Board has got sanction for developing 900 flats for Ejipura evictees in a 5-acre site in survey number 122 of Sulikunte village, off Sarjapur Road. The site is about 16 kms away from the Ejipura site, and is currently vacant. The flat will be set up in G+4 buildings. Total project cost is Rs 57 crores, including that of common facilities. The project comes under Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY) of the central government. Under this scheme, 18 CITIZEN MATTERS
central government will spend 50% of the cost, state 40% and the beneficiaries themselves will contribute 10%. Ravikumar, Deputy Chief Engineer at the Board says that it is not clear if BBMP will fund this 10%, or if the evictees will have to shell out the amount themselves. The cost of an individual flat will be about Rs 4.5-5 lakhs, which means evictees will have to pay Rs 45,000-50,000 for a flat. At the time of Ejipura eviction, BBMP had promised that it will fund the 10% cost, but Slum Board has not got any formal assurance from BBMP on this. The project's DPR (Detailed Project Report) summary shows that each flat will have carpet area of 25 sq m (about 269 sq ft). There will be a hall, one bedroom, kitchen, bathroom and toilet in each flat. The plan shows provision for water supply, sewage system, roads, street lights, a community centre,
livelihood centre and an informal market in the complex. The tender process is yet to start. The project is supposed to be completed within 1.5 years of awarding the tender. Ravikumar says that majority of the 900 evictees have already collected their biometric cards. The Board has the full list, and hence those who have not collected the cards yet can collect it later, he said. With the Board's track record, one can only hope that the Ejipura evictees get their due.
Navya P K is Senior Staff Journalist at Citizen Matters.
opinion KARNATAKA BUDGET 2013
Whatâ€™s the point of dissecting the state budget? Rice at Rs 2 for whom? There are poor residents of Bengaluru who have been trying to a ration card, for years. The budget is an exercise to use public money to enhance the ruling partyâ€™s prospects in the coming elections.
hat was pathetic about the state budget presented last week, was not so much the populism it was based on - that was expected - as was the reactions to it from various sections, including politicians of parties other than the BJP. The budget is meant as an exercise to allocate public money for the betterment of the people - with the emphasis categorically on "betterment of the people". It is NOT money available to the ruling party, for announcing measures that would enhance its prospects in the next elections. That perspective has, alas, been completely lost sight of, by every party and politician who presents a budget, whether at the state level or for the nation. And we, as the people making up a democracy, are also playing along, not raising pour voices on such (mis) appropriation of taxpayers' money for political capital at the elections. Predictably, those in the opposition have called chief minister Shettar's budget an exercise in wooing voters. Rice at Rs 2 a kg. Last time it was synthetic saris and cash in the slums, which the poor received with gratitude (even though some of them were told that receiving goodies did not mean they were forced to vote for that party - no
one tells them that, and activists who tried to, faced the possibility of threat or worse from goondas who monitored the slums. Rice at Rs 2 for whom? I can show you poor residents of Bengaluru who have been running from one office to another, in pursuit of a ration card, for two years. On some pretext or the other, lower level minions in the administration block their access, to both cards and higher authorities ("Sahiburu ello hogiddare, enu aagubeku?") Even my personal intervention and helping with registration via the internet has not helped one family of six get the ration card they are entitled to. The man works as a watchman, earns Rs 3,300 (he is told that he is "not entitled to a "BPL" card - he spends Rs 30 for a kg of rice per day, Rs 900 a month, to feed his three children and aged mother just rice and watery sambar, and one girl has been diagnosed as severely malnourished). He doesn't qualify for the Rs 2 bonanza. So who does? And of those who qualify, how many will actually get it? Is there any point in this exercise of announcing â€˜measures" for the voters as long as the administration does not follow up with checks to ensure that the policies announced are actually reaching the beneficiaries, and corruption is
rampant? Rs 200 crores to mutts and religious institutions - we are supposed to be a secular democracy. Can public money be handed over to mutts? Do the people have any voice in deciding this? Is it justified when government schools do not have even basic facilities, the midday meals scheme is ridden by periodical scams, and the allocation for a "nutritious meal" for a growing child has been "hiked from Rs 4.60 to Rs 6". What nutrition can one get for that kind of money? Anganwadi workers went on strike because they had not been paid salaries for months; street sweepers went on strike because they have to remove filth and muck with bare hands, and have no basic facilities. Now, milk prices have been hiked steeply this week (how many poor families will substitute tea for milk, for their children? With what long term effects?). The argument is that milk producers need to be compensated for the hike in oil prices. It is a ring-a-ring-o'-roses game in which "all fall down" is indeed the cruel end result. It is customary for politicians in the opposition, to find fault each time a budget is presented - and
