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Citizens’ committee is voice of citizens

Interview with Ajay Reddy

Ajay ReddyThe Mestripalya Lake Coordination Committee is a pioneering citizens’ committee consisting of members representing different Residents’ Welfare Associations of Koramangala along with some NGOs. The committee has an official standing as it was suggested and approved by Transport and Bangalore incharge Minister Ramalinga Reddy. Ajay Reddy, founder Secretary of the 3rd Block RWA and a long time resident of Koramangala is the Convenor of this Committee. Here is an exclusive interview with him:
What is the need for citizen committees?
For any developmental projects to be effective it would require meaningful citizens’ participation i.e. broad – based public involvement in planning, zoning, land use, developmental projects etc. It is absolutely essential to have citizens collaborating with the government and be the driving force behind these projects. Citizen’s committees are representative and in a broad sense is the voice of citizens.
How has your experience with the Mestripalya Lake Coordination Committee been?
I’m pleased to say that it has been a very stimulating and satisfactory experience. Our mandate is to ensure that work is done as per the DPR and we are doing just that. The committee has been very active with deliberative meetings focused on convergent thinking and problem solving. It has already made many positive interventions and has had constructive interactions with the concerned authorities. The results are showing.
With so many of you on the committee and from different areas won’t decision making become very difficult? Won’t it lead to delay in project implementation?
Well, firstly, let me make this clear that with reference to the Mestripalya lake project there have been no delays and the project is more or less on schedule. Yes, we have 20 members and that in my opinion is a huge positive as we get different perspectives and this leads us to examine many more options on various issues. The outcome we settle upon is borne out of varied and healthy deliberations. Decision making doesn’t get delayed because the target dates are always held in mind as we confer.
Is it a good idea to involve citizen groups in planning of larger infrastructure projects like flyovers etc.?
Yes it is.  First and foremost, the objective of any development project should be to ensure that the average citizen’s quality of life improves. Flyovers or underpasses should be one of the methods to attain the objective, they shouldn’t be the objective. Today they are built with no forethought to what they actually offer to a citizen. Take the cases of the Agara and the ORR flyovers. They are absolutely not serving their purpose. The road continues to be a mess during peak time. This is where involving a citizens’ committee would serve to be much more beneficial to the proposed ventures.

At what stage should the committees get involved?

They should be involved at the planning stage itself; this is the only way to get a grass root level feedback. There are lots of instances when huge projects might not even be necessary. There could be far simpler solutions and this will save a lot of public money. Even in the case of the Mestripalya Lake rejuvenation project a lot of public money was saved when an active Citizens’ group was involved during the DPR preparation stage.

Should Citizen Groups be involved during the preparation of the CDP 2030?
Definitely yes. Let’s take our own neighbourhood. By allowing apartments to mushroom in areas where in infrastructure has been planned for single dwelling units you are choking up the drains, roads etc. These multi-dwellings need larger drains, larger water pipes, more parking areas etc. Upgrading the infrastructure for Koramangala alone will cost hundreds of crores and would involve extensive digging up of Koramangala roads and footpaths which again is not a practical solution. Therefore, if these are not allowed at the planning stage we could save lot of funds and which again could be diverted to other needy tier 2 and tier 3 towns this way we will have a more equal distribution of growth and wealth.

In a growing metro should we not be building more apartments? Also 60 percent of the revenue to the state Government is from Bengaluru shouldn’t we be putting more money back into the city’s infrastructure?

Bengaluru has been the focal point for the state government in all revenue generating activities.  The city has been the favoured recipient over other smaller towns and as a result more funds have been allocated to it. This has lead to more employment and business opportunities here. Revenue of course is the automatic resultant of these investments. If a similar interest was taken in smaller towns like Belgaum, Bellary, Hubli, Dharwad etc. revenue will increase from these places too. Bengaluru has been running a marathon for the last two decades. It desperately needs a timeout to pass the baton to other deserving smaller towns.

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