Bengaluru Mayor Sampath Raj promised activists that further decisions will be taken following a public consultation.

Why security guards for Church Street Bengaluru activists protest privatisation
news Civic Issues Friday, June 01, 2018 - 17:48

Streets and pavements are for everybody. But in Bengaluru’s Church Street, which recently got a multi-crore face lift, some fear that this fundamental right maybe in jeopardy.

Armed with placards, a group of activists took to the streets on Friday to protest the BBMP’s decision to “privatise” this stretch at the heart of Bengaluru.

The BBMP had recently called for a tender for the maintenance of the street which includes washing it with detergent water and also employing two security guards at the both ends of the stretch. The tender, however, got a meek response with only one company applying for the work.

“BBMP has called for a tender to privatise this road. Now the security guards will decide what is encroachment and what is not on behalf of the BBMP. That means people who make a livelihood out of this road will be driven out. They (contractor) will decide who has a right on the street or not,” said Raghavendra, an activist from the Forum for Urban Governance and Commons.

Tara Krishnaswamy, an activist who co-founded citizen collective Citizens for Bengaluru, echoed, “The street belongs equally to a beggar living in HSR Layout as well as anybody. The police and authorities have every right to take action against illegal activisties here as well as any part of the city. But why do we need private security guards only for this street which already has so many CCTV cameras?”

The issue brought up by the activists is that the upkeep of streets is essentially the duty of the government and should not be outsourced.

“The very idea that a private company is taking up a project is to make profits. Why is the BBMP allowing profits out of public taxes?” she questioned.

Other than the primary aspect of outsourcing a core government function, activists raised questions about how environmentally feasible it is it to wash the roads given Bengaluru already suffers from acute water shortage.

There were others too, who termed building the stretch at an exorbitant price of Rs 14 crore, a “misuse of public money”, while many of the city’s road remain in a sorry condition.

Geeta Menon, another city-based activist, said, “Why don't they use the same amount of money to make better roads in DG Halli, KG Halli and other areas? There are no roads, in spite of these areas being part of the city. We also pay taxes to the BBMP. Is it only the elite that matters?”

She also questioned the need for projects like TenderSURE roads which are allotted without the traditional tendering process, calling for further transparency.

The demonstration on Friday prompted Bengaluru Mayor Sampath Raj to meet the protesters. He assured them that the protesters need not worry and further decisions will be taken following a public consultation.

“BBMP is here to do what the people want. When the CM (Siddaramaiah) came to inaugurate, he told me that we should do what the public desires. People said they want a walking street without vehicles. As a pilot project, we decided to go ahead. We stopped it after they (people) said we needed vehicles,” the Mayor defended.

An all stakeholders meeting will be held in the coming weeks between the general public, street vendors, shop owners and the BBMP.

Naresh V Narasimhan, the architect of the road called the protests unnecessary arguing that outsourcing maintenance is necessary as the BBMP is ill-equipped to maintain the road. “I don’t understand these selective protests. This is not privatisation but an outsourcing tender. There is no transfer of asset. This is not like Air India where the airline is sold to a private company.”

“Why are the protesters not protesting BBMP outsourcing most of its waste management functions? Isn’t that also a core function,” he asked.


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