>> Continued in page 22>>
CITIZEN MATTERS 19
alentine’s Day, for all practical purposes, is a commercial creation. The day itself does not bear any deep significance to those who may celebrate it, though the love they celebrate might bear some value. Politically and socially, it is a fluffy construct, and should not require too much inspection. But V-Day is D-day now, as far as women’s rights movements are concerned. The day has grown to be important because it appears that there is now a fight on for the ability to love and express it. In January 2009, men from Sri Ram Sena, a Hindu right wing group, barged into a pub in Mangalore, dragged women out and assaulted them. They felt the need to act as vigilantes because ‘women drinking in a pub’ was unacceptable to them. They then threatened to strike again, on Valentine’s Day. Pramod Muthalik, their leader said, “Our activists will go around with a priest, a turmeric stub and a ‘mangal sutra’ on February 14. If we come across couples being together in public and expressing their love, we will take them to the nearest temple and conduct their marriage,” If there was resistance to this by the couple, the girl would be made to tie a rakhi on the boy. In the “WTF History of Indian feminism,” this incident has become a chapter. When a social class is faced with such ridiculous opposition, the only way to respond to it adequately is with irreverence. This explains the ingenuity of Slut Walk. In this case, a fitting reply was provided by the ‘Pink Chaddi Campaign.’ A bunch of women got together, and decided to send these saffron-chaddi men, some pink underwear. The aim was to flood the Hubli office of this group with mountains of panties, by Valentine’s Day 2009. And this has made a permanent X-mark on 14 February, on the activist calendar. The ‘Consortium of Loose and 20 CITIZEN MATTERS
Illustration: Shilo Shiv Suleman - this is part of the set created by artists around the country for One Billion Rising.
VALENTINE’S DAY 2013
A V-Day fight, to love and be fearless Valentine’s Day now takes on a meaning much larger than what it was intended to be. Anoo Bhuyan tracks the recent events that lead to today’s One Billion Rising in Bengaluru.
Pub Going Women’ was started, and with a hark back to Gandhi’s ‘Jail Bharo’ campaign (which was invoked even recently during the Anna Hazare agitation), women pledged that they were going to go to a pub, and have a drink. Their slogan was, ‘Pub Bharo.’ Muthalik replied to the women by saying he would send “1000 sarees as return gifts” for the chaddis he receives. By Valentine’s Day, he and about 140 of his goons were taken into preventive custody
by the police. Hundreds of chaddis awaited him in his office. Loving is a hard thing in India. People get killed for loving of their choice. And so, we have honour killings, where communities kill their own for eloping or marrying out of their caste. Or fathers kill themselves when their daughters transgress caste lines by loving, and this inflames entire communities, as in Dharmapuri recently. I want to take the liberty to say that the 16th December gangrape
Comment in Delhi, and the subsequent they will keep a watch on how the death of the victim, can be seen government allocates funds, and if from some distance as a wave in any will be spared for the safety of Indian feminism. We can see a line women. It is in this crucial period that from 14th February 2009 to 16th December 2012 to 14th February Valentine’s Day falls. It has been 2013. Since the rape, there have four years since Pink Chaddi and been massive protests in Delhi, 14th February is hardly a fluffy day which made history when they anymore. It is a day of strategic reached Raisina Hill, in a country importance to the women’s where police permission is required movement, a day for deep social for protests and protests are only introspection, the kind of stuff to be permitted in designated areas. The philosophized about in academia. protests were spontaneous, lacking For the young who do celebrate in leadership, and were united by Valentine’s Day, primarily an urban young India, it is now a significant pure outrage. Important dates that came day to reclaim their choice to between 16th December and 14th love and express it fearlessly. By February, have all seen protest as a extension, it is a day to resist sexual response to celebration, including violence and moral policing of free Christmas, New Year and Republic expression. This “western concept,” Day. People are still at Jantar which angers Indian conservatives Mantar in Delhi, every day. Some so much, has been made quite have been fasting, some have set personal to Indians, something the up camp. Since then, fast track conservatives did not foresee. Globally as well, this day, this year, courts have been set up around India, to deal with long pending is significant because today is when rape cases. Life