For many Bengalureans, October 15 was just another Sunday. But hundreds including students and children ventured out of their homes to participate in the Beku Beda Santhe— a citizen’s meet focussed on making the country’s IT capital more liveable.
The four-hour event, as the name suggests, went on to make a list of wants (beku) and don’t wants (beda) by a varied group of people of different age groups. There were panel discussions and short speeches on various civic issues.
The event marks the one-year anniversary of the successful Steel Flyover Beda campaign by the citizens.
One distinguished face among the crowd was 46-year-old champion para-sportsman and disability rights activist KY Venkatesh, who has achondroplasia (dwarfism).
Speaking with TNM, Venkatesh said that the city’s amenities are unfriendly for people with disabilities— be it the pavements, transport or the toilets.
“In future, everything should be planned to keep in mind the accessibility for disabled while building anything. Even while we are constructing our houses, we should plan for future and have disabled-friendly provisions so that we don’t have to demolish anything or create newer structures,” Venkatesh said.
"The number of disabled-friendly public toilets in Bengaluru are zero. Even if they have a board saying so, they won't have the necessary structures," he said.
Venkatesh feels we cannot blame the government for everything, instead it is the people who have to make the government aware of the issues.
“Here, this is a forum where we raise the issues and plan how the future has to be chalked out,” he said.
“In Bengaluru or in India, during 1990-2000s and before that, accessibility for handicapped people was negligible. It is only now that some buildings have accessibility. Even today trains are not friendly for people in wheelchairs,” Venkatesh said.
“The same is true for buses. In western countries, buses have wheelchair friendly boarding points,” Venkatesh added.
Venkatesh also pointed out that the much-praised TenderSURE roads in Bengaluru are also not disabled-friendly.
“The roads are not wheelchair friendly because of the barricade, it's even problematic for old people to go past them. Visually impaired people also face difficulty in accessing those routes,” he said.
“These sort of forums should happen regularly, not necessarily at the city level. It is a good place to breed awareness. If these forums take place regularly, the government will be forced to listen to us,” Venkatesh said
Venkatesh is in the Limca Book of Records for winning the maximum number of medals in the World Dwarf Games 2005. He represented India in athletics, badminton, basketball, hockey, soccer, and volleyball in international events and won his first gold in 1999 for shot putt in a multi-disability championship held in Australia.
Other eminent personalities part of the event included former Lokayukta and Supreme Court Judge Santosh Hegde, actor Prakash Belawadi, and singer MD Pallavi.
All of them spoke in favour of the increased citizen activism in the city in the face of apathy of the political class.