Sonali Desai

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Biopic: rivals slam Yeddy & buddies

In News on July 4, 2011 at 12:27 pm

Excise minister MP Renukacharya recently created a flutter when he announce his plan to make a biopic on BS Yeddyurappa. Expectedly, the CM’s political rivals have a different take on this reel-life drama.

Manju Shettar

Political circles as well as Sandalwood were sent into a tizzy when excise minister Renukacharya announced his plans to make a biopic on his mentor, chief minister BS Yeddyurappa. The expectation is palpable on both sides, that of the CM and his supporters as well among his political opponents, who insist that the film should convey the reality of Yeddyurappa’s life, and not just provide a glorified picture.

The would-be producer of the film Renukacharya says that he was inspired by the veteran politician’s guts and confidence in facing the problems that confronted him, but added that the film is currently only at the discussion stage. “The script is yet to be finalized, but I have spoken to director SV Rajendrasingh Babu about directing the movie. I will also be discussing it with the CM himself, and the star cast and everything else will be decided after that.”
Rajendrasingh Babu admitted that he had been approached by Renukacharya for a movie based on Yeddyurappa’s political career, but added, “I plan to discuss this with the CM soon. Only if the CM agrees to do the movie will I do it.” Sandalwood insiders had identified actor cum politician Jaggesh as the producer’s choice to play the CM, but when City Buzz contacted him he said that he is not aware of any such decision, and did not want to comment on it until he knew something about it.

Yeddyurappa’s political opponents, however were scathing in their views on the proposed biopic on their arch-enemy. Former chief minister HD Kumaraswamy said, “I don’t think that the script would deal with real-life incidents and if it is to be realistic, they should depict the death of Yeddyurappa’s wife and show how it happened. And since Renukacharya is the producer, the film should have his own character along with others like nurse Jayalkshmi in it, which will be one of the highlights of the movie.”

Further, Kumaraswamy suggested that Yeddyrappa should act as himself in his life story, which would be better than finding another actor for the role. When asked if he would like act in the film himself, Kumaraswamy had this to say, “I don’t want to act in this film because being a producer I have not acted in my own productions so far,” adding, “I’m not bothered about how they will portray the opposition party leaders.”

Opposition party leader Siddaramaiah too did not mince his words when he said, “It is complete nonsense and stupidity what Renukacharya wants to do. He is one of the sycophants of the CM and besides, what is his qualification? He compares Yeddyurappa to Basavanna. This is nothing but bullshit, does Renukacharya even know about Basavanna or read about him?”
When asked if he would act as himself if offered the role, Siddaramaiah said, “I have a better work to do than to act in his film. I don’t even know what the real intention of the cinema is.”

G Parameshwar, president of KPCC, said, “This movie will not help people in any way, and they are already disgusted with his recent dramas so I don’t want to comment more on this.”

RV Deshapande, former KPCC president said, “I think there is no need to make a movie about the CM since his current politics itself is like a movie which people are watching, and they already know the star cast.”

Karnataka politicians on screen
Avasthe (1987) directed by Krishna Masadi was based on late politician Shantaveri Gopalagouda and was produced after his death. It deals with his social concern and political career, and was based on a novel written by UR Ananthamurthy.

Mukyamantri I Love You (2009) was directed by journalist Ravi Belagere, and portrayed the romance between former chief minister HD Kumaraswamy and actress Radhika. It’s release was prevented by a High Court order after Kumaraswamy’s father, former Prime Minister HD Devegowda filed a defamation suit against it.  

Politician Tejaswini Ramesh, who was also a journalist, had announced a movie about her twin careers, which she was supposed to script, direct and act in. The project was later shelved.


Goodbye, chief!

In News on June 19, 2011 at 8:00 pm

The recent killing of Mid-Day’s senior editor Jyotirmoy Dey has shocked India’s media fraternity. His colleague Satish Acharya remembers the committed crime journalist who was something of a mystery even to those who were close to him.

For me, J Dey’s name was synonymous with his column about Mumbai’s underworld gangs in The Indian Express.
When he joined Mid-Day some years ago, he sat next to me at our Mumbai office. He looked as though he was trying to hide his height and stature. He was unassuming, reserved and totally focused on the monitor. When I introduced myself to him, I said, “You’re a celebrity journalist.”

He laughed and said he was only as good as his last story. Gradually, we became friends, having dinner regularly at the office canteen. I never dared disturb him at work, for such was his concentration. His mysterious manner of talking on the phone fascinated me. He would call people bhai, boss, chief and so on.