imprisonments and one billion people are expected to death sentences are being doled “strike, rise and dance” as part of the out, perhaps in response to the One Billion Rising campaign. The vociferous and dangerous public campaign was started by the very famous Eve Ensler, author of Vagina outcry for the same. The winter session of the Monologues - a famous play where Parliament saw no closure on the each of the monologues deals with Criminal Law Amendment Bill 2012, different aspects of the feminine which sought to deal with many experience. The campaign is premised on issues of violence on women. The path breaking report by the Justice the realisation that one in three women will be Verma Committee raped or beaten was released on Police in Bangalore in this world, in time to widespread have been intimidating appreciation. But young couples by video- her lifetime. This makes one billion the government taping them while they women. The came out with spend time with each movement urges an ordinance other at public places. women and men that instead of who support them, placating the people, made them more angry to rise on this "V-Day" and take to due to its haste, ill-thought out the streets and dance. And across recommendations and secrecy. At Bangalore, as in other parts of the the impending budget session of country, people are doing just that Parliament which starts on 21st - joining in the ‘rising,’ irrespective of February, activists are pledging that what ‘Valentine’s Day’ per se might
mean to them. For you see, as much as we may like to write off violence against women in India, as a rape-capital issue in Delhi, or one that happens in rural India, it is not. The Mangalore pub attack in 2009, was very close to home. Swar Thounajam, a Bangalore based playwright, was assaulted on the street a few months back. A French diplomat has been charged in a case of raping his daughter in Bangalore, last year. More ludicrous, police in Bangalore have been intimidating young couples by video-taping them while they spend time with each other at public places. Violence against women happens the world over and is being recognised for that. Make it to a rising in your neighbourhood in Bangalore, or organise one yourself, for the freedom to love and be fearless.
Anoo Bhuyan is a journalist from Bangalore, currently based in New Delhi. She blogs at soapboxfound.blogspot.com and tweets as MickeySugarless
CITIZEN MATTERS 21
opinion << Continued from page 19<<
Whatâ€™s the point of dissecting the state budget? indeed it is impossible to please all, given the resource constraints - but it is time we questioned even that assumption about "resource constraints". There is plenty of money, hundreds of crores, available, for installing a musical fountain at the legislators' home, going globe trotting on jaunts at public expense. There is money, quite a lot of it, which could be used for public good. The will power is lacking among those in power whatever their party affiliations. The budget announces an increase in Social Security Pensions for destitute widows, physically challenged, and senior citizens above 80. Announcing is one thing, ensuring its implementation is quite another - I can show you destitute widows who sit outside the post office day after day, waiting for their miserably meagre pensions, I can show you physically handicapped
citizens who have given up trying to access their entitlements because the tahsildar will not give them the certificates they need. I can show you 80 year old street vendors who slog all day, selling fruit, because they are not even told that they are entitled to state relief. The budget details do not reach those who are illiterate - no one goes to the grassroots to tell them what the government has set apart for them so that they can claim it, no one monitors the employees at the lower levels to ensure that the needy get what they are entitled to. We are no longer talking in terms of crores, or even hundreds of crores, it is now thousands and lakhs of crores (farmers' subsidies total Rs 22,310 crores) The Rs 2 per kg rice scheme is estimated to cost the state Rs 1,200 crores. It costs far more than Rs 2 to grow a kg of rice. Farmers do not
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benefit from these measures. So who pays? Where does the money come from, if the state is "cash strapped". You and I end up paying for the subsidy. Which is okay if we are assured that the extra we pay goes to benefit those who deserve it. My studies as an investigative reporter over the years, and the studies reported in the press, show that benefits go to line the pockets of those in power, not the deserving. Is there any point, in even dissecting the budget, when it has been reduced to a mere paper exercise to benefit the party, rather than the needy poor and the middle classes being squeezed by rising food prices?
Sakuntala Narasimhan is a Jayanagar based writer, musician and consumer activist
THE NEWS IN PROPORTION
22 CITIZEN MATTERS
opinion WHEELS AND WALKERS AT CROSSROADS
What makes Bangalore unsafe for walkers With the explosive increase in vehicular traffic making life miserable for pedestrians in Bangalore, the author examines how and why the city missed taking those ‘right turns’ to make the city safe for walkers.
