Monday, January 04, 2010

Citizens’ mandate for the BBMP elections

Citizens’ mandate for the BBMP elections

After almost three years of uncertainty, the process of election to the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) is set to commence this year.

Much is at stake for candidates trying their luck for the 198 wards, with citizens expecting more from their representatives. From demands for better roads to law order and from “cleaner” candidates to transparency in administration, citizens have a huge list of demands from the local governance. Can they give what people want? Deccan Herald lists the 10 mandates that may very well decide who will be your next councillor.

Civic woes

A priority for voter will be candidate’s capacity to solve the numerous civic woes that plague the City. As the “zero garbage” campaign initiated by the BBMP picks up speed, the citizens will hope that their Councillors will ensure that the project is implemented in full swing. With summer edging winter out, it will be time again for the dreaded rains to bring more misery to the City. And this time, the Councillor will be on the firing line instead of the BBMP staff. Maintenance of civic amenities like street lights, garbage clearance and drain management are crucial for people.

Environment and pollution

In a city that is turning into a concete jungle due to urbanisation, the shrinking of its lakes and denudation of green cover is a serious concern for its citizens.

According to BBMP records, there are nearly 123 lakes that need to be rejuvenated. Of them, civic agencies have taken up 37 lakes for rehabilitation. Commitment to initiatives such as Tree Parks and planting of trees and saplings in their area will be something that the citizens will expect from the candidates.

Health services

After food, clothing and housing, the next key need for the people is health care. The existing health facilities can barely cover the entire population of the City. Coupled with the jurisdictional disputes over operating Primary Health Centres (PHC) and hospitals thanks to the absorption of the five Muncipal Councils into BBMP, health care in the city is in utter disarray. The existing health care facilities are unable to handle emergencies arising out of run-of-the-mill illnesses, leave alone epidemic outbreaks such as chikungunya or H1N1. With only four government hospitals running in the city and some BBMP referal hospitals functioning, it is apparent that the electors will look out for candidates who ensure better public health care facilities for them.

Public transportation

The BMTC boasts of having at least 25,000 buses including a fleet of air-conditioned and new-generation buses. A rough estimate suggests that on an average ten to 15 lakh people move in these buses. Yet, the biggest drawback associated with the BMTC is that it has failed to provide consistent connectivity in the outlying areas. The year 2010 also promises the launch of Metro Rail to enhance public transportation system in some areas. How far Metro Rail would reduce the passengers’ burden from the BMTC buses is yet to be seen. What efforts would the newly elected body do to enhance public transport system and make people switch over from private mode of transportation to the public mode of transportation remains to be seen.

Projects and fallout

A controversial issue that fills people with fury is the half-completed infrastructure projects that have only made life difficult for people who have to cope with blocked off streets, reduced access to roads and debris lining the streets. From Puttenahalli to the Rabindranath Tagore Circle underpass and from the Metro to the road widening projects in the city, the projects will have a bearing on the City and its people. The people have a low level of tolerance and will expect that their representatives will sort out the mess at the earliest.

Taxing matters

Property tax is yet another issue that are a sore issue with the voters, in particular the tax slabs for properties and the regularisation of land. As the government proposes a hefty and “irregular” slabs for Akrama-Sakrama, people will keep a close watch on what relaxation of penalty their Councillors can secure for them.

People’s participation

The apathy shown by the public representatives and the officials in addressing public grievances has led to the growing number of residents’ welfare associations in every nook and corner of the City. This trend tosses a question: Whether the public representatives will allow people’s participation in development process? Will the political compulsions and corruption suppress people’s voice and put them away from the governance? What will be the fate of Ward Committee concept that could not materialise even after a year of its coming into being?

Law and order

The city that used to be Pensioners’ Paradise has seen scores of elderly people murdered in cold blood, simply for petty gains. A growing demand from the residents is that the local governance should also cover the safety and security aspect for a better Bangalore. A pressure must be built on the law enforcing agencies to double up their vigilance in order to control the crime as much as possible and crush any organised crime from raising its hood. The corporators should also act as a bridge between the police and the people.

Administration and transparency

Though various mechanisms of transparency including Right To Information Act and e-governance are in place, yet the loopholes in the administration could not assure a transparent governance. The biggest fear is that the criterion for awarding contracts may not be the good work but good relationship with the corporators, which will affect the quality of the work.

“When we talk of good governance the project cost, the names of the contractors, the timeline given for the completion of the project should be kept in public domain. Works should be awarded to the best people but not to corporators or their close relatives,” said Dr Meenakshi Bharath of Citizens’ Action Forum.

Accountability of corporators

The foremost demand made by the residents welfare association is the declaration of assets and liabilities by the corporators and submission of their assets declaration to the Lokayukta every year.

“Accountability of corporators is more important than the MPs and MLAs. We can remain without seeing an MP or an MLA for five years but not the corporators who actually has to address our civic woes. The city will become a hell if the corporator indulges in money making than hearing our plights,” said Manohar H N, a resident of Peenya.

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