Friday, December 30, 2005

Resident groups, a force to reckon with

Resident groups, a force to reckon with
The Times of India

Bangalore: It’s like the birth of a new constellation. They protested against spine-breaking roads, demanded that water supply be regularised. Why, women who had only heard that the state had a chief minister called Dharam Singh, had the temerity to block his car and ask the CM to walk on potholed patches.

Resident Welfare Associations, RWAs, are the noveau force to reckon with.

A guesstimate puts the number of such associations at 430, including those in BMP and CMC areas. Out of the 100 wards in the city, each one boasts of at least two associations, to say nothing of apartment blocks who bond into RWAs for every 50 apartments.

Their presence was felt loud. BWSSB, Bescom, BDA had to have monthly interfaces with area-specific groups and address their issues. When the Comprehensive Development Plan was unveiled this year, the BDA was inundated with requests and representations from RWAs either for the green belt or industrial zones. One hour into the Koramangala demolitions and residents gathered in large numbers, protested, stalled it. A helpline called Save Koramangala was formed in a day by the Koramangala Residents Association.

Circa late 2004, an 83-year-old man Parthasarathy braved a chilly wintry morning and got the obstinate craters in his road at Puttenhalli filled up, road-rollers, concrete, man-power et al, at his own cost.

Elsewhere at Ramamurthynagar Welfare Association, a 10-year-old RWA, members fought for land disputes, water supply, power, among others. Says the president A V Shama Rao, “We challenged levying of betterment charges on CMC residents and based on our plea the High Court blasted the government. We won the case. Now we are fighting for Cauvery water as part of Greater Bangalore Water Supply Project. When will the water flow? When will laying of sewage lines be complete? Let them, BWSSB and K R Puram CMC, give a deadline and we will pay taxes.’’

But they have their share of peeves too. Like Gunashekar, a long-time Bangalorean and resident of Banashankari, who as part of an RWA has had his fair share of hits and several misses with civic bodies and the government.

“We had to request, plead, protest, stage dharnas for years for any action to happen. But all it took was a day for the IT brigade to hold a token protest and the entire government stopped to listen and most importantly, act. Why, don’t we pay taxes, aren’t we important?’’ he asks with anguish.

Explains BMP additional commissioner (finance) P K Srihari, who has had interfaces with groups, including CIVIC, Swabhimana, Public Affairs Centre, for suggestions and information dissemination, “We actually invite them for a dialogue and exchange of information. But associations and NGOs should also understand that when a policy change needs to be made it has to be approved by standing committees, etc. Procedures take time and often they are done.’’


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