Bengaluru's garbage disposal crisis acquired menacing proportions in 2012 when the BJP government was in power and the then Congress leader Siddaramaiah repeatedly promised to solve the problem within six months if the Congress was voted to power. Siddaramaiah has been chief minister of Karnataka for over four years, and he is about to complete his term, but the garbage problem has only worsened. It not only reflects on the lack of political will and social commitment among elected representatives, but the power of garbage mafia to defeat all good intentions with filthy corruption. In the wake of several instances of garbage and debris being dumped recklessly at vacant sites, lakebeds and wetlands, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) has embarked on one more half-hearted measure to tackle the menace by installing around 2,500 CCTV cameras across the city. The ward committees - whose members were largely hand-picked by the councillors - and who have been tasked by the High Court to address the problem of solid waste management, have been asked to select the spot where cameras are to be placed. The BBMP has set aside Rs 20 crore for this project.
Now, everyone knows that at the root of the problem is BBMP's myopic idea of dumping garbage in the city's outskirts, which is not only dangerous but also unscientific. First and foremost, the civic body has to put in place a garbage disposal system and ensure that it works. This includes segregation of wet and dry waste at source, composting of wet waste etc. When segregation was introduced, residents in several localities did volunteer to do so, but the whole exercise was sabotaged by garbage traders - in connivance with corporation officials - as it would have reduced their income from transportation of garbage to distant landfills. The BBMP spends over Rs 700 crore annually on garbage collection and transportation, inclusive of bogus bills, and the system is so lucrative that no one wants to give up.
This being the case, how will installation of CCTV cameras help? Damning the proposal, an expert member of the solid waste management committee has revealed that there have been umpteen instances of volunteers doing night patrol and catching those dumping waste into lakebeds and other areas and providing BBMP with photographic evidence with vehicle numbers, but the officials have failed to take any action. The CCTV surveillance scheme, it seems, is only a method to punish minor offenders, but not to catch the big fish. Instead of indulging in such futile exercises, Siddaramaiah government will do well - in the limited period left - to completely overhaul the contract system with the focus on transparency and scientific garbage management.