Thursday, December 24, 2015

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

HaSiRu Mithra

Waste Segregation, Composting & Sustainability Workshop - 13th Dec 2015 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Garbage In, Garbage Out

Whether Bengaluru is reeling under the depression in Bay of Bengal could be debated, but the city is undoubtedly reeling under severe Garbage crisis once again. BBMP and the relevant authorities have failed to address the Garbage situation in the city yet again; they have handed over the city and citizen health to Garbage mafia. Heaps of Garbage are quickly turning into mountains, out-break of an epidemic is inevitable if the apathy and mindlessness continues for few more days.

Throwing money at every problem seems to be the only idea BBMP comes up with; unfortunately BBMP spending over Rs 400-500 crores on Solid waste Management (SWM) annually has not stopped the Garbage crisis that hits that city every 2 years. Bengaluru is probably the only city with such high spending on SWM and it seems like BBMP is busy ‘applying lipstick on a pig’.

The villages around Bengaluru have chased out BBMP Garbage trucks, after BBMP converted the land near the villages into toxic dump yards and landfills, with absolutely no intention of processing, treatment or clearing the Garbage. Why only neighbouring villages the Karnataka Compost Development Corporation (KCDC) that is located in Ward 190 has been opposed by the residents around due to faulty policy and complete contempt of court ordered Standard Operating Procedures.

Every time there was a Garbage crisis, hundreds of truck loads of Garbage was sent out to neighbouring villages for dumping, but now with that option ruled out, the streets of Bengaluru are raising the stink.

So why is Garbage such a big issue for Bengaluru? In simple management terms it’s ‘Garbage In, Garbage Out’, how can one expect better result from a toothless SWM policy and faulty Garbage tender?

A good look at the SWM policy and the Garbage tender will not only expose the lack of holistic approach, but lack of intent. When Garbage tender is not in sync with SWM policy the policy is designed to fail on all fronts.

The key guidelines of SWM policy that includes Source, Collection, Transport, Processing and Disposal should be implemented in totality, but today the policy is gathering dust with no connect to the Garbage tender what so ever.

Segregation at source is the first and crucial step to addressing the Garbage crisis; even though currently less than 15% households segregating waste at source, it’s more due to the waste collection method, lack of awareness and lack of sustained localized campaign in the communities.

Collection & Transport
Even though the tender has certain guidelines on collection, handling and transport, ambiguity in the clauses is completely exploited by the Service Provider, who have an incentive to transport un-segregated waste. Three critical aspects that need a revamp in the tender are:

  1. Shift the policy from collection of segregated waste to collection of the Wet & Dry waste separately by two different Service Providers, thereby defining the roles and objectives for the two Service Providers.
  2. Mandatory use of leak proof containers by all primary collection vehicles, and sync the transfer timings between primary and secondary collection to avoid creating dumping at secondary collection points.
  3. Move from the term Treatment to Processing (Composting, Recycling, Reusing)
The SWM policy has to change form Treatment to Processing, which will lead to reduction in creating newer landfill or dumping yards. Processing should include Composting in case of wet waste, Recycling in case of dry waste and Reusing to produce energy/bio-gas.   

Debris and waste that cannot be processed needs a clear destination, there is rampant illegal dumping of the debris on the Lake beds and into Storm Water Drains across the city. Construction debris is a reality and unless there is a specific destination identified the city Lakes will suffer at the cost of construction.

One does not have to read an encyclopedia to realize that Pourakarmikas (PKs), SHGs, Informal sector waste-pickers (ISWPs) play a critical role in a successful implementation of SWM policy. PKs, SHGs, ISWPs can be linked directly to various state & central livelihood programs by making them the stake holders in the SWM policy.

The SWM policy needs a highly decentralized approach, it should emphasize on multiple Service Providers and SWM Entrepreneurs to create not only competition but to push for continuous improvement on a yearly basis in infrastructure and technology.

State Government and BBMP are currently on a ‘Frog Kissing’ mode, they have announced yet another high cost experiment of Waste-2-Energy plant, but unless the SWM policy, Garbage tender are not in sync, Waste-2-Energy plant will be yet another white Elephant just like the Sewage Treatment Plants that are running 60-70% below capacity.

A good policy alone cannot guarantee better result, the skill is in implementation, hence there is a need to shift focus from spending on tenders to spending on manpower, resources, training, campaigns, awareness programs and incentive policy.