One of my crime reporter-friends joked that now that I was Dey’s neighbour, even my phone would be tapped. Dey told me both the police and the gangs were eavesdropping on his phone. He misled them by calling people different names, sometimes even referring to his female friends ‘bhai’! He was a mystery, and it suited his investigative reporting.

At Mid-Day, graphics artists work a lot with crime reporters, doing story boards and sketching criminals. I had the opportunity to work with Dey and knew him as much as he wanted me to know him. If I ever had any doubt, like about the number of stars on a policeman’s uniform, I would trouble Dey or another of our colleagues, Vinod Kumar Menon.
When Dey was working on his first book, Khallas, he asked me to do some illustrations. He took me along to meet the publisher. The illustrations were never published because of cost constraints. On the way back, he took me to Byculla to meet the family of one of the oldest underworld dons of Mumbai.

The family treated him like one of them, sharing their grievances with him. He told me how politicians created underworld dons according to their convenience and then crushed them in cold-blooded encounters. He was angry. His stories seemed straight out of a Ram Gopal Varma movie.

Dey was like a cop, or a detective, when he wanted to get that extra little detail for a story. He had tonnes of info and photos. He had a huge network of khabris, whom he’d feed regularly. He would talk about his khabris proudly. He would share his home-cooked dabba food with us, as also his experience of dealing with the underworld and the police. Though some stories seemed too bizarre to be true, there was no denying his hardcore crime journalism experience.

I thought he always lived his life dangerously, never caring about the consequences. He knew he was under constant observation. He wanted to hide from the public gaze. When I asked him why his picture in the paper had a cap covering his face, he said he wanted to remain unknown. He wanted to roam the gullies of Bhendi Bazar or Behrampada without being recognised.

He made many people angry. I remember I had done a funny illustration about Dawood Ibrahim’s sister in Mumbai for one of his stories. Dey told me people in Dongri were angry both with the illustration and the story. I then realised the perils of crime-reporting. A couple of days after a story like that, he’d be back, roaming the bylanes to meet his khabris and look for stories.

It’s so ironic that his massive informer network couldn’t tip him off about the danger to his life on Saturday. Dey will live in the lives of all those crime journalists who work passionately and without fear. This will alarm them but I’m sure it won’t deter them.
RIP Dey.
Goodbye, chief!

Rustambagh’s guardian of dogs

In News on June 8, 2011 at 10:00 am

This housewife has been taking care of all the stray dogs in her locality for which she has been threatened and abused by her neighbours and even summoned by the police

Sarmistha Acharya

Stray dogs are creatures to be shooed away for most people. Not so for Rustambagh Layout resident Kalpana Mehta. For the past eight years, 50 year-old Kalpana has been taking care of more than 15 dogs in her area. Twice a week she feeds all the dogs with five kgs of food that includes milk, rice, biscuit and packaged dog food. Every month she spends about Rs 10 to 12,000 of her own money for feeding the stray dogs. After seeing her care and love for the dogs, now a few of her neighbours too have started taking care of them, while others contribute small amounts to help her meet her costs.

There were total 20 stray dogs in her area (near old Airport Road) when she started serving them from the year 2003 onwards and now the number of the dogs have come down to 15 as few of them died in road accidents. In all her work for the dogs, Kalpana is supported by her husband Deepak, a corporate executive.

Recalling how she started feeding and taking care of street dogs, Kalpana said it happened after she got a pet dog of her own that she used to take down the street for a walk every day, when she noticed the stray dogs. “After seeing those stray dogs I felt like doing something for them and I started feeding them biscuits. This went on for a year, but soon I faced opposition from my neighbours, who were all against this service of mine for the dogs,” said Kalpana. She said that people would even burst crackers to chase the dogs away at the time Kalpana would feed them.

Recalling some of her unpleasant experiences, Kalpana says, “I have got all kinds of abuses because of the affection for these animals. My neighbours have abused me saying, why don’t you take the dogs home or buy a plot for them. One of them called me a bitch, saying I’m one among the stray dogs. I was even threatened by a neighbour saying they will call the police, which some of them eventually did. In 2006, the police summoned me and said if the neighbours don’t like my feeding the dogs then I have to stop it or do it in a careful manner so that they won’t be disturbed.”

