Twenty-four people formed a cooperative society, and bought a plot at Malleswaram, a northwest neighbourhood in Bengaluru, in the early 1970s.
After purchasing the plot, the Paresh Apartments Cooperative Society for Housing approached HN Anantharaman and his younger brother HN Dwarakanath with a request. They wanted the engineer siblings to construct a building.
In 1974, Bengaluru got its first apartment complex, Paresh Apartments. Gradually, apartment complexes — defined as residential communities with more than six flats — mushroomed in the Pensioners’ Paradise.
Slowly, several individual residential units disappeared as the city started its vertical growth. The internet boom that transformed Bengaluru into the Silicon Valley of India further fuelled the construction sector.
The growth was sudden and the city’s infrastructure was inadequate to handle the demands of the apartment dwellers.
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Congress’ Apartment Cell
Cut to 2023, the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) formed an “Apartment Cell” on Saturday, 25 March, promising to address the myriad grievances of the residents by bridging the gap between them and the government.
The Cell, formed a few weeks ahead of the Assembly polls, has left the Bangalore Apartment Federation (BAF) gushing.
Welcoming the KPCC Cell, BAF told South First that it was for the first time that a mainstream political party has recognised apartment dwellers as a community, and felt the need to address their concerns.
“We see a political legitimacy as the who’s and who of the KPCC — president DK Shivakumar, former chief minister and Congress Legislative Party Leader Siddaramaiah, AICC Secretary Abhishek Dutta, Congress leaders Ramalinga Reddy, Krishna Byre Gowda, Rizwan Arshad, H Nagesh, and two ex-Mayors — attending the Bengaluru Apartment Town Hall,” BAF secretary Vikram Rai said.
He said BAF has more than 1,200 apartment Residents’ Welfare Associations (RWAs) as its members. There are around 15,000 apartment residential complexes in the city which would add up to more than 2.5 lakh households (flat units).
“DK Shivakumar said in his speech that around 17 percent of the population in Bengaluru live in apartments. This number could be as per the official records, but among Bengaluru’s 1.3 crore population, at least 30 lakh people live in apartments,” the BAF office-bearer told South First.
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At the town hall chaired by the KPCC Apartment Cell Chairman and former MP Prof MV Rajeev Gowda, the Congress leaders proposed their initial charter.
It listed the priorities that looked more like an election manifesto: Issues related to Floor-Area-Ratio (FAR), strengthening of the RERA (Real Estate Regulatory Authority) Act, installation of rainwater harvesting systems, and the management of sewage treatment plants at apartments.
The leaders also promised an electric vehicle policy to encourage community charging stations with reduced electricity tariffs for apartments that are proactively setting up charging facilities.
RWA representatives who attended the town hall presented their issues and grievances. The Apartment Cell members gave them a patient hearing and assured them that their issues could be sorted out if the Congress comes into power.
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Traffic echoes at town hall
Civic and gender activist Tara pointed out that modes of transport are a major problem in Bengaluru than its traffic. “Instead of widening roads, building flyovers, and losing the greenery, why can’t we add more buses and enhance the mass transport system,” she asked.
“Ten years ago, we had 6,000 buses and now we have 6,700 buses though the population has more than doubled. However, more than one crore private vehicles are now plying in the city compared to the around 50 lakhs 10 years ago,” she pointed out.
Tara preferred more buses, which could be immediately purchased, to constructing suburban rails or metro projects that would take a long time.
Citizen groups that had protested the government’s plan for a flyover adjacent to Sankey Tank were also present at the town hall.
They thanked the Opposition leaders for their support while they were up in arms against the project, which would have cost the city around 55 heritage trees belonging to 23 different species.
The activists also presented a “Climate Action Manifesto” to the Opposition leaders.
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Siddaramaiah promises to hold BBMP polls
Addressing the gathering, Siddaramaiah said that the corrupt BJP government has been postponing the BBMP elections for around three years now.
“Without corporators or councillors, how can citizens address their grievances or issues? Our priority is to hold the BBMP polls as soon as we come to power in Karnataka,” the leader, who will be contesting from Varuna, his home turf, said.
“We will also fix the lack of coordination between the authorities such as the BDA, BBMP, BWSSB, Bescom, transport department, etc. by forming committees and sub-committees, especially for the apartment residents, so that their problems are addressed,” he promised.
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Congress in full steam
The Congress is not leaving any stone unturned ahead of the polls. As part of its outreach programmes, its leaders are meeting several communities.
On Thursday, 23 March, Shivakumar donned an auto-rickshaw driver’s khaki while attending a meeting of around 2,000 drivers. He even drove a three-wheeler and interacted with the drivers.
He promised to address their concerns if the Congress comes to power. He also assured them to launch schemes for the poor.