Broken footpath makes it even more harder. Pic courtesy : Kilikili
want a Bangalore, where a child and an elderly person can both feel safe while crossing the road", proclaimed esteemed Kannada writer, Sri Ananthamurthy, at the recent Bangalore Literature Festival, 2012. Much more than a reputed author and social commentator, this distinguished gentleman has driven home the point about our city's warped road sensibility. However, these words of wisdom from a
celebrated old guru, is something that Bangalore apparently is least inclined to heed. In this modern burgeoning city and India's fifth largest metropolis, the chances of a pedestrian crossing the street without being knocked down are looking progressively bleak. That's what an article in The Times of India has claimed, tallying the death-toll of walkers in 2012 to a staggering 355! Such a figure
translates to a looming 47 per cent of all road accidents in Bangalore, in the last year alone. Plus, according to a survey from the same newspaper in Dec 2011, the city's most crowded areas (Jayanagar and Majestic) currently fulfil only 50 per cent of the criteria of the Pedestrian Walkability Index (PWI). As for zebra crossings in Bangalore, pedestrians using them are still likely to feel akin to that "deer in the headlights". In fact, the possibility of a cow crossing safely on the same stripes, seems to be much higher. Additionally, if one notices the pedestrian "walk/don't walk" signals at major junctions, the timing of the light-change, is woefully off. Has anyone observed how in some places, the "go" light for walkers to cross, as well as that for the vehicles to proceed perpendicularly, both transition simultaneously? Hence, one wonders, if one's time to become one more road-fatality, is just one sign away!
The numbers don't matter! It doesn't matter that the population of this fair city is teetering on 10 million, while our vehicles still add up to a mere 0.4 million (according to the Bangalore Traffic Police Website). The ratio thus works out to 4 cars against every
CITIZEN MATTERS 23
opinion 100 persons. Safety in numbers, perhaps. But when that unflinching, formidable object is hurtling straight at you, you might very well feel like one of nine pins, set to be "bowled over." With Bangalore's population increasing tenfold over a single generation (1980 - 2010), she has turned out to be one of India's, and indeed the world's, most populous cities. With Per Capita Income having increased steadily and the affordability of vehicles also keeping pace, this onceaccommodative town is now trafficjammed. What has further stifled the city's major thoroughfares, such as CMH road and MG Road, has been the visionless endeavour to keep Bangalore's metro-rail above ground.
A cat-and-mouse game on the roads Now, aggrieved pedestrians usually blame reckless drivers for their woes. It is true that traffic indiscipline is both breaking records as well as, walker's bones. Plus, when the cat is away the mice do have a tendency to scurry around in mischievous play. The "cat" here is the Bangalore City Traffic Police Department, where the official figure of its uniformed law-enforcers has been pegged at an astoundingly low 3,262, with vacancies for just 346 more personnel. Even at the department's full strength of 3,608, the number comparison works out to around 0.03 policemen per 100 people in the city! Hopes are now pinned on technology to offset the poor efficacy of a grossly understaffed police force. Indeed, as per an official statement from the Bangalore Traffic Police (BTP), 80 cameras have been mounted at junctions across the city and have been wired-up to a monitoring centre, in order to keep a close watch on traffic offenders. 24 CITIZEN MATTERS
But hold your breath: to perform the actual confrontation of runaway traffic-errants, a jarringly-low six interceptor-vehicles have been put on the road. One has to, of course, admit that these initiatives are a start towards tackling a growing urban menace. But if the powers-that-be are going to maintain the ratio of traffic cops to vehicles at an unsettling 1:400, then poor pedestrians cannot hope for too much support in the contest of staying safe. Furthermore, issues faced by walkers are not even mentioned on the BTP website as an area of concern or safety. Thus, the onus of dodging out-of-control cars, buses, scooters, autos and bikes largely falls on the shoulders of the pedestrian. But there's little the point-person here can manage, when his adversaries' habits of not sticking to lanes, overspeeding and ignoring indicators, as well as
Where Bangalore is concerned, a once laidback town which had plenty of time on its hands (among other things, to just walk and cycle) appears to have become a little too gung-ho in taking vehicular risks. After all, in a cosmopolitan and globalised city which stays constantly in overdrive, the importance of workdeadlines and lifedeadlines are often weighed in equal measure.
disregarding one-ways and other instituted road-rules, define the traffic malaise. A far more sinister trend, and one that appears to be growing, is drivers disobeying traffic lights at junctions. The twisted rationale by such law-breachers seems to be - "If no law-enforcer is present and vigilant, and I am anyway both adept and quick enough at crossing the intersection with a reasonable chance of staying safe, then jumping the red-light is my fundamental right!" The absurdity and frequency of this phenomenon, induced even stand-up comic Russell Peters to quip, "You know what I love about the traffic signals in India? It's that they're optional!"
