‘Steel Flyover Beda’ activists urge Bengaluru mayor to set up ward committee meetings

Citizens of Bengaluru met with the Mayor to mark the second anniversary of the Steel Flyover Beda protests.
‘Steel Flyover Beda’ activists urge Bengaluru mayor to set up ward committee meetings
‘Steel Flyover Beda’ activists urge Bengaluru mayor to set up ward committee meetings

Marking the second anniversary of the Steel Flyover Beda protests when close to 8,000 Bengalureans took to streets, activists under the umbrella of Citizens of Bengaluru met Mayor Gangambike Mallikarjun and urged her to institute monthly ward committee meetings starting November 1.  

Srinivas Alavilli, one of the founders of Citizens of Bengaluru said, “We strongly believe whether it is garbage or bad roads and potholes, pollution and public transport, most of our issues can be best addressed when more citizens participate in local governance and decision making. We championed ward committees because they offer the best platform for decentralized governance. However we are disappointed that ward committee meetings are not being held despite court orders. That’s why today we appealed to the new mayor as she begins her term to announce regular ward committee meetings and assured active citizen participation. She appreciated our suggestion, responded positively and assured action soon in the form of circular or public announcements. We look forward to that."

On October 16, 2016, thousands of Bengalureans took to the streets on a Sunday morning for the largest ever citizen-led, mostly apolitical demonstration in Bengaluru in a bid to oppose the  Rs 1,791-crore project to build a 6.7 km long steel flyover between Basaveshwara circle to Esteem Mall in Hebbal. They formed a human chain along almost the entire span of the proposed flyover. Five months after the protest, as well as continuous activism and some litigation processes, the Congress government led by then CM SIddaramaiah called off the project, marking the success of the citizen activists and their concerted efforts to stop the project. The cabinet had earlier approved the proposal on September 28 that same year.

The citizens suggested that rather than building the flyover at the mammoth price and cost of 800 trees, the government should invest in cheaper and efficient systems, like mass transportation to solve the traffic gridlock of the city.

“I always look at #SteelFlyoverBeda as a tipping point - that infused fresh energy into citizen activism and inspired so many silent observers to not only become vocal but also feel comfortable to get on the streets to make their voice heard,” Srinivas said.

Tara Krishnaswamy, another co-founder of Citizens for Bengaluru and one of the key proponents of the citizen-led movement, spoke how this incident was the starting point of further apolitical activism in the city.

As a result of the Steel Flyover Beda movement, these activists were termed as Beda brigade and campaigns under the banner of Citizens for Bengaluru, including the overhaul of bus and suburban train services in the form of Bus Bhagya and Chuku Buku campaigns, among others.

To mark the first year anniversary of the protests last year, the group organised a Beku Beda Santhe to form a citizen charter of demands that was handed out to all political parties ahead of the elections.  

“Key elements of the charter of demands found their way into the manifestos of all the major political parties,” Tara said.

Ironically, CM HD Kumaraswamy who had joined the chorus against the steel flyover bridge and alleged corruption against his present coalition partner has earmarked Rs 1,000 crore for the construction of an 100-km long elevated corridor network.

Responding to this, Tara said, “We are at a nascent stage and we are aiming to graduate to a point where we can make policy-level changes. We are not at a stage where we are affecting policy. It will take us some point of time to get there. So if the Karnataka Town Municipal Act or the Metropolitan Committee is working as per law then there won’t be any need for us to intervene as such kind of an infrastructure project will not come to this stage without scrutiny.”

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