Cascading effect of unpaid bills stump citizens

Zero budget effect

The political shift in the State has led the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) Budget for the year 2019-20 to be put on hold, causing uproar in the city. Since no funds have been allotted for the city’s development, citizens are virtually left to fend for themselves. (DH File Photo)

The political shift in the State has led the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) Budget for the year 2019-20 to be put on hold, causing uproar in the city. Since no funds have been allotted for the city’s development, citizens are virtually left to fend for themselves.

Mukund Gowda, a private consultant expresses concern about the lack of funds that has halted works and affected maintenance of critical infrastructure. “Bengaluru’s ongoing key projects have come to a halt. Indira canteens are at the mercy of the suppliers and the garbage collection in the city is hitting a new low,” he notes.

Recently, Gowda adds, “I saw a huge pile of garbage in KR Market which was ignored because the pourakarmikas were not being paid. Garbage contractors in over half of the wards in Bengaluru have apparently not been paid for the past two months,” he states.

Politics has caught everyone and everything in a mighty tangle. Gowda recalls the response he got from his Congress corporator when he complained about the rain-damaged deadly potholes in Baiyappanahalli.

The corporator, he recalls, “told me that there is no money because the government has stopped all the works and expenses of BBMP. Our hands are tied. You have to speak to a BJP MLA only.”

Kishori Mudaliar, founder of Bellandur Jothege, a citizens’ change-maker group, points out that political instability is common in Karnataka and would eventually pass. “This is not new. Political instability and interference in the BBMP is unfortunately obvious, even though they should ideally function autonomously.”

However, she credits citizen groups for the small progress seen in pockets. “Our civic betterment projects with the BBMP is seeing a slow but sure progress with the efforts of citizens and change-makers,” Mudaliar notes.

K Prakash, president of Beautiful Begur draws attention to the Palike’s tendency to divert funds from the budget to projects such as white-topping and the proposed steel flyover, instead of focusing on basic infrastructure like roads and water supply.

He explains, “We see no progressive development in Bengaluru. Some villages are better off than some parts of the city! In Begur, a contract has been allotted to a private contractor to ensure supply of Cauvery water, and the work has been going on for the last five years with no government supervision.”

“We are yet to receive a single glass of the promised water,” Prakash laments. “It is all public money. I am a honest taxpayer. I require a justification from the government. Where is my money going?” he wonders. In his opinion, the hold-up of the BBMP budget is the right move. His rationale: It allows the new state government to scrutinize the activities in the municipal body, and improve transparency in their work.

However, a resident of Begur, who wished to remain anonymous, expressed concern over the budget crisis. “We are living in pathetic conditions here. Our roads are non-existent and dirty rainwater has entered our drinking water tanks. As a citizen, I don’t know whom to approach – the BBMP, the BWSSB or the private contractor. If the contractor company is not sure about their bills getting paid, why will they work?” she wonders.

Malini Parmar, co-founder of StoneSoup.in (and member of Bangalore Eco Team) remarks that BBMP priorities have been misaligned even when they had a budget.

“If we look at waste management in our city, we have a bigger budget than Mumbai, a city much larger than Bengaluru. Yet, we see no groundwork. When BBMP had a budget, funds for the city’s development would line their personal pockets,” she reasons.

But Parmar hopes the new government would lead the city to better development with citizens’ support. “We have active communities in our city that has collaborated with other Indian cities to work for progress in the city. I hope that the Swachh Bharat touches Bengaluru with the new government in place.”

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