Where do we walk? Another outrageous malady is how the pavement, which should rightfully be considered the domain of the pedestrian, has now become a sort of free-for-all territory. In other words, even drivers of two-wheelers feel it is their prerogative to jostle for space on it. As though it is not bad enough that the sidewalks are mostly ungenerous and uneven in the first place, pedestrians now have to feel "sidelined" even in their own space. In such a scenario, it is perhaps not surprising that some road-signs in the city read: "Please do not drive on Pedestrian!" But it's not that unwelcome scooterists and motorcyclists are the only ones to take up space on sidewalks. Imposing over-theroad signs which display electronic traffic warnings - for example, "Don't Drink and Drive", or "Wear Helmet, Be Safe" - incidentally stem from thick cylindrical poles that block pavements. The obstacle is sometimes so great, that walkers have to find a way around it, often at the risk of a tight squeeze or asphyxiation. While these signs are necessary, they are best restricted
opinion to being slapped on hoardings so that they don't impede walkermovement. Then, there are several skywalks that have been installed across the city's thoroughfares, again compromising on the pavementspace from where they ascend and descend. And considering that a survey on pedestrian safety in Bangalore conducted by The Times of India found only 13 per cent of Bangalore's pedestrians actually using these skywalks, the investment hardly seems to be money well spent! Granted that with the enormous volume of city-residents on foot, drivers themselves can't be entirely blamed for hitting into them. But then, these tax-paying pedestrians must be given more stake in our city streets. Thus, along with their tax returns, they should be provided an attested account of just how much of their money is going into fixing crumbling pavements, as well as, what related projects have been commissioned and where lie their status of progress. One wishes none of our disenchanted senior citizens or disabled friends would be obliged to invoke the Right to Information Act (RTI) merely to gauge their chances of using a public amenity.
Pavements or death-traps? Speaking of those woefullyneglected walk-ways, the brave pedestrian will notice that most of Bangalore's pavements essentially present at least one of five potentially life-threatening hazards: 1. "Fault-line", where granite slabs are so haphazard and unstable, they look like the residue of a major seismic movement. 2. "Trap-door", where a stable-looking stone-slab caves into the underlying drain, taking the unfortunate pedestrian with it. 3. "Rope-line", which is a skinny strip of pavement where one
has to walk in single-file while doing an almost literal tightrope. 4. "Fill-in-the-Blanks", where the pedestrian has to hop across missing or sunk slabs along the sidewalk; or 5. "Line of Control", which is the white-line on the edge of an asphalted road, insufficiently demarcating a crucial border, and thus not adequately pre-empting dangerous incursions. In inference, therefore, it is not surprising that the aforementioned survey also shows that just 50 per cent of urban Bangaloreans would consider walking a maximum of only 15 minutes on any day they decide to give vehicular transport a miss. With another recent survey showing that 43 per cent of corporate Bangalore is overweight or obese, we could certainly do without the city's disincentives to becoming a pedestrian. As an ardent walker myself, I'm sincerely hoping my country's roads will take me home... and not, to the mortuary, or the hospital. Bangalore can lead the way in attaining this developing nation's very critical goal - to set our vehicles and pedestrians on the right path. We are at the crossroads. Now we just have to give our walkers the right of way.
Jatin Prabhu a former television journalist, occasionally leads Bangalore City heritage tours while also persuing literary and other creative interests.
Now, our Kannada guide book! Citizen Matters is releasing Bengaluru Jeevana, 2013-14 a guide book of 140 pages â€” the Kannada version of our popular Living in Bengaluru in English. More details soon...
CITIZEN MATTERS 25
ONE BILLION RISING, FEB 14TH
"We women know what we want. It is the men who should be here" There were fabulous speeches, dance and art on the day. But but those in power seem to think - women can only be on the fringes, not occupy the roads
ne billion rising, it is a very exhilarating and exciting thought. I had to be there and I wanted my daughter to be there. Although she's too young to understand its significance. On 14th February, I decided I should take my daughter's babysitter also along. Selvi is very fiesty, she minces no words when it comes to bullshit. And that is pretty much what made me pick her to take care of my child. When we got there the mood was all set. The women were ready to strike, rise and dance. Selvi, initially thought that she was there to babysit. I had to explain to her she was there to be part of the rising. She was convinced I was nuts. But she got into the mood quickly. There were speeches from some fabulous women who had fought against atrocities that cut across caste and religion. Selvi understood very little, since the speeches were in 26 CITIZEN MATTERS
Kannada and her understanding of the language is pretty rudimentary. But she is smart, she later asked me 'if it was about men and women having equal right?' At the event itself, there were disparate bunch of people. I found the usual suspects - read activists, artists and the curious, mostly what aam junta refers to as 'ngo types.' The mood was more picnic like. There were little groups of women and some men with musical instruments, who were dancing. There were artists spread across the lawn and painting. There were a bunch young men and women from a dance school, who were doing some very cool dance moves. On any other day, they would have been hauled up for indecent behaviour in a public place. That day they got applause. There were young school girls, mostly shepherded by parents and teachers, some on their own.