Garbage mafia has to end and to do that BBMP should start investing on setting objectives, targets and achieving results and stop throwing taxpayers’ monies on Garbage trucks.

- Kavitha Reddy
Environmental Activist & Entrepreneur 

Republished in Citizen Matters 

Monday, October 19, 2015

Karnataka CM KCDC Visit

Got an opportunity to update the CM on the issues related to KCDC & Somasundra Palya Lake on 17th Oct 2015.  

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Revisiting Sikkim - Land of Waterfalls, Lush Green Forest & Mountains

Late Monsoon did not deter our spirit to get the glimpses of the Crowning Glory of the Nation Mt. Khangchendzonga. A good long 7 hours drive from Bagdogra to Yuksom in Western Sikkim through patches of bad roads, cascading waterfalls flowing onto the road, lush green forest cover and misty hills all added to the scenic beauty the Sikkim is known for.

Yuksom (means meeting place of three Lamas), the old capital of Sikkim, a peaceful valley which is the gateway to one of the most popular and beautiful trek in Sikkim the Yuksom- Dzongri -GoechaLa Trek. Yuksom is all of two roads, with beautiful large monastery and stupas, home stays and few hotels play host to travellers. A bright day would mean a good view of Mount Kabru for visitors to Yuksom. With almost 24 hours electricity, clean environment, fresh water and enterprising people Yuksom is indeed a dream land.

Our Trek to GoechaLa, started from small lanes of Yuksom leading to the entrance of Khangchendzonga National Park (KNP). Unlike the other Himalayan range North-East Himalayas are a blanket of green cover, rich evergreen forest and huge trees embrace the hills, with bright white patches amidst, which indeed are waterfalls rushing down finding its way to join the giant streams below. Sounds of the gushing of water and the wind overpowered the rains, as we trekking on a fairly well carved path.

With lashing rains and leeches around there was little option for camping in tents, small trekkers lodge was our home, my team decided in sleep in the lodge I happily opted to sleep outside with just a roof on top, surprisingly it was not cold enough to send me back into the lodge.

Day two was going to be a long trek gaining altitude to our next destination Tshoka, with the trail going up-and down all through the forest, keens were getting tired, and gloomy weather with occasional showers did not help either. Even a few kilometres in the higher altitudes can be gruelling more so with unfavourable weather, we reached Tshoka at about 3pm fully drenched, just in time for some hot noodle soup and Tea.

Tshoka is a larger place with better trekkers’ lodges, we were indeed disappointed to meet fellow trekkers who were returning from Dzongri due to bad weather and we were hoping weather would change as we reach Dzongri. As I woke up, weather that seemed fine was a complete whiteout in few minutes, but that did not deter us from hitting the trail to Dzongri at 7.30am, Dzongri was a long slipper trail and was the toughest day of the trail, we had the company of Himalayan Mountaineering Institute Trainees heading to their Basecamp via Dzongri carrying their 20-25 kg back pack and it remained me of my training days in Nehru Institute of Mountaineering.

Couple of foreigner trekker friends ended up in tent due to shortage of space and with rain all through the night their tents turned into mini-pools by morning. With no clear weather we stayed another day in Dzongri, with very little hope to proceed further. Next day with weather not giving much hope and given the fact that we had to cover two days of trek in a day, we had to take a sad and hard decision to trek back to Tshoka and to Yuksom the following day.

The last day of the trek as we headed back the weather got better, and we could see all that we missed when we had trekked up. Birds, Butterflies & Insects were out in the mild sun making merry. Flowers blooms and the marshy rocky walls of the trial turned brighter and greener, as Sun cleared the mist, lichens hanging from trees with swinging  branches from the giant trees looked like the trail turned into Paradise on Earth overnight. Every waterfall was our water and photo break, crossing the bridges with gushing crystal clear water underneath was more fun. It was time to cherish the real beauty of the trail that we missed for the last 5 days due to bad weather. There was indeed disappointment that we could not complete our mission, but in the mountains it’s the weather that all ways wins.

As we exited the KNP, the forest department was getting ready to receive UN delegation, the delegation scheduled to visit KNP and trek through the trail to assess if KNP indeed deserves the UNESCO Heritage reorganization. I wished the forest staff good luck and hoped next year I will be trekking in the region that has a UNESCO Heritage tag, which it truly deserves.

