Friday, December 26, 2008

Use three letters to transform your city

Use three letters to transform your city
The Right to Information Act (RTI) has the power to transform society. Believe me, I have exercised my right as a citizen, and seen how bureaucracy bows to the willpower of an individual.
I live in Basavanagudi on Sir MN Krishna Rao Road which leads to the West Gate of Lalbagh. Almost a year ago, the road was asphalted but shoulder-drains were left clogged. Residents wanted the drains cleaned and desilted to ensure that rain water flowed smoothly to the side-drains so that the road lasted longer.
For nearly eight months, I pleaded with the health and engineering officers of Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) to clean the drains.
Basvanagudi Nagarika Samithi, the local resident welfare association (RWA), joined the fight and wrote to the BBMP authorities seeking a speedy intervention. I, along with my brother Uday, even met the Joint Commissioner, South Zone, at BBMP.
All these efforts yielded no results. That left us with no option but the RTI Act. The Act mandates that officials respond within 30 days. It also gives the petitioner the option of appealing to a higher body, if there is no sufficient information. I prepared a comprehensive questionnaire to the engineers in charge of our ward, enquiring about the status of the appeals we had sent to BBMP in the last eight months.
I was determined to know the truth and was ready to do whatever it took. Desilting was part of annual road maintenance but had been carried out only on paper. We found out that sludge, dry leaves, wastepaper, plastic and garbage were blocking the shoulder-drains. A short spell of rain was enough to have the road flooded with water up to one's knees.
The layers of asphalt were peeled off after a bout of rain and soon created potholes all over the road. As potholes increased in size, the road became a nightmare for motorists. There were several accidents and many two-wheeler riders ended up with broken limbs.
My RTI application put BBMP engineers in the dock. Carrying out the work asked for was the only option left for them. Else, they would be exposed for their shoddy maintenance of roads.
Soon, the RTI magic began to work. Engineers and their retinue came rushing the very next working day and started removing the debris to unblock all shoulder-drains.
If not for our RTI application, our request would have been ignored and many in our neighbourhood would have been nursing broken limbs.
Thanks to RTI, BBMP officers not only cleaned the drains but an engineer and an overseer in charge of our ward requested me to inspect their work and certify to their bosses that the cleaning had been done fully and satisfactorily.
I'm neither a politician nor a power broker. I'm an ordinary citizen just like you. But the RTI empowered me, and our RWA got justice in the end. All of us can be change-agents if we are willing to use the RTI Act in a proper manner.
Let's make Bangalore a better place. It won't take more than a few questions, a large dose of integrity and commitment on your part, to change your neighbourhood. Make Bangalore a better place.


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