Just being out there, a space that is otherwise considered forbidden was exhilarating for them. Very few of them understood the significance of it. They did add to the numbers. But all the rising was only happening on one side of the road leading to Cubbon Park, near Manjula Mantapa. The rising women and men couldn't come in the way of traffic. The police constantly kept pushing those gathered to a side. This despite permissions. A lot of the times the young girls were verbally intimidated into giving way to traffic. What is with the tone adopted by those in power? The Vice President was in town, your rising can wait -- was the message. As one participant remarked, the women can only be on the fringes, not occupy the roads, because god forbid, if the men can't get to offices on time. The media was doing its own
They painted, they danced, they sang. Pic: Anu Gummaraju.
dance. One reporter from a private television channel was asking hundreds of women to move to another location because, the light was bad in the new location. He even enlisted a police constable to move the women. On the lawns of Cubbon Park, security guards were intimidating a group of women who had traveled all the way from Karwar to be a part of this. His argument was these Siddhi women with their colourful outfits and singing were attracting too many people. And those people were trampling on his precious saplings. The guard did not want to tell the English speaking audience to get off the lawn, instead chose to threaten the Siddhi women. Even a little power, goes a long way in our democracy. Despite the police, we danced, we rejoiced and heard each others' stories. On the way back, Selvi said "I
One Billion Rising event at Cubbon Park. Pic: Padmalatha Ravi
have done this back in my village, a while ago. We went in a procession, heard speeches and danced on the streets. But it was all women." Another young woman said, "We women know what we want. It is the men who should be here."
Padmalatha Ravi is an independent journalist and filmmaker. She was formerly Associate Editor at Citizen Matters.
CITIZEN MATTERS 27
Diary HISTORY OF BELLANDUR VILLAGE
From a tiny village: Bellandur’s century of change A young resident of Bellandur looks into the history of his neighbourhood, and finds much to learn from.
A recently built Durga Temple on the banks of Bellandur Lake. Pic: Dushyanth Naresh
n July 2008, my parents and I boarded a flight from San Francisco International Airport, and arrived twenty-four hours later in Bangalore. Unlike our usual journeys, this one was not a round trip. We were leaving the United States and moving to India for good. We soon settled down in a comfortable, modern apartment 28 CITIZEN MATTERS
somewhere on the outskirts of Bangalore - in an erstwhile village called Bellandur, now part of Greater Bangalore. I had a new house, a new school, and new friends... but most importantly, a new town to explore. Investigate! Explore! Dig! To me, these words conjure up magic. Since childhood, I had always been interested in digging, whether it had
to do with geology, archaeology, or paleontology. I have a fascination for the past. I was enthralled with stories of Ancient Egypt, Rome, Greece, and Peru. When I say “a town to explore”, my expectations of course were muted. Bangalore clearly did not have the same appeal as ancient Mayan or Egyptian history. I had
A golden sun sets over Bellandur Lake. Pic: Dushyanth Naresh
never heard of anything interesting with respect to Bangalore. All I ever associated with this city were phrases like “Information Technology” and “outsourcing”. What could this city possibly hold in store for me, a student of history? As luck would have it, I met two very interesting people over the last three years. Dr. Aruni of The Indian
Council for Historical Research shared his passion for history, and showed me several hundred-year old artifacts that he recovered from various metro rail construction sites and offered me access to resources on old Bangalore. I later met Dr. Shanti Pappu, an eminent archaeologist and co-founder of the Sharma Heritage Centre in Chennai. She too encouraged me immensely. Interestingly, both advised me to do a micro-history project of my locality; they felt that I would enjoy it immensely and would learn a lot in the process. Reluctantly, I agreed. After all, what would Bellandur have to offer in terms of history or historical interest? I couldn’t have been any farther from the truth. My work last summer gave me a new perspective of this place I now call “home. I gained a deep and abiding respect for so many small things that make a small community rich and vibrant. To those like me who are not native to this wonderful city, here is a little primer. Bangalore has been coined “the Silicon Valley of India” due to its huge contribution to the growth of the