Back in Yuksom, a hot shower and strong cup of masala tea at Gupta’s restaurant took away all the tiredness, feeling fresh once again. Gupta’s restaurant is indeed a place to hang out in Yuksom, good hot food, friendly ambiance and Gupta Ji sharing his journey of 23 years from Bihar to Yuksom hooks you there for longer time. With Yummy aloo parata and few cups of masala tea, we left Yuksom with pleasant memories and  a lasting friendship, back to the hustle bustle city life, which we did not miss much….with a promise to return next year.

- Kavitha Reddy

Saturday, September 5, 2015

My Rock Star Teachers

Guru Brahma Guru Vishnu Guru Devo Maheshwara | Guru Sakshat Param Brahma | Tasmai Sree Gurave Namaha |

Whenever I meet my Teachers, there is always a big hug and they proudly introduce me to their current colleagues, speaking all the good things about me. :) :) 

No doubt that I was always the Teachers student, as a kid I remember getting into fights with my dad about math sum, and the fights always ended with me screaming ‘My Teacher is right, I will not learn from you’, even after getting few tight slaps.

Noor Fatima, the Head Mistress how can I forget her, slim tall lady who always draped her sari beautifully and spoke with so much confidence. She was an inspiration, what was then not even an observation, today seems to be the very foundation of the way I see the world. A Muslim couple, running a school in Hindu matt premises, my class teacher being Anglo-India and my favourite teacher Fatima K singing om jai jagadish with a tilak on her forehead during the Friday Saraswati puja conducted by children. I learnt all my prayer songs not in a Hindu run school but a school run by Muslim couple, and Noor Fatima indeed laid the very foundation of my Secular thinking.

Fatima K, I can never forget even her signature, everything about her was perfect, she taught Math and Hindi and ensured that I was good in Math and learnt Hindi well. She was a good friend of my mom and her conservation with my mom with her broken Kannada and my mom’s no English was indeed comical.

Oh boy, Pushpa, the very tough PT Teacher, even the tallest and well built boy would never mess with her. She was the energy and never accepted anything less than complete discipline. I remember girls used to go her requesting for a day-off from PT class during their monthly periods, and she always sent them back saying ‘it’s going to be there for a long time, will you stop living your life 5 days of every month?’, maybe there were few exceptions once in a while. I liked the way she knotted her hair up, it was unique than and maybe even know, when I did have long hair that was the no mess hair knot I sported.  

Kausalya M R, the Head Mistress, dark skinned, big bindi and her sari collection was legendary. She taught History & Civics, always encouraged questions and her class on Indian Constitution was a treat. My best ever question to her was, ‘if Hinduism was not a religion, how can you say that Buddhism & Jainism were the off-shoot religions of Hinduism’. When accidently my grandfather & my mom met her on a bus and my grandfather asked her about my progress, she said good things and ended saying ‘she is Stubborn’. Oh that was the line for rest of my life, every time I opposed something at home ‘even your Teacher says you are Stubborn’ became the common gaali! Kausalya ma’am left a mark in my life, not just with the ‘Stubborn’ tag but the K in my signature draws some inspiration from her signature.

Vasudev Bhalla, what can I say about this scholar and Kannada Teacher, he knew Sanskrit, Tulu, Kannada, Hindi, English, Telgu, Tamil etc etc. The old man not only taught Kannada but lessons of life and in a way prepared me for life. He encouraged me to read books without prejudice and complete every book I rent or buy. He used to travel to my village and teach children on Sunday and he always had soft corner for me as he knew my family. He taught me the most important lesson in life, he always said ‘Learning to drive a car is not enough, learn to change the punctured tyre also’ his suggestion was not limited to car for sure, ‘Learn to fix the problem’ was the subtext.

Prabhakar Sir, the typical Hindi Teacher, even though my 3rd language was Hindi he always encouraged me to learn Hindi, me completing prathama & madhyama course in Hindi was undoubtedly his influence. Even though I can’t write Hindi as well as I did once upon a time, it did help me to travel across many parts of North India without a language barrier. One day he gave me a full page picture of Valsamma the famous athlete torn from a sports magazine where she was handing over the baton to the next runner, and said ‘when we handover the baton to the next generation we should have done a good job’, that picture was stuck in my cupboard for many years till it turned brown.

