Couldn't depend on BBMP, but Bengaluru woman gets help from US Consulate for flooded home

"I called the US Consulate not because I am also an American citizen, but because authorities here were not dealing with the situation," she says.
Couldn't depend on BBMP, but Bengaluru woman gets help from US Consulate for flooded home
Couldn't depend on BBMP, but Bengaluru woman gets help from US Consulate for flooded home
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It had been raining for some time in the early hours of September 27 when Meena Gupta, a resident of HSR Layout, began to get anxious.

While Bengaluru has been blessed with abundant rainfall this year, residents of the city are overwrought with fear each time the sky turns cloudy.

From mid-August, the basement in Meena's house has flooded several times following even mild showers.

However, on that particular day, the former software engineer who now works in the field of education for underprivileged children, sensed that the situation was going to get worse.

"I could see that the water was entering with a high velocity on our roads. So I took a stick and started measuring the level of water every half an hour. And each time it was rising," she says.

With her two children in the house as well, she says she called the Joint Commissioner of the BBMP, the local elected body and the MLA seeking help at around 4am.

Four hours later, as no help arrived, Meena's anxiety levels were increasing with the level of water.

With no one else to turn to, Meena, who is an Indian-American, made a panic call to the US Consulate at around 8am. They took down her details and numbers of the local officers.

The call to the Consulate worked. Within two hours, NDRF and fire department personnel were at her house. Not just one or two, 10-15 men arrived in boats to rescue them.

"They even offered to pump the water from my house, but since there was four-feet of water on the road, I couldn't have got it pumped out then. They finally rescued us and took us to a safer place," she states.

The water started receding from the next day, but it took several more calls to the local MLA over the course of the next three days to send some one to clear the water from her house.

"This time I had decided not to spend a single penny on clearing my basement. I did not build the house expecting 4 feet of water each time it rains. They didn't do their job and they expect me to spend to clean my basement?" she asks.

At one point during one of the phone calls with the MLA, Meena says, he said that he'd send someone to the house "even though it is not my responsibility".

"I told him it is his responsibility," she says. "He sent help because I was stubborn and pointed out their engineering blunders. But he still said, 'No one can stop mother nature'."

A flooded street in Meena Gupta's lane. 

The stressful experience has left her with very little hope and a sense of being let down by the government that, in theory at least, works for the people.

"I called the US Consulate not because I am also an American citizen. I called them because authorities here were not dealing with the situation. I have no faith in the system. Nobody cares for human life here. There is no attention or preparedness for a flood like situation which has become common in the city. A 50 mm rain can drown us by 4 feet," she laments.

It was ten years ago that Meena returned to India from the United States and she feels not much has changed in the last two decades.

"We still have to struggle for basic amenities. We have to fight for our basic rights. The MLA told me 24 crores have been sanctioned for HSR Layout but I don't see any solid planning or action being taken," she states.

Meena with her family.

Along with a group of her friends, Meena has formed a Civic Action Task Force or HSR CAT Force, which currently has 200 members, to address the civic issues they regularly face.

The HSR CAT Force.

Though the water has been cleared from her basement for now, she knows that all it will take is another bout of heavy rains to submerge it.

"If it rains tomorrow night, we don't what is going to happens," she says. 

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