information technology industry in India. While Bangalore has been an urban center for a long time, the phenomenal growth of the information technology industry has lead to its rapid modernization and urbanization. When I say “rapid”, understand that hundred years ago, the inhabitants of my little “erstwhile” village called Bellandur never had electricity. Bellandur itself has a curious and very interesting history. I learnt a lot about it during my long sitting with Jagannatha Reddy, a respected community member of Bellandur, and former Sarpanch. We sat inside a large, beautiful temple he is constructing right next to the lake. He gave me insights that books could not have given me. He told me stories that I could not have read anywhere. Apart from speaking to Reddy, I also scoured other sources for material about Bellandur. So now, let me transport you back in time. The year is 1914. A relatively unknown Indian lawyer by the name of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi returns to his native Porbandar in Gujarat from South Africa, and starts what is to become
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diary the greatest freedom movement ever. Closer home, a far more trivial event happens. Three Reddy families leave their native Andhra Pradesh, travel on foot through rough terrain in search of a place they can settle down and earn a living. After several days, they reach this tiny village by an expansive, crystal clear lake. They make Bellandur their home. The Reddys are farmers, so they fit in well with the existing small community of around fifteen families living there. Soon, the hardworking Reddys own sprawling fields growing paddy, ragi, guavas, apples, and grapes. The Reddys are also adept fishermen and experienced cattle herders. With their versatility, they are soon one of the wealthiest families in Bellandur. In 1930s, one of the Reddy males decides to renovate the existing temple. Months of labour and hard work result in a small but impressive temple. The new temple complex adds character to the little village. This “change is necessary for development” attitude seems to be the hallmark of Bellandur. The 1940s herald the first significant signs of modernization - the first was the arrival of the bicycle as a means of transport. 1947 is another landmark year a Muslim resident sets up a rice huller to process the rice that the local farmers grow. And to power the huller, electricity is drawn from the city of Bangalore. This relatively insignificant event proves to be a giant leap for the village. Throughout the 1900s, Bellandur Lake is an integral part of the village. Fishermen fish in the crystal-clear lake, children swim in the refreshing waters, and farmers use the water to irrigate their fields. By the 1960s though, the lake loses its pristine beauty. Colossal seaplanes (from the HAL airbase on the northern side) begin landing 30 CITIZEN MATTERS
Modern apartment buildings occupy most of Bellandur now. Pic: Dushyanth Naresh
on its still waters, disrupting the peace and tranquility. This of course restricts access to the lake at times, but it definitely puts Bellandur on the map. In 1962, the village establishes a Panchayat, with people’s representatives running the affairs of the village. The village is now selfgoverning, and prosperous. In 1965, a bus service connects Bellandur village to Bangalore City, a distance of twenty kilometres. The village is finally recognized as a settlement in its own right. By 1970, Bellandur’s population crosses 200. A resident becomes the proud owner of the iconic Bullet motorcycle. Lift irrigation from the Bellandur Tank is implemented in 1978. The lush fields of Bellandur are a deep emerald color, speckled with dabs of vibrant yellow bushes and vivid red flowers. The year is now 1994. Jagannatha Reddy is elected as the Panchayat President. Gram Sabha meetings are broadcast live through cable TV to all residents of Bellandur, as a way to drive transparency in governance. In 1994, computers are donated to government schools in Bellandur so that children can get technically qualified for jobs that are slowly showing up in the area. In 1998, the village Panchayat even wrangles a computer from the state
government to digitize land records. Waste segregation is introduced in Bellandur in the early ‘90s. During my research, I found that there is a lot of information about Bellandur, dating back from early topographical surveys done by British cartographers to word-of-mouth tales from elderly residents, still living along the banks of Bellandur Tank. I have learnt an enormous lot about Bellandur. I am proud to be a member of this “village”. Bellandur is a fantastic neighborhood with some of the most resourceful and enterprising minds in the country; it is stunning to see how far a village could progress in just under a century. This short exercise in studying Bellandur’s past helped me understand a small civilization’s march towards progress over a relatively short period of time. I know that as long as I keep digging, I will keep discovering.
Dushyant Naresh is resident of Bellandur and a 12th grade student of Indus International School. He is passionate about history and plans to pursue a major in archaeology. This research was done as a selfinitiated summer project.