She used to feed the dogs between 5 to 5.30 pm in the afternoon which was disturbing the neighbours as it was the time when people came back from work or children came back from school. In order to avoid further alienating the neighbours, she changed the feeding time to 2.30 in the afternoon.  She would lead the dogs to an empty plot at the end of the road where she would feed them. “These dogs don’t quarrel with each other while having food and they behave just like human beings seated on a table to have food. They wait for their turn to be fed,” says Kalpana.

Apart from feeding them and taking care of their health, Kalpana has also ensured that the male dogs have all been sterilised, as a result of which their number has remained constant all these years. “I personally ensure that the dogs are operated and brought back after getting vaccination by Compassion Unlimited Plus Action (CUPA),” said Kalpana.

Kalpana has also had to fight the civic authorities to save her dogs from being captured as part of the BBMP’s 2008 drive to cull all ferocious and diseased dogs in the city. “When the dog catchers captured the dogs in our area, I stood against it, and with the help of a friend, freed all the dogs they had taken,” says Kalpana proudly.

Banshankari’s Guru of RTI

In News on June 1, 2011 at 3:09 pm

Retired government officer Ravindranath Guru utilises the RTI Act to ensure that his neighbourhood is not cheated of funds and developmental works

Asha Menon

Every ward needs a Ravindranath Guru. This 68-year-old retired government officer and resident of Banashankari Second Stage has consistently ensured that funds allocated to his locality are used productively. His one, effective weapon and ally has been the Right to Information Act.

Three years ago, a children’s library was listed under the ward development work. “Five lakh rupees was allotted for it,” says Guru. “But by the time the building came up, a board that read ‘Senior Citizens’ Office’ was put on it. We filed an application under the RTI Act asking for the relevant documents and wrote a letter along to the Directorate of Libraries and when they sat on it, we took it to the joint commissioner of the Corporation. We took up the issue with Department of Urban Development, the commissioner of BBMP and the MLA in charge. Finally, we got our library. All this was managed without going to court and only through RTI.”

There are more victories. Guru took on the allocation of funds for the maintenance of public toilets. “There are three in my vicinity – one is kept through a public-private partnership and the other two, by solid-waste management contractors. Our annual budget earmarked Rs 15 lakh for the maintenance of these three toilets. That is Rs five lakh for each toilet a year, Rs 40,000 for each a month and Rs 1,300 for each a day. Why spend so much on a public toilet? Through the RTI Act, we asked for the tender details and how much each contractor would be paid, and how they reached their estimates. When we raised questions with the joint commissioner and the zonal commissioner (of BBMP), they were surprised. The MLA immediately said that this work was not needed. If we had not questioned it, contractors would have claimed this amount with bogus bills.”

Rs 20 lakh was allocated for the maintenance of a playground, under planned expenditure one year. Under the non-planned expenditure, Rs 50 lakh was again set aside for the maintenance of the same playground, says Guru. “We asked for the work order, estimate and tender notification under the RTI. Soon, the MLA said that the work is not required and the funds were diverted to better the local hospital.”

Guru’s latest fight has been regarding the funds listed for solid-waste management. “In 2006-07, 100 wards were allocated Rs 33 crore and in the next year, 2007-o8, the amount was revised and increased nearly thrice to Rs 95 crore. So there should be an improvement in services. We took the work order and the number of people employed for this. According to the contract, employees are played ESI and Provident Fund, and also given safety gear like gloves and mask. But you talk to any cleaner and they will be clueless about PF and ESI. When have you last seen a worker wearing the safety gear, which has been billed under the contract? We have taken this up with the Lok Ayukta.”

This constant badgering for better governance also brought home some threats. “Some miscreants attacked my house in 2006. They broke the windows; even climbed to the first floor to break some more.” The police complaint he registered did not come to much. “It is still going on in the court somewhere,” he says. Nothing seems to deter him.

Senior citizens play an active role in bettering their locality, according to Guru. “Every individual works for his career and children. At least when they retire they can work for the society,” he says. He dismisses health concerns that come with age. “I have arthritis, diabetes and a heart condition, but it becomes a problem only when I sit and ponder over it.”

He appeals to youngsters to take an active interest in bettering their neighbourhoods. “Nowadays, IT people want to exercise their social responsibility. We ask them to spare sometime in the weekends for such work.” Guru does not believe that Residents Welfare Associations are the only way to work for a better locality. In fact, he was expelled from the RWA in his neighbourhood. “I questioned and rallied against the commercialisation of sites which are given approval only for residential buildings.” It was a threat to the local builders, he says. “Our RWA had become dominated by them.” Today Guru is part of an NGO called Coalition against Corruption, and going strong in his battle to use citizens’ rights to improve governance.

