Sunday, November 25, 2007

Public-Private Partnership at Bal Bhavan

Public-Private Partnership at Bal Bhavan
Asha Krishnaswamy
The government is uttering the mantra of PPP (private-public particiaption) for improving infrastructure facilities at Bal Bhavan (BB). It has invited tenders for carrying out its plans.


Private-public participation, effective public participation, private infrastructure capital, build-operate-own, build-operate-own-transfer... are all jargons one hears from government often.

Now, Jawahar Bal Bhavan of Cubbon Park is making news. The government is uttering the mantra of PPP (private-public particiaption) for improving infrastructure facilities at Bal Bhavan (BB). It has invited tenders for carrying out its plans.

This development has not gone down well with the Bal Bhavan employees, mostly class D and certain NGOs. The government insists that it is not privatising Bal Bhavan as such but only trying to involve private players for improving the services for children. But the agitators are not believing the government. They fear that Bal Bhavan, like private amusement parks, will become a property of the rich and elite. Amusement rides and even entry to the Bhavan may become prohibitively costly, they fear.

A point to be noted is that Jawahar Bal Bhavan Society, which is managing BB has involved private participation for running four amusement rides for many years. The fee is shared between the Society and the private agency equally. The toilets are also managed by a private agency. What is being planned now is introducing more amusement rides besides improving facilities through private agencies. The toy train and boat rides are managed by the Society. For each amusement ride, the fee is Rs 5 for children and Rs 10 for adults.

The entry to BB spread over 12.5 acres is now free. But the Society is contemplating introducing entry fee for adults. It will control the entry and collect the fees, sources in the government said.

The Society is running four more mini BBs in the City at Cole’s Park, Devaiah Park in Rajajinagar, Jeevanbima Nagar and Jayanagar 7th block. Here too PPP would be introduced to run the show, sources said.

No budget constraint

Is PPP being planned because the Society is facing funds crunch to run the show? It is not so because, an officer pointed out that the annual budget for BB is not less than Rs 70 lakh while the expenditure is about Rs 50 lakh, including salary to about 55 employees. On an average 5,000 people visit BB on a holiday. Still, if new services with latest equipment have to be introduced, then it has to go in for PPP, the sources said.

Sources said that the employees are worried that they would lose their jobs if private players step in. “Such speculations are baseless. We have a theatre and a hall. Both are not being fully utilised. If more activities have to be conducted, the infrastructure should be improved. Hence, the PPP is being planned. We want even poor kids who come here to get the best like in private amusement parks”, the sources said.

If PPP can work in transport, airport sector and infrastructure sectors, why not in Cubbon Park?

Here are the sound bytes...

M Nagaraj,
Child activist, Vidyaniketan, an NGO

A private party will develop the infrastructure and recover the expenses from the poor children who use the place. The state has received funds in crores under JNNURM. Why can’t they spend a few lakhs on BB?

Prof Hasan Mansoor, president, People's Union for Civil Liberties

Any interference from a private company would have economic consequences on the policies of BB, making it a place for elite for the profit of the company. BB is a public utility meant for the welfare of poor children. We can’t deny them their right of entertainment for the profit of a private company.

I S Patil, convener, The Bangalore Forum for Street & Working Children

The Bangalore Forum for Street & Working Children Once the place goes into private hands, why would the owners listen to the Government on its policy decisions and even on the entry fee? What other than profit can be the motive of a private company to bear the expenses to increase facilities?

Prema Kiran, activist, Paraspara Trust

Many of the regular visitors at BB come from below poverty line families. Such children shouldn’t be stopped, by charging an entry fee.

G R Shivashankar, president, Jawahar Bal Bhavan Employees Union & chairperson, Trade Union Co-ordination
Centre

The tender would lead to a total hand over of BB to a private company. Such a move would also adversely affect the employees of BB. We’re not opposing development, but BB shouldn’t be commercialised. Will a private company invest lakhs of rupees just to put a few hoardings at BB?

Chandrashekar,
MLA, Basavanagudi

If charges remain the same and facilities get better at Bal Bhavan, there is no harm in using a private company’s
services for infrastructural development.

CONTRACT DETAILS

* Operation & maintenance of available infrastructure and play equipment already installed, namely, toy train, boat ride, theatre, birthday party, turret wall area, activitiy huts and amphitheatre.
*Installation and operation of other types of recreational amusements on DoT basis, and providing educational and co-curricular activities for kids up to 14 years of age in BB premises, including the theatre building.
*Contract with the successfull bidder will be for a period of five years.
*The Society will have final say on activities, entry fee, admission for amusements and reserves right to modify contract conditions.
*Operators can put up advertisements for getting attractive revenue in terms of agreement with BB Society.
* Operators should vacate the premises during the summer camps, annual courses, art camps and any other activities conducted by BB.
*EMD for tenders - Rs 10 lakh, Tender Document Price - Rs 5,000
*Last date for submitting tenders:
Dec 16, 2007.

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