Features CHANGE OF SEASONS
Once upon a flame The Flame of the Forest trees are at their spectacular best now, can you spot the birds that are attracted to its flowers!
ne of the delights in our city is to watch the various flowering trees, and at this time of the year, one of the spectacular sights is that of the Flame of the Forest (Palash...the scientific name is Butea monosperma). The name of the tree is well-deserved...the bright orange flowers of the tree look exactly as if tongues of flame were engulfing the tree. At this time, the tree sheds all its leaves, too, and the effect is stunning. But there is an even more interesting aspect to the flowering of the Flame of the Forest...that is, the flowers, and the nectar in them, attract many varieties of birds! And so, if one just stands at a reasonable distance from such a tree, one can see many kinds of birds flocking to it to enjoy this natural feast. At one tree near the Valley School, I watched the following birds alight on the flowers and feast to their hearts' content: Large-billed Crows and House Crows also joined in...proving that one beautiful tree can support so many of Nature's creatures! The list of birds that I've personally seen, feasting on these flowers: • Jungle Babbler
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
Yellow-eyed Babbler Coppersmith Barbet White-cheeked Barbet Red-vented Bulbul Red-whiskered Bulbul House Crow Jungle Crow Spotted Dove Laughing Dove Pale-billed Flowerpecker Hoopoe Common Myna Jungle Myna Rose-ringed Parakeets Brahminy Starling Chestnut-tailed Starling
• Rosy Starling • Loten's Sunbird • Purple Sunbird • Purple-rumped Sunbird • Grey Tit • Booted Warbler • Greenish Leaf Warbler • Tickell's Leaf Warbler • Oriental White-eye So, if you happen to pass a Flame of the Forest, full of flowers.... just stop to have a look at this Pakshi Darshini!
Deepa Mohan is a freelance writer and avid naturalist.
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Features FRENCH MARIGOLD
Loved by butterflies & parasites! Marigolds are good to have in an organic garden, attracting parasites, that may otherwise affect the vegetable plants. Plus you can even brew marigold tea!
t the recent Malnad Mela, I met an elderly gentleman who, growing an organic vegetable garden, had come to the mela specifically looking for flower seeds! He wanted to increase the presence of bees and other natural pollinators in his garden. Not only did this open up an interesting discussion among other visitors, it also got me thinking about the flower-friends of my organic garden. Topping that list is Marigold - perhaps the most common and easiest to grow. Also known as 'gendha' or ' sendigai poo' or ' chendu hoovu', Marigolds are commonly described as African, French and dwarf varieties. They are said to have originated in Central America and were brought to India by the Portuguese through their trade route to Goa way back in the 16th century. Ever since, they have created a firm place for themselves here! Belonging to the sunflower (daisy/aster) family, the marigold is an inexpensive, non-fussy, hardy plant that loves the sun. It does well in most garden soils and can be grown in pots or on the ground. It is often used as a border plant. The bright yellow/orange colour of the flower and the fact that it blooms for so long (it is an annual) makes it a delight to grow. The Pot marigold (Calendula) on the other hand is a different plant from another genus, though it belongs to the same aster family. It is believed to be a native of Southern Europe and gets its name from the fact that it was grown mainly as a pot herb.
Marigold. Pic: Vinita
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Marigolds are good to have in an organic garden for several reasons â€˘
Their bright blooms attract butterflies that in
Marigold seeds. Pic: Vinita
turn help pollination. • French Marigolds attract plant-parasitic nematodes (tiny microscopic round worms in the soil that attack the roots of plants) from deep in the soil and when planted as companions to tomatoes, melons or even ornamental plants, protect them from being destroyed by the nematodes. For the same reason marigolds can be grown in pots or in soil where one plans to grow tomatoes next. After the marigold plant matures, working it back into the soil will help suppress nematodes. For maximum effect, the French Marigolds should be planted in large numbers in the garden. • Due to their strong smell, marigolds are also believed to confuse insects when planted in the garden, thereby protecting plants from insect-attack. • Pot Marigolds finds use in the kitchen too. The petals were used as an inexpensive substitute for saffron. The dried and crumbled petals can be used in stir-fry dishes, stews, and salads. The carotene is converted to Vitamin A for us humans. • Marigolds are also used in homeopathy and aromatherapy and for a variety of medicinal purposes. So get started today and sow some marigolds seeds in your balcony/terrace or yard. Enjoy them as they bloom and mature, then save the seeds for next time. You will have enough to even share with your neighbours over a cup of marigold tea... A friend tells me to steep two teaspoons of petals for 5 minutes in a cup of just-boiled water. Strain and drink...that's all!
Vinita shares tips and experiences about all things related to growing an organic garden.
African Marigold. Pic: Vinita
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