For many concerned Bengalureans (once known as Bangaloreans) their struggle against civic mismanagement in general ~ and the ravishing of the city’s once-celebrated lakes in particular ~ appears a case of “heads I lose, tails you win”. The National Green Tribunal’s slamming the state government for the conditions which contributed to the recent major fire on the Bellandur Lake ~ it took a deployment of 5,000 soldiers almost 24 hours to douse the flames that choked people living in nearby neighbourhoods ~ will bring little relief; an earlier order of the Tribunal had been contemptuously ignored.
Nor is there reason to be assured that the remedial action discussed and finalised at a meeting with government leaders after the fire will bear much fruit. Simply because, as the poet had said, “there are promises to keep and miles to go…” What irks many citizens groups is that even when the matter figured at the NGT a few days back the authorities stuck to their line that the blaze had been started by careless local foraging for firewood despite scientific experts insisting that the methane gas released by a massive collection of sewage was responsible: as it has been for many fires over the past decade.
The “garden city” still boasts of its floral delights, but its civic services are clearly under strain. The demise of many a lake bears testimony to how unchecked urban expansion has taken its toll. Even inner-city drainage is creaking under the load, a stiff shower leaves streets waterlogged, and piles of garbage along streets broad and narrow underscore how municipal services have lagged behind what ought to have been provided in the “IT Capital”. As for pothole-pocked roads the less said the better. Even the presumed power of the Press has failed to have much impact ~ local newspapers are filled with scary reports. Incomplete flyovers put the sick picture in true perspective.
It would have been expected that the blaze in the Bellandur lake would have singed the ruling Congress party’s electoral prospects now that assembly polls are not too far away. Even that does not seem to have galvanised the authorities ~ probably because, as of now at least, there are “hotter” political issues grabbing public attention.
Only the less-than-marginally relevant Aam Aadmi Party has spoken up. And that lack of political pressure permits officials of the state government and municipal bodies to indulge in their customary blame game, and cite a shortage of funds as coming in the way of making Bengaluru the showpiece it was once hailed to be.
The Prime Minister, Congress president etc are all scheduled to undertake vote-garnering missions in coming days. If fiery lakes fail to arouse their concerns and figure prominently on the poll agenda it will be tragic ~ for it would suggest that the city has resigned itself to civic decay.