Where there is a will, there is a lake

In News on May 24, 2011 at 11:06 am

A determined Residents Welfare Association in LB Shastri Nagar refuses to give up their fight for the Vibhutipura Lake, despite three years of bureaucratic hurdles

Sarmistha Acharya

Work has finally begun to save the Vibhutipura Lake. Uthkarsh residents welfare association of LB Shastri Nagar has been working tirelessly to make this happen, for the past three years.

The Vibhutipura lake located at LB Shastri Nagar was once a beautiful water body and home to a large number of migratory birds. The lake now resembles a sump with sewage water draining into it and weeds covering a large portion of its surface. Residents living in the surrounding areas have had to face several problems because of its neglect.

According to Manish Choudhury, coordinator of Uthkarsh Residents Welfare Association, the Vibhutipura Lake has become a dead lake with few patches of water and the rest of the surface covered with weeds. There is an inescapable stench from the lake, he says, and mosquitoes breed in it. He says that sewage water in the lake percolates into the ground and therefore borewells in this area do not have potable water. “Nitrate content in it is very high,” he says.

Members of the RWA say that some of the buildings around the lake have no sewage treatment plants and therefore, their untreated sewage water goes to the storm water drains which finally pour into the lake.

“Earlier people used to drink water directly from their taps by doing a basic filtering process. But, now due to the contamination of bore well water, everyone makes sure that they drink water from water purifiers,” says Shubha Srinivasan, one of the members of the RWA.

Shubha says that usually people living around a lake, within a radius of five kilometres, face no water shortage. “But the residents here have been dealing with severe water scarcity for the past two years. The lake has dried up.”  Today the borewells here reach deeper. “Earlier people used to get water after digging up to a certain level but at present they find water even after digging up to 600 or 1000 ft,” she says.

Nikhil Lad, another member of the RWA, says that ten percent of the lake area, which was initially about 43 acres, has been encroached. “Most of the encroachment is towards the western and southern parts. About 14 buildings, including shops and private residences have come on these encroached areas.”

The RWA says that the lake was earlier under the jurisdiction of forest department of Karnataka. To save encroachment on one side (where there are apartments) of the lake and build a park on the same bed area of the lake, the members had approached the forest department. Shubha says that the then reserve forest officer said that the department can only help the residents for the construction of a park if the residents can fund the project.

A determined RWA began work anyway. In the year 2008 December, one side of the lake area was cleaned up and saplings were planted and a park was built to protect the lake area from further encroachment by the RWA with the help of the forest department.

In the beginning of the year 2010, the fund was about to be sanctioned by the central government for developing the lake, says Shubha. Then, unfortunately, the BBMP took over the charge of Vibhutipura Lake and the work was abruptly stopped. “There was a signing campaign organised by the RWA after the BBMP took charge of the lake and about 200 people signed in the form which was later on given to Deputy Commissioner, urban, V Balasubramanian,” says Shubha. “On March 27, 2011, I met Balasubramanian in person and immediately after that he had sent a letter to the BBMP to take action by April 10 on the development work of the lake. But it’s been more than a month after that and no action has been taken yet by the authority,” she says.

According to BV Satish, chief engineer of lake, BBMP said that the identification of the government land has to be fixed by Tahsildar. Also they have to finalise the survey report after which any work on the lake can be done. “The work can’t be done until and unless the Tahsildar marks out the area of the lake,” says Satish.

Nikhil says that the MLA Nandish Reddy had already released a fund of Rs 30 lakh in 2009 for developing the lake but the fund was lapsed within one year since the boundary of the lake was not marked and therefore no work was done on it. He says that to mark the boundary a survey had been conducted by BBMP and the Tahsildar, separately, and both the reports are almost similar. “But the final survey report that has to be done by the Tahasildar is not yet complete since he doesn’t have the land records (tippani) of the areas which are adjacent to the south side of the lake. And the concerned area Tahasildar said that he can’t release the approved map for developing the lake until and unless the deputy director of land records (DDLR) endorses the survey,” says Nikhil.

But, according to the Tahasildar, a survey has already been conducted a survey last week and the DDLR has prepared the the land records. “We worked for 15 days on the survey report, we are now marking out the buildings that have encroached the lake. We have listed the encroachers and the work is in process,” says Shivakumar CL, Tahasildar LB Shastrinagar.