C N Mangala, the Principal, goddess and epitome of simplicity. Tiny lady who commanded the greatest respect, even though she never taught me in class she was someone whom I admired the most, and always felt when I grow really old I will be like her. At a college day event, I was doing a karate demo with the group, after I finished a series of brick breaking and tiles smashing stunts the last was the chopping of watermelon. As I laid still with just a support at the head and foot, and watermelon on my stomach, the blind folded karate master with a huge sword was ready to slice the watermelon. I was told later that she stood-up completely worried and even covered her eyes as the sword went up. After the act, she called me, gave a pat on my back and said ‘Brave Girl, Keep it up’.

I feel blessed that I have very good memories and so much to talk about all my Teachers, the list if these amazing Teachers are endless. Be it School, College or NCC I always had some of the best one to guide me; they encourage me to be Just Me.

We did not have ‘Selfie with Teacher in those days, hence I remember them more for who they are, and how they shaped me rather than how they looked.

Thank You Teachers.

- Kavitha Reddy

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Ward 174 - Let’s Hope

This BBMP election Ward 174 recorded less than 43% voting, leaving many of us who have been involved in the elections directly or indirectly not just surprised but annoyed too.

The story of low voting percentage was common across all BBMP Wards with very few exceptions; looks like relentless awareness campaigns about importance of voting had no impact on urban voters. It may be cynicism or simply not giving a damn about a Democratic process, whatever it may be by not voting and by not participating, voters are weakening the very foundation of our Democracy.

Anyways, as counting closed on 25th Aug, it was clear that voters (who ever voted) of Ward 174 had given BJP yet another chance. For several years with Corporator, MLA, MP all from BJP, both BBMP and State Govt Governed (rather misgoverned) by BJP, nothing good happened for Ward 174 rather only got worst.

There is no doubt that INC lost Ward 174 purely due to its internal fight and a last minute patch-up of the warring factions did not help them, BJP just got away without being held accountable for its misrule or its bad governance both in Ward 174 and in BBMP.

But the mandate is out, so let’s look at the enormity of the mess that newly elected Corporator of Ward 174 has on his hands.

With over 4238 potholes of various shapes/sizes/depth on 141 kms of road length, the basic road infrastructure is crumbling and needs major surgery. Except for repeated asphalting of roads in the IAS Officers locality and 27th main, roads across Ward 174 have not been asphalted for over 5-10 years.

Roads have been the largest source of corruption with multiple billing of the same stretch of asphalted road and illegal digging of roads to lay Optic Fiber  Cables (OFCs), also leading to huge revenue loss.

Traffic & Parking 
Rampant, unchecked and even illegal commercialization has lead to a huge increase in the Traffic. All the key commercial roads that connect to different parts of Ward 174 have turned into bottle necks. Pedestrian are suffering due to random parking and pavement parking, leaving no space for their movement.

Basic audit will reveal that more than 50% of the 4737 streetlights are non-functional, thereby leading to serious safety issues for commuters, women and children. Deadly potholes and lack of streetlight is an open invitation to fatal accidents especially for people using two-wheeler.

Garbage & SWD 
One can pass on the Garbage issue as a common problem across the City & Country, but so far there has been no effort what so ever to create awareness or to implement segregation at source. When large part of Ward 174 is a well planned BDA layout its criminal indeed if even segregated Garbage is collected and dumped into the same pile.

Storm Water Drains (SWD) both the shoulder inlets and the main Raja Kaluves are to the brim with garbage and silt, with choking and clogging drains a few minutes of rains can flood houses in low lying areas.

Education & Health 
A look at Anganwadi will tell you the plight of the children for the lesser privileged section of the society. Lack of even basic facilities will only suggest that previous Corporator gave no attention to the poorer section and left them to fend for themselves.

The Govt Schools are no better, with minimum facilities, with not much emphasis on quality and the high profile schools not willing to implement RTE, parents who can’t afford private schools have very little choice but to send their children to Govt Schools.

Garbage, chocked SWDs, Pig menace, stink from KCDC, unkempt Public spaces, using of vacant sites as Public toilets all are leading to serious health issues cutting across all sections of the society.

Lakes & Parks 
Both Agara Lake & Iblur Lake comes under Ward 174, but until the citizens started a movement to save Agara Lake 3 years ago all elected representatives had completely ignored the Lake. And once the elected representatives got involved they made a big mess, pushing STP which is not even needed and which is a BIG waste of tax payer money, well status of Iblur Lake is less said the better.

