Environmental damage and law and order concerns took centre stage at the BJP’s Nava Bengaluru Charche (New Bengaluru Discussion) on Friday. The discussion was presided over by Rajya Sabha MP and recent BJP-inductee Rajeev Chandrasekhar and moderated by party spokesperson Malavika Avinash. Panellists included environmentalist Vijay Nishanth, retired IPS officer Gopal Hosur, IISc professor TV Ramachandra, and waste management expert NS Ramakanth.
The Nava Bengaluru Charche is an initiative by the BJP that attempts to engage various citizen groups in the city in a dialogue with the party’s national and state leadership.
Noting the ongoing environmental crisis at the Bellandur Lake and the illegal encroachments at the Bannerghatta Biological Park, the panellists urged that better governance was the need of the hour.
“Article 21 of the Constitution guarantees every citizen the right to clean air and water. There has been a tremendous fall in waterbodies in the city. Waterbodies need to be maintained by the Karnataka Lake Conservation and Development Authority because only they have the best means of doing so,” said TV Ramachandra.
“Contamination of ground water has increased the percentage of heavy metals in vegetation as well as fish. This can cause serious kidney failure,” he added.
Environmentalist Vijay Nishanth, fondly known as ‘Bengaluru’s Tree Doctor’, came down heavily on the Congress government for putting the environment on a backseat.
“For its steel flyover project, the government claimed that it would cut 800 trees. But in collaboration with Azim Premji Foundation, we found that 2,242 trees would need to be felled for the project. Where is the hope for the city? I am forced to be on the ground at all times to ensure that such things don’t happen,” he said.
Responding to these concerns, MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar stated, “Environmentalism was once seen as an elite issue. But with the various crises in recent times, this is no longer the case. Lakes in the city have had problems for years, but awareness has only been raised now after we have reached the brink of a water crisis.”
The MP also blamed environmental catastrophes on the lack of accountability.
“The first step to improve accountability is to restructure agencies. Some agencies should be wound up and done away with. For example, the Bengaluru Development Authority (BDA) should be replaced by a Bengaluru Infrastructure Authority. Governance should be restructured to grant more agency to the citizens,” he said.
The BJP MP also attacked the Siddaramaiah government for its reported negligence of environmental concerns.
“On May 15, Siddaramaiah will rue his decision to put a builder in charge of development. This is the biggest crime that he has committed. Development is not the same as sustainability. What the city needs is a corruption-free, people-oriented, sustainable developmental model,” he said.
Speaking of the ongoing law and order situation in the city, retired IPS officer Gopal Hosur noted, “During the last two years, the morale of the police force has taken a serious hit. The government has not done enough for the police force, which is why they had gone on strike. The morale of the police needs to be raised for them to perform their duty.”
He added, “Crimes against women in Bengaluru are next only to that of Delhi. The cases of missing children have received the least priority even though the High Court has come down on both the government as well as the police force on this.”
Commenting on the same, Chandrasekhar said, “There has been an absolute destruction of meritocracy in the police force. Officers of integrity are not given the respect they deserve. When the only thing that matters is one’s connections to those in power, it breaks the morale and idealism of young officers who join the force in the hope of serving the people. It takes away their will to serve.”