Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Make a noise so the city is safe

Make a noise so the city is safe

Accidents have claimed many lives in the city; You could do your bit to prevent needless death

Apeksha Rao and Keshav Krishnamurty. Bangalore



"India lives in its villages, Gandhi said. But increasingly, the people of India are dying on its roads." That was the first line of an article that appeared recently in the New York Times. Bangalore witnesses a number of deaths by accident or negligence each year, but there is little follow-up action to prevent the recurrence of fatal accidents.
The blame for such a needless waste of life is usually laid at the doors of authority. But are ordinary citizens not culpable too, when they accept their fate so meekly? Sanjana, 17, was recently crushed under a poorly constructed wall that collapsed on her; Abhishek Prakash, 6, fell into an open drain last year. His little body was washed away a long distance, and could not be recovered. One year later, that drain is still gaping open. Bindiya, 8, was electrocuted last year in a BBMP park after she inadvertently touched exposed, live wires. How many more such needless deaths will we see?
Have not our civic authorities been let off too lightly, not held to account for a series of accidents? And just in case you're wishing to complain but don't know how to go about it, here is the list of numbers you could cut and keep.
Upa Lokayukta
There are dedicated helplines that you could call at, in case of civic complaints. A written complaint, one that is also acknowledged, will help you have something tangible for future reference.
Syed Riyaz, deputy commissioner, public relations, Lokayukta, said, "Citizens can lodge complaints against civic agencies when they do not act, or act irresponsibly, causing injury, death or inconvenience to the general public. A complaint is in order even if works undertaken take inordinately long. Any complaints against officials at the sub registrar's office, the road transport office, other civic agencies or even the health department can be referred to the Upa Lokayukta."
To call the Upa Lokayukta office, dial 155320 (toll free number) or 22255077/22257013
If the complaint warrants it, you could even file a criminal case against the official in question under Section 133 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
PIL
The other instrument you can use to get your complaints heard is file a Public Interest Litigation. Justice MF Saldanha says, "The PIL is a powerful remedy. This way, a group of citizens come together for the public interest and appeal to the court to take action, depending on what their grievance is. Citizens should not let go of people responsible for fatal accidents. Just because the incident is described as an accident, and because the media does not continue to cover it, the person responsible should not be allowed to get away scot-free." Citing an instance of what a PIL could do, Justice Saldanha said that in New Delhi, citizens filed a PIL raising concerns about rising air pollution; that led to the introduction of CNG buses, which noticeably improved air quality.
A PIL may be initiated by appearing in person in the high court, by a lawyer, or by a letter or postcard, which shall be treated as a petition by the court. (A PIL invokes the writ jurisdiction of the high court. Writs are orders issued by the Supreme or high courts to uphold Fundamental Rights or for any other purpose, as the court decrees.)
Approach the KSLSA
The Karnataka State Legal Services Authority (KSLSA) has a very specific role. Civil lawyer Sunil Dutt Yadav explains, "While cases of civic negligence happen every day, not everyone can afford the services of a private lawyer. The KSLSA acts as a substitute, providing legal aid to aggrieved persons." It ensures that justice can be secured by any citizen no matter what his social or economic condition. Reach the KSLSA at: kslsa@kar.nic.in; the office is located on Palace Road.

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