Even though Ward 174 is blessed with 39 Parks, other than the one time tap cutting its not been a priority for the previous Corporator and BBMP. Parks lack basic facilities and cleaning, with some efforts of the RWAs some parks are still in usable condition.

Play Grounds 
Ward 174 has been known for its Citizen/RWAs activism, just like snatching prey from a Tiger’s mouth few eminent Citizens went to the court to save the Play Ground from becoming Judges Colony. But now like always elected representatives are pushing to set-up a ‘concrete’ stadium in place of an open Play Ground. Regularly the Play Ground is rented out (rather used) to some religious function, and they mostly leave back a mess.  

With a population of 65000 fewer Play Grounds only mean lesser Public space and lesser opportunities for creating a sporting atmosphere.  

To conclude, Encroachments, Illegal construction are on the rise; a complete control of this menace and implementation of law is the need of the hour. 

These are just some of the key issues out of many, previous Corporator did not even bother about Ward meetings or about setting-up a strong, effective and functioning Ward Committee. There was not even a priority list or a Ward agenda, other than the BIG talk of ‘Model Ward’ with zero impact on ground. Previous Corporator's interactions were limited to her party workers and the select few in the Ward, there by ignore all the requirements in the Ward.

Is there Hope? Only time will tell, will the newly elected Corporator be another puppet in the hands of the MLA or will he show some spine and address the issues that Ward 174 and its Citizens are facing?

Let’s Hope, as if we have a choice :)

- Kavitha Reddy

Note: I am a Member of the Indian National Congress, but I am sure the issues I have put out are irrespective of my political inclination and based on facts and current situation. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

BBMP Election: Sham called ‘Women Reservation’

Dear Rahul Ji,

You breezed in and out of Bengaluru warning the Chief Minister and City Ministers of serious action in case INC losses BBMP Elections, good to know that you are talking tough and telling the Ministers who are from Bengaluru City to win or get ready to be axed. There is no doubt whatsoever that if all the INC MLAs and Ministers who are from Bengaluru City work in the interest of the party, INC will get an absolute majority in BBMP Elections.

But at what cost remains the mother of all questions, with unnecessary and uncalled for delays in the BBMP Election process INC lost its initial advantage to a great extent, and with the method in which the candidates are selected raises very serious questions on the intent and motive.

Inspired by the growing anger among the people demanding better candidates from political parties, I decided to contest BBMP Election, as per the process I submitted my application and a detailed two page profile to KPCC. A look at my application and profile will only suggest that there cannot be a better candidate than me to contest BBMP Election on an INC ticket.

Clean, Credible & Committed, with a good understanding of Civic Administration, vast experience in Sr Management roles and spirited Political & Environmental Activist, I was convinced that party will see greater merits in my application.

I was indeed very impressed when the observers came to meet all the aspirants individually, but that did not last long, the sham of selection stood thoroughly exposed. As observers started calling the names of the women aspirants, the men proudly walked and took the seat, left me wondering where the women were. So women were just the proxy for the real candidates ‘the men’.

This story is neither strange nor shocking, because this is how genuine women leaders are kept out of political process. You keep talking and giving big speeches about women empowerment and bringing women into the main stream politics, but reality is not a single woman is given ticket on her own credentials.

The selection process violated every single selection criteria, the women who were given tickets are neither party workers nor active members of the party. So stop this farce called ‘selection process’ and directly ask the male leaders to nominate their female relative and give them tickets and get over it.

What can be more appalling, even with 50% reservation INC has not given tickets to independent women candidates/aspirants. INC leaders choose the female relatives of male leaders to fill the 50% seats, who will act as proxy for the male leaders and keeping civic administration within the family.

I agree that it’s a common practise across parties, and if you want to follow the same practise then INC and you should not speak about ‘Women Empowerment’ anymore. And, if you really want to bring in change then promote women leaders recognize them for ‘who they are’ and not for ‘who they are related to’.

By giving tickets to incompetent, unqualified proxies who are not even party members you are not only insulting women members of the party who dared to venture into the male bastion but also making a mockery of the Democratic process and disrespecting the voters who have little choice but to vote for a man behind a woman.  

More than being disgruntle I am disgusted with the approach to ‘fill’ the 50% seats reserved for women with men. People like me relate to INC Ideology, but with repeated grave mistakes and unwillingness to make course correction, connect to Ideology will fade away sooner or later.

