City municipal agencies must be accountable to citizens for their negligence. The Namma Bengaluru Foundation (NBF) has been at the forefront of the battle for transparency and accountability of the governmental authorities to the citizens of Bengaluru.
In October 2014, in the aftermath of the death of two children in Bengaluru, by drowning in open drains and pits during the monsoon season, NBF and Rajeev Chandrashekar filed a PIL before the High Court of Karnataka against the State government and the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagar Palike (BBMP), seeking criminal prosecution of the local officials responsible for maintenance of public infrastructure in the city. The PIL was filed on October 9, 2014, a day after the body of Baby Geetha Lakshmi was recovered from Agara lake, after she was washed away into a drain where the covering slab had been removed, in Bilekahalli on Bannerghatta Road, on October 6, 2014. The PIL essentially seeks to affix criminal liability on local officials who were responsible for maintenance of public infrastructure in Bengaluru, and owing to criminal negligence and dereliction of duty of whom, the death of innocent children had occurred.
The Court, terming the open/broken drains in the city as ‘death traps’, has taken a serious view of the dereliction of duty of the government towards the public infrastructure as well as the complete apathy towards the loss of lives. The Court immediately summoned Investigating Officer of the police station concerned and sought for submission of the investigation report in the case. The Court also summoned the BBMP Commissioner, and directed the BBMP to file a status report on the action initiated against erring officials.
Four BBMP officials have been identified as accused in the case of Baby Geethalakshmi’s death. Investigation is currently ongoing, and sanction to prosecute one of the accused has been received from the government, while sanction for the remaining accused is awaited from the government.
Apart from seeking criminal prosecution of negligent officials, the PIL also seeks for directions to the BBMP to undertake immediate steps to close all open drains and manholes in the city and provide adequate signage, warning the people of hazards, as well as the preparation of a comprehensive plan of action, by the Urban Development Department and the BBMP, for undertaking and establishing safety and security mechanisms, pertaining to public drains and other utility services such as electricity supply etc. in Bengaluru.