“The steel flyover was not a steel flyover. It was a Godzilla that basically could damage the heart and soul of Bengaluru." - Priya Chetty Rajagopal.
On a sunny October morning in 2016, Bengaluru witnessed something it had never seen before. Thousands of citizens formed an unprecedented human chain to protest against a steel flyover that the Karnataka government was planning to build, which would lead to thousands of trees being cut down. This was four years ago. Today, Bengaluru has become synonymous with citizen activism. From infrastructural changes to the green cover of the city, the past decade has seen a steady rise of voices that have started influencing government decisions.
The Steel Flyover Beda movement became one of Bengaluru’s iconic citizen protests. It began when Bengalureans found out that the flyover, which was built to ease Bengaluru’s traffic, would have no real effect on the traffic at all. 8,000 people turned up to form a human chain at the location where the steel flyover was to be built and after four months of similar citizen protests, in 2017, the Karnataka government announced that the steel flyover has been scrapped. This came as a huge victory for citizens. Two years later, citizens scored another win — the Graphite India factory, which Whitefield Rising had been protesting against over the pollution it was causing, was shut down.
From civic issues like better roads, footpaths, better transport connectivity and even getting more people to register, today, Bengaluru is home to citizen groups that are involved with as many as 60 causes at the same time.
“Once you have the roti-kapda-makaan, your basic needs are taken care of, and people have the time to think about larger society and other issues and the number of people in Bengaluru that do, is probably higher because the city is a different kind of demographic,” says Srinivas Alavalli, o-founder, Citizens for Bengaluru.
What makes the citizen groups more effective in Bengaluru is that they approach authorities with a solution-based approach and not a problem-based approach.
“We have been very clear with what the problems are, and it's not always about complaining. Whenever we kind of look at an issue or a challenge, we've always approached it with a solutions-oriented approach. We just don't go to the Commissioner, Corporator, MLA or MP saying that this road is dug up, this tree is cut, you're not stopping it. No, we always think of what is it that we can do constructively,” says Zibi Jamal, member of Whitefield Rising.
Watch the video to know what makes citizen activism work in Bengaluru.