- Kavitha Reddy
Just a party worker who dared to speak the Truth

Friday, July 24, 2015

HSR 10K Freedom Run 2015

Kaagaz Foundation is organizing the 3rd edition of ‘HSR 10K Freedom Run’ the objective being awareness and campaign for a Greener & Healthier Bengaluru.
This edition will take up various awareness campaigns and initiatives for a Greener & Healthier Bengaluru, proposed initiatives being:
- Tree Plantation drives
- Setting up Cycle Parking facility in HSR Layout
- Promote Cycling as a Health & Green initiative
- Organize SWM awareness programs

Monday, May 25, 2015

Being Farmer

Modi Sarkar was ushered into the Parliament with a landmark majority, and with a hope of #AccheDin. A hurried ordinance making major changes to the Land Bill that was passed with a thumping majority in 2013 by UPA-2, supported by BJP with equal vigour raised serious questions on Modi Sarkar’s intent.

Ordinance was projected as a major reform, and the #AccheDin Govt was least prepared for the backlash. Drunk with majority in LS and the corporate euphoria, little did it expect not just opposition in RS but a united and aggressive opposition taking the debate to the people’s court.

Consent, Compensation, Social Impact Assessment, Return of unused land are the hallmarks of the Land Bill 2013, and an attempt to make it crony capitalist friendly did not go down well with the very people who voted for #AccheDin. With no sight of #AccheDin even after 365 days, Modi Sarkar that came to power promising the Moon seems to have not done its homework and just came up with #Jumlas and U-Turns.

Land Bill that was passed in 2013 was long due; coming from farming community and having seen the suffering of the farmers post land acquisition the Land Bill 2013 was a great relief, a step in the right direction and felt better late than never.

Weaving my own story into this, as a kid I watched distressed farmers meeting my grandfather when Bommasandra Industrial Area was announced. My grandfather use to tell them that industry is also important; it will give employment to the youth and will improve living condition. Rich agriculture land was acquired with little and delayed compensation, farming community waited in vain for the much promised jobs for themselves and their children. The Industries never really took off, with just few factories here and there and no real jobs for the locals or for the farmers who gave up their land. As years passed in distress trying to make ends meet, sooner or later Bommasandra Industrial Area was heading towards being declared sick Industrial Area.

The only advantage was that my native is much closer to the city of Bengaluru. After several years in agony and struggle to make ends meet it was the IT revolution that revived the fortunes of farmers and their children who already had crossed the prime age and were just about making a living.

The stories of many other Industrial Areas are no different, land acquired in the name of industry and with a promise of jobs take several years and sometimes never happens.

MD of Biocon infamously referred to farmers as ‘Squatters’ in her enthused support to the proposed changes in the Land Bill. Little does she know that an assessment across the Industrial Areas will only show how land allotted several years ago for an industry that never came up is worth 20-50 times more today, the real squatters are the industrialists who refuse to part with prime properties they got at a throw away price.

In an article by my Ex Boss (for whom I have very high regards) argues how it’s important to have fewer farmers and more production, but not stating the fact that every industry wants less employees and more productivity, living the question wide open on who will really benefit from the proposed changes to the Land Bill.

It is true that a farmer’s child many not want to be a farmer, but it is also true that lack of strong agricultural policy has indeed driven many away from farming, if there is one business that has the maximum risk it is indeed agriculture. Farming and related activities employs most in India, and cannot be just measured on its GDP contribution.

Even as my parents moved to the city, we had the advantage of farm produce reaching home. Never remember buying Rice, Ragi, Dal, Chilli, Tamarind, Coconut, Curry leaves, Mustard, Ghee or Mangoes or at times even fresh vegetables from a shop. The quality of our life was better and my parents were able to afford good education for us and for many of my cousins/relatives because of the mutually beneficial arrangement back in the village. If we had to sell out all our land to some industry and move to the city, I would not have had the privileges and benefits I grew up with.

What really bothered many when the ordinance was shoved down the throat of Democracy was that many of us could connect to the farmers’ issues directly; many of us have lost land in the name of development and got nothing substantial in return. The heart of India is still agriculture, even if you are an IAS officer when you go to your village you would not shy away from picking up the spade and diverting water into the fields. 

Argument of creating a stronger economy and ‘trickling down effect’ has always been a bad one. If ‘trickling down effect’ was true then with India opening up the economy in the 90’ should be lifted every Indian out of poverty. The reality is millions fall back into poverty when there is a hospitalization or death or even a small unfortunate incident in their families. A bad crop can drag an entire farming community into poverty; booming economy without a strong social welfare schemes and pro-farmer schemes will not address poverty or the farmer issues in India.

