At 35, Sowmya Reddy is one of the youngest MLA-elects in Bengaluru. The Congress leader won from the Jayanagar constituency beating the former MLA late BN Vijaykumar’s brother BN Prahalad by 2,887 votes.
Sowmya is the daughter of the former Karnataka Home Minister Ramalinga Reddy. But what sets her apart is her past as an environment and human rights activist.
She made news in 2015 for hosting a vegan and environment friendly wedding reception. She got 150 waste management workers from the NGO Hasiru Dala, who ensured that the waste was segregated at source. Disposable utensils were replaced with steel ones, decorative flowers were made of plastic. Even the menu was vegan with dairy products being replaced with the likes of coconut juice and soy milk.
Apart from this, Sowmya’s prior experience includes work in environment research, and three years as a board member of the Animal Welfare Board of India (2014-2017). It is safe to assume then, that Bengaluru’s only woman MLA-elect would have green plans for her constituency as well.
Speaking to TNM, Sowmya says that she started her first day as an MLA-elect leading a clean-up drive in Byrasandra. She then opens up on her plans for waste management, reduction in plastic use and increasing the green cover of Jayanagar.
Acknowledging that Bengaluru has a waste management problem, Sowmya says that she intends to step up the awareness on the issue. “I want to ensure that there are functional dry waste collection centres and composting units all over the constituency,” she says. “I want to bring the segregation up to 90%.”
Ramalinga Reddy congratulating Sowmya on her Jayanagar victory
Reduction in plastic use
Sowmya says that she has worked with the previous government to implement the plastic ban in Bengaluru. She intends to continue work on the same by encouraging the “reduce, reuse, recycle” mantra.
“We have become so heavily dependent on disposables,” she observes. “Even when we order food, it comes in a plastic container. The spoons and forks that come with it are also plastic. We have to think about where that waste goes from our dustbins. All of it adds to the non-biodegradable waste pile.”
Sowmya tells TNM that she does all of the above – carrying a cloth bag with steel spoons and a mug for her coffee so that she can avoid using disposables.
She also wants to engage not just with citizens, but also with private entities such as restaurants to encourage them to use reusables like steel cutlery or at least biodegradable disposables like paper straws.
Restoring green cover
“There is a huge problem here regarding space. It’s all become a concrete jungle,” Sowmya notes – which is why she wants to plant more saplings and also preserve the ones which have been planted.
Ultimately, it appears that Sowmya hopes to continue what she was doing as an activist before being an MLA-elect. While that is an ambitious goal, much like her manifesto for Jayanagar, she insists that it’s time we started to think beyond our convenience.
“We have to go back to the basics… cloth bags, carrying a steel bottle in our cars or bags… that’s how the previous generations used to live. Though it will take some effort, it’s a choice I think we all need to make to fulfil our civic responsibility,” Sowmya states.