The RRWA represents the locality from the first to the sixth block which is spread over 5 sqkm and has an estimated population of 10 lakh.

Packing a punch citizen activism Rajajinagar RWA styleRajajinagar Residents Welfare Association/Facebook
news Citizen activism Saturday, October 29, 2016 - 19:30

For several months in 2014, a paper mill in Bengaluru’s Rajajinagar area, raised a stink. In response, the local residents’ welfare association, gave them lawful hell.

"It (the mill) was causing a lot of pollution. The factory spewed carbon soot along with leaving a dirty smell. The smoke was causing asthma in residents," says KS Sridhar, a practicing Chartered Accountant and President of the Rajajinagar Residents Welfare Association.

They took up the fight and approached the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board. Sridhar says that the mill eventually "increased the height of the chimney and put condensers along with taking other measures in accordance with PCB rules."

This is just one of the victories of the association which was, eight years ago, just an informal group of residents trying to making living in Bengaluru a little easier for themselves. But this loose group of Rajajinagar residents felt the need for a more structured set up and got themselves registered as the RRWA under the Karnataka Societies Act in 2008. 

KS Sridhar in his office

At present, the registered society has a governing council of slightly over a dozen individuals. 

"We wanted to be organised. We wanted to be the bridge between the rulers and the ruled. If we (just a few members) approached the administration, they would not listen to us," he says.  

The RRWA represents the locality from the first to the sixth block which, according to Sridhar, is spread over 5 sqkm and has an estimated population of 10 lakh.

Although they do work on issues such as traffic, pollution, condition of roads, rat and street dog menace, environment, education etc, the work has also brought them closer on cultural and religious fronts. 

One of their annual highlights is an annual cultural programme called the Purandara Dasa Sangeetha Seva musical festival in honour of the 16th century poet of the Dasa tradition of Kannada literature, and the “father” of Carnatic music. The two-and-a-half day event held in January sees artists from Karnataka awarded for their contributions to the field of music. 

For several months now, RRWA has been working on an eye donation campaign. "When we get to know of cases of deaths in our area, we approach the family of the bereaved and explain to them the importance of donating eyes."

"In the last one year, we have facilitated the donation of 18 pairs of eyes which has benefited 36 individuals," he says.

"We have also held seminars on awareness about child sexual abuse," he adds. 

Rajajinagar Residents Welfare Association/Facebook

At present, they are working on a "Food for Health" campaign where they promote the consumption of nutrient-rich millets over the more traditional wheat and rice. 

RRWA’s activities are funded by voluntary sponsorship and donations. All meetings and events see active participation of residents and even their local MLA Suresh Kumar. The website and social media accounts of the association are updated at regular intervals to keep residents well-informed. 

Unlike huge apartment complexes that dot several parts of Bengaluru, Sridhar says, Rajajinagar still retains the charm of an old neighbourhood. 

"People in apartments develop a tunnel vision where they only think of themselves. It is not like that here. The condition here is better than several other localities in the city," he says. 

While Sridhar says they haven't faced any major challenge in their working or interacting with government officials, there has been resistance at certain points. 

"There will be resistance, but we will have to overcome those. Some initially thought that we were trying to replace them in terms of addressing grievances. Some think we are here to make money," he says. 

That has however not deterred them to the least. "We pack quite a punch," he states. 

Also read: How Whitefield Rising grew into one of Bengaluru’s most influential citizen movements

Show us some love and support our journalism by becoming a TNM Member - Click here.