Consent, Compensation, Social Impact Assessment and Return of unused land should be a rule. Like industry is important so is agriculture, one cant chase investments, promise jobs and take away livelihood of millions of farmers in the name of development. Food security is indeed the hallmark of a humane country and no development is relevant if it betrays its farmers who grow our food.

-Kavitha Reddy

Friday, February 20, 2015

Memorandum to CM - Somasundrapalya Lake & KCDC

Shri. Siddaramaiah Ji
Honorable Chief Minister, Govt of Karnataka

 Sub: Appeal to Rejuvenate Somasundrapalya Lake and to end menace of KCDC plant 

Respected Siddaramaiah Ji,

Greetings! At the outset for the letter, we congratulate you for the recent initiatives by your government under your able leadership in conservation of water bodies across the state by passing the Karnataka Tank Development Authority Bill, 2014 in the recent assembly session.

We are confident that the provisions in new bill would help in rejuvenation and conservation of water bodies in the state. We also hope this legislation will help in revival and conservation of the water bodies in and around Bengaluru that are very crucial for recharging of the depleting ground water tables given the kind of urban sprawl that the city is been witnessing.

Bengaluru city was known for the lakes but today many of them vanished and the one’s remaining are in peril. The reasons range from encroachments of the tank shore area, raja kaluvas, inflow of effluents from industries in up streams, domestic waste water flows into storm water drains resulting in pollution of water bodies. The multiplicity of the institutional ownership of various departments is another issue that has been hunting the lake conservation.    

At this juncture, we take this opportunity to bring to notice the Somasundrapalya Lake (also known as Haralakunte Lake) one such neglected lake located survey number 0051 BBMP Ward 190, of Bommanahalli Assembly Constituency; the lake is currently under BDA jurisdiction (East division).

Key issues of Somasundrapalya Lake:

-   The lake originally spread over close to 16 Acres 29 Guntas, in last few years about 3 acres has been encroached. (enclosed copy of RTI reply)

-   The broken fencing and complete neglect by BDA has resulted in debris dumping, excess growth of weeds, entry of raw sewage and affluent into lake. There by making it completely unusable for residents either for a walk or recreation.

-   Karnataka Compost Development Corporation (KCDC) located in the vicinity of the lake, has been encroaching the lake bed for its vehicle movements and to stack up waste and leachate is flowing into the lake.

-   KCDC plant in this area is close to a heavily populated locality; the residents have been constantly complaining about the raising stink, vector menace leading to respiratory diseases and skin allergies. During the monsoon the stink from KCDC garbage processing operation are unbearable, and residents have take up the issue with the local authorities but the problem continues to remain.

-  This lake falls under the upper catchment of the Varthur Lake series, and is interconnected to 9 lakes in this series gets a good quantity of rain water, and it can retain and recharge the ground water tables. But neglect and blockages of the inlets has resulted in lesser and lesser water reaching the lake.

We would also like to draw Hon. Chief Minister’s attention to 7th Sept 2013 visit to Agara Lake, where you had instructed the BDA Commissioner to re-survey Somasundrapalya Lake, and had directed BBMP Commissioner to take necessary steps to remove encroachments. So far neither BDA nor BBMP has taken initiated any concrete action nor have indicated any plan of action in this regard.

The residents of the locality have on several occasions expressing their concern and helplessness to get the relevant authorities to address w.r.t lake conservation and remedial measures to control the odor nuisance from the KCDC operations in this area.    

On behalf of the residents of the locality we are submitting the memorandum in full faith that Hon. Chief Minister will take cognizance of the concerns we have raised and will initiate necessary action without any further delay.

The inhabitants of the Somasundarpalya and surrounding area would be highly indebted the Hon. Chief Minister. We once again make humble request you to kindly do the needful and oblige.

Looking forward to hearing from you at the earliest.

