Citizens’ participation in governance took another step forward at the Beku Beda Sante on Sunday as NGOs, resident welfare associations and even passersby walked in to show their concern for the city.
As speakers on the stage highlighted various issues, including garbage, floods and bad roads, six-year-old children to teenagers engaged with them by pinning their views onto a notice board using red ribbons for their objections and green ones to put forward demands.
"We need good roads in Rajajingar, not potholes. Small roads need light and space for bicycles,” wrote 14-year-old Ashwini S.
The Sante was an effort by organisations like Citizens for Bengaluru and Namma Bengaluru Foundation and others to keep alive the culture of public participation, which started as a protest against the plan to fell trees for a steel flyover.
On a makeshift stage, activists of various organisations spoke out against the government’s tendency to ignore the public while planning projects and making policies. Theatreperson Prakash Belawadi stressed on the need for public consultation for city planning. "It is high time the government gave importance to people’s voice rather than party mandate,” he said.
Speaking to some of the participants made it clear that it was not just the celebration of success in stopping the proposed steel flyover project.
Bharat Ram, who works with a brewery in Sarjapur, said he was not an activist but came to the Sante because he felt "mere ranting was not enough”. "It is through participation we can turn things better rather than merely feeling upset about the issues. I am about to become a father in a few days. This is not the city I want for my child. I want to contribute my part to make it better,” he said.
Amar Jeeth, a software engineer, said the space created by the event also forces people to recognise their differences and shortcomings. "On stage, one activist demanded more signal-free corridors and another sought more zebra crossings and signals for pedestrians. This is not a conflict. It just shows that both motorists and pedestrians are not happy,” he said.
Many participants said politicians are bound to take notice of public demands eventually. "When these demands are presented in an organised manner, they will be part of the policy,” said Lalita Mohan, trustee of Jwalamukhi, an organisation that trains children to become leaders.