Range and Impact of Citizen Matters

“Citizen Matters has not just succeeded in reporting the news, but in changing the news by influencing the course of events through its reporting.”

– Arathy Manay Yajaman, arathimy@gmail.com

Market Research professional, citizen contributor and community volunteer

Citizen Matters has helped catalyse positive change in Bengaluru, especially in the space of civic activism. While our coverage has been local thus far, the impact has been felt beyond the city. In addition to the topics outlined below, we have also done significant reporting on many under-reported topics like urban poverty, education, gender issues etc.

Lakes

The Citizen Matters coverage of lakes started in 2009, when a resident wrote an article about the lake outside her window that was being destroyed slowly. We followed her story with the why and how of the problem, of that and other lakes; meanwhile, the government came up with a plan to rejuvenate a few lakes. Our intense coverage and citizen journalism on the topic led to more citizens getting interested and subsequently involved in the issue. One by one, scores of lakes have now been rejuvenated, and more importantly, citizen groups have taken ownership of this public commons, leading to a better state than before.

Bangalore examples of citizen movement around lakes has been highlighted by Niti Aayog recently as a successful model of lake restoration.

Highlighting abuse of power, wrongdoing, and violations

Tracking a Rs 2300 cr, violation-ridden project: Award winning series on how a SEZ project got a go ahead based on false submissions.

We broke the story on the multi-crore project on the Bellandur wetlands that violated environmental norms, with in-depth reporting and documentation. We followed up the story with detailed writeups on the land use change, irregularities in clearances and permissions, encroachment of drains, traffic issues etc. We did our due diligence and research, ensuring accuracy and objectivity, and verified documents provided by 3rd parties. Citizens took this matter to court.

The National Green Tribunal cancelled the licence, and gave several impactful judgements. It resulted in a policy change in buffer zones around lakes and water bodies, that has nationwide implications.

Similar reports exposed many violations – and led the way to culprits being called out and penalised:

Tracking the mafias in Bengaluru

Advertising mafia

Water tanker mafia

Private LPG mafia

Governance

Our articles on governance introduced lay citizens to complex topics in simple language. We started talking about Metropolitan Planning Committee (MPC), 74th amendment, decentralisation, vision groups, state control over city governance, judicial activism, etc. when few lay readers knew what these were about.

The coverage of such issues has had far reaching consequences. It has resulted in an enlightened citizenry which is now focusing on broader asks — lobbying for better public transport, participative planning, inclusive decision making etc.

Analytical stories helped citizens raise issues of development and planning

Elections

Citizen Matters coverage of every election in Bangalore from our inception, involves providing voter guides, interviews and information on candidates, and review of the incumbent representative, as well as analysis of the state of the constituency. Some of this work has been in collaboration with citizens, and groups like BPAC and Daksh.

Whether it is a local body election, or parliamentary elections, our work has been tremendously appreciated, shared across residents’ groups and social media forums, and has led to more informed voters.

  • 2010 – BBMP elections – candidate analysis, guides
  • 2013 State Elections – 28 constituencies, MLA interviews, budgets expenses, citizen perception survey & more
  • 2014 MP elections: Report card, performance, Detailed interviews.
  • 2015 BBMP Elections – Detailed analysis of 40+ wards – issues, profiling, status
  • 2017: we are working on a collaborative project with communities for assessing MLA performance.

Solid Waste Management

The depth of coverage of waste management on Citizen Matters is unparalleled across any local media. We have covered case studies of successes and failures, SWM approaches, guides.

Reportage includes stories on landfills, alternatives, investigation into garbage contract scams and tracking of legislative and judicial action on waste.

Our coverage, especially the citizen journalism pieces on solving the waste problem at a community level, has led to the 2bin-1bag solution template. This Bangalore model has now spread to several cities across the country.

Organic kitchen gardening

Early on, Citizen Matters started publishing features on organic kitchen gardening and gardeners, and we began coverage of the nascent Organic Terrace Gardening (OTG) movement. We partnered with the newly formed Garden City Farmers Trust to co-organise the innovative ‘Oota from your Thota’ series of community events over 2010-12, with workshops, stalls and other activities related to gardening – composting, growing, pest control, natural fertilisers, etc.

The OTG community on Facebook is now 30,000 strong. Our coverage and citizen engagement helped seed the movement from a handful of enthusiasts to a large popular activity.

Guides to fix information asymmetry

We have published over hundreds of guides and FAQ articles, using journalism to uncover information that helps Bangaloreans in getting things done the right way, helping them sort issues they face every day.

Some of the popular guides include:

  • Getting your Khata, without paying a bribe
  • The apartment law you must know
  • Fire safety norms for high-rise apartments
  • Before the builder hands over
  • How to re-register your vehicle in Bengaluru
  • How to file an FIR

Many of these articles were collated and published as best selling books (Living in Bangalore – 2 editions, Getting to Know Bengaluru Better and Property in Bengaluru) – which sold over 36000 copies in all.

Citizen Matters has been serving as a rich source of news and information on sustainability topics like water, waste, organic gardening etc. These have played a huge role in making Bangalore citizens greener in their daily lives.