Thanking you,

Warm Regards,
Kavitha Reddy
Mountaineer & Lake Activist
Member of One Bengaluru for Lakes
Founder Member, Jt Secretary of Agara Lake Protection & Management Society

Enclosed: 1. Response to RTI query regarding the lake area
               2. Copy of the local newspaper that covered your 7th Sept 2013 visit
               3. Three Photos of the current state of Somasundrapalya Lake

CC: Shri. Ramalinga Reddy, Hon. Transport Minister & Bengaluru City in-charge Minister, GOK
      Shri. Kupendra Reddy, Hon. Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha

Click here for reply from CM Office 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

We the Women

‘It is impossible to think about the welfare of the world unless the condition of women is improved. It is impossible for a bird to fly on only one wing’ - Swami Vivekananda

Swami Vivekananda would not have imagined that even after a century we will still be talking and debating about gender inequality and women empowerment. It has taken centuries of struggle for women to break the glass ceiling, to be relevant and to be counted in different walks of life, but sad reality is that gender equality is still a far cry. It is a shocking fact that female infanticide is higher in urban India than rural India, defeating the argument that urbanization and education enables gender equality.

Challenge of gender inequality indeed arises due to a huge gap in participation of women in Social, Economic and Politics space, even though women to some extent have broken the glass ceiling in the Social & Economic space, India has seen a decline in participation of women in Political space.

With women reservation bill gathering dust, the percentages of women in Parliament and Assemblies across states are reducing and the gap is only getting wider. Some states might have made a 50% reservation for women in local bodies (Municipality/Corporation/Panchayat), but women are more co-opt by a male relative and is not necessarily a genuine attempt to provide opportunity for women to be part of the political discourse.

Excluding few well know women politicians like Indira Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi, Mayawati, Mamata Banerjee, Sushma Swaraj, Jayalalitha who have utilised the opportunity and have risen to be strong mass leaders, women in politics are selected or co-opted. Majority of women who have made it to the Parliament and Assemblies are either relatives of male politicians or achievers in their own fields who are parachuted by various political parties for electoral gains and mere representation.  

Fewer women are joining political parties as primary members or taking to political activism, working their way up and surviving the heat and dust of Indian politics has less takers. What is even more worrying are the results of a study conducted by Centre for Social Research and UN Women which found that women in politics face high levels of violence, fear character assassination and emotional abuse, and adding to it, women who are young, poor and first generation politicians found to be the worst affected.

Indian politics over the years has indeed become more of money, machismo and muscle, has this change kept women away from active politics? Whatever may be the reason, lesser participation of women in Politics and in Governance is not a good sign for our Democracy and the Nation at large. Women are 49% of Indian voting population, but a meagre 11% of the Parliamentarians are women.

Bringing in women into politics is indeed a chicken-egg situation; will the political parties create a women friendly atmosphere to enable women to take to politics actively or will they encourage more and more women to take up party membership who will thereby bring the change in the political structure remains an eternal question.

Rahul Gandhi while addressing women party worker rally pointed out that the rally had more men than women and the same is reflected in his party offices too. PM Modi speaks about saving the daughters and empowering women, unfortunately percentage of women in his party also do not add up. Aam Admi Party that has galvanised the youth and re-energised interest in politics also lags behind when it comes to giving tickets to women candidates.

Every party recognises that larger participation of woman in Politics and Governance is good for the Democracy. Sadly cutting across party lines the one common factor that makes all of them look equal is that the percentage of women in the party and percentage of women who are given tickets to contest elections.

But it is also important that women break barrier and take to political activism, if one waits for the all signals lights to go green, it will never happen. More women participation in Politics and in Governance is a critical step towards closing the gap, the gap of gender inequality. Let’s face it, any substantial change that impacts India happens only through our Parliament and Assemblies, and if women are not part of the law making process it raises very serious questions. It is also true that without a large talent pool of women political activist just parachuting women into Parliament and Assemblies indeed makes the men who have worked their way up in the political system disgruntle.

Irrespective of the party or ideology one chooses, women need to become part of the political structure and political discourse of this country. As a third generation political activist I do agree that politics is a tough place, but so is everything else. Women reservation bill even if it becomes law will not change much unless women step out of comfort zones and voluntarily identify themselves with a political structure and work towards becoming lawmakers. A change can happen for women only by women, and what India needs is a mass movement lead by women to become equal partners in political discourse, governance and law making.

As one more International Women’s Day nears, let us not just restricted it to celebrate womanhood and pat our back on our achievement, but constructively work towards gender equality in Social, Economic and Political space.

As Hillary Clinton aptly said ‘It is past time for women to take their rightful place, side by side with men, in the rooms where the fates of peoples, where their children's and grandchildren's fates, are decided.’

- Kavitha Reddy