Indiranagar residents want burial ground moved

In News, Uncategorized on May 23, 2011 at 11:27 am

A decades-old burial ground bang in the middle of an Indiranagar residential colony is leading to conflict between residents and nearby villagers

Sarmistha Acharya

Residents of HAL II Stage have been facing a strange problem. In spite of repeatedly writing to the concerned governing bodies asking them to shut down or shift a burial ground in the area, the Civic Amenity and Cultural Association of the Residents’ Welfare Association of HAL II stage is yet to get any response. Meanwhile, their problems multiply.

The burial ground is located at HAL II stage, 12th main, 8th cross, Indiranagar and spreads over an area of two acres.  The residents say that it is used by one community of Doopanahalli village and the people from the same community living in different surrounding areas too come to bury their dead in this burial ground. There are more then ten buildings located at the surrounding areas of the burial ground. But except three buildings, the owners of rest of the buildings had either rented their houses or given them for commercial purposes and moved out to some other places because they didn’t want to stay near the burial ground.

A resident, who wished to remain anonymous, said that usually the villagers get dead bodies everyday or once in two days to the burial ground and while getting the dead they make so much of noise which is a problem for the residents, especially the senior citizens staying in the nearby area. She also mentioned that villagers also get the dead at late hours of night.  “A person staying in the building which is opposite to the burial ground was a heart patient. He had to vacate the building because he could not sustain the humiliation,” she added.

Moreover the resident also mentioned that slumdwellers from the nearby areas come to defecate in the burial ground. “People start coming to the ground early in the morning and we have to keep our window close always because of the foul smell that comes,” she said.

According to her, though the burial ground creates several problems for the residents and makes it difficult for them to stay in the area, none of the residents complain openly. She says three years back a member of the Residents’ Welfare Association was beaten up and threatened by more then 100 people from Doopanahalli village for complaining about the burial ground and that had spread a fear among the residents for which they are afraid to complain. She also said that the local area corporator doesn’t take any action against the villagers because they serve as a vote bank for the politicians.

Meanwhile according to Sanjay G (name changed on request) says, “It is unfortunate that even after years of complaining,  the officials are not taking any step to solve this problem. We have invested a lion’s share of savings of our entire life in purchasing house here. What’s the use of this a home where you cannot be at peace even for a single day?”

When City Buzz contacted Geetha Sreenivas Reddy, the local area corporator of ward number 112, she said that the burial ground is still known as Doopanahalli burial ground and it has been there for ages, even before the residential layout itself was formed. “The entire area of HAL II stage was earlier Doopanahalli village, but few years back the layout was developed and people started building residences,” she added.

The Residents’ Welfare Association officials say that a site (BDA site number 3784) adjacent to the burial ground was allotted to a person who could not build his house because of the obstruction created by the Doopanahalli villagers and he surrendered the allotted area to BDA again and left the place nine years back.

An official told City Buzz that three years ago, the villagers of Doopanahalli village constructed a compound wall for the burial ground and encroached on the BDA site (site number-3784) and a year ago they constructed a house on the mentioned site. According to residents, people form the village used to gather at the premises and drink and make noise, although the practice seems to have stopped of late.

Another office-holder of the Indiranagar Resident’s Welfare Association, who, while wishing to remain anonymous, said that according to law there should not be any active burial ground in the midst of the residential areas. He moreover mentioned that according to the draft Master Plan – 2015 of the Bengaluru Development Authority, the burial ground site is for greenery but the villagers are still using it as a burial ground.

When City Buzz contacted BDA officials about the issue, they said that the area may be reserved for greenery but the villagers of Doopanahalli village have been using it for past 20 to 30 years. NG Chandrappa, assistant executive engineer, BDA who is in charge of Indiranagar area said, “BDA forms rules but the public sentiment is above all rules. One of the reasons which the villagers want their burial ground in the same place is because they are sentimentally attached to the area where members of their family and community are buried.”

Further, Chandrappa said that they have not received any letters from the association for the burial ground. “The Residents’ Welfare Association might have written letters to the governing bodies earlier, but in the last few years we have not received any complaint letters,” he said. According to the residents, they have appealed to the civic authorities on this issue for the last 20 years and after receiving no response they had stopped writing letters 10 years back.

The last word perhaps belongs to Geetha Sreenivas Reddy, the very same politician accused by the residents of playing votebank politics with issue. She says the shifting of burial ground is impossible because it’s been used by the people for ages and the ancestors were buried in the ground so the shifting may hurt the emotion of the villagers. But as if offering consolation, she adds, “If the residents have a problem then let them write to me, we will take necessary steps.”