Friday, March 12, 2010

LEARN FROM THE PAST...

LEARN FROM THE PAST...
New BBMP Council Should Give People A New Lease Of Life. Truly The Biggest Challenge For The New Set Of Corporators
Prashanth G N | TNN

Bangalore: The last election to the Bangalore corporation, then known as BMP and now known as Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), was held in 2001. It’s 10 years later that the second round of elections is being held. There is much expectation from the new council to perform and lead Bangalore. What kind of a legacy is it sitting on? Has the local body been taking the city forward for these last 10 years? While there are many negatives, there are some positives from which the BBMP can learn and set its future agenda. Citizens’ participation more or less defines the first half of 2000 and a bit more — 2000 to 2006-07. There were calls from every nook and corner of the city that people had to be involved, consulted and be at the centre of all initiatives taken up by BMP.
While this was not a direct initiative of the BMP itself, the BMP worked in collaboration with the trend-setting advisory body, the Bangalore Agenda Task Force (BATF), which saw educated professionals taking a lead in development of the city. For the first time, civic activists point out, “Benchmarks in local governance were laid and framed for BMP.”
“Targets were set for BMP to reach and BMP had to account for them in monthly meetings. Specific projects and deadlines were outlined. An element of corporate governance was brought into BMP’s functioning,” civic analysts-activists say.
ACCOUNTABILITY IS IMPORTANT
The idea of BMP working in tandem with BATF was to make BMP more accountable, transparent and responsive. While it may not have been 100% successful, a culture of accountability to people was an element of BMP’s functioning in the early years of this decade. A significant fallout of the BATF intervention was the move to have BMP’s budget open to public scrutiny. “For the first time in years, the BMP budget initiatives, allocations and finances were to be deliberated on in public. There were meetings with citizens where the local budget came in for discussion and responses were incorporated by the local body,” the analysts observe.
A part of the budget becoming open to public was the passing of the Karnataka Fiscal Responsibility Act. The Act made it mandatory for the BMP to have the budget debated, devise a medium-term fiscal discipline plan, outline how it would raise and spend resources and how it would pay back finances raised from the market. While the intent of the Act was commendable, its implementation left much to be desired.
WINNING OVER PROPERTY TAX
Self-assessment of property tax was a major landmark in the 2000-2010 decade for BMP/BBMP. “Essentially it meant the BMP trusted citizens. People could assess their properties on their own and pay taxes. The BMP would accept it. This was a radical move away from tax being assessed by BMP officials. It hit corruption and harassment head-on. This policy is commendable regardless of the debate around the criterion for property tax — whether capital value of a property should be the basis or not for tax. Whatever the basis, the tax was to be assessed by citizens themselves,” activists point out.
The formation of ward committees around 2003 was also an important civic policy development. Though they were set up two years after the 2001 elections, they brought governance down to the ward. Pressure from NGOs was a major factor that compelled the government to set up the committees.
Janaagraha, a private initiative by educated professionals to create greater civic and voter awareness and make the BMP more accountable, was a notable civic development of the first half of 2000. Like with BATF, BMP also worked with its activists informally to become more responsive.
BETTER PEOPLE’S PARTICIPATION
As a sum up, initiatives to make people’s participation central to the working of BMP and making BMP accountable to the people marked the 2000-06/07 period. The seeds of such initiatives though were sown in the passing of the 74th amendment of the Constitution in the early 90s, when public participation, transparency and accountability were made central to local governance. Many activists, however, point out that while the government had every right to set up advisory bodies like BATF or ABIDE, it had no right to pass on decisionmaking powers to these bodies — they could at best recommend. Activists also say members of these bodies were hand-picked and not elected as should have been the process.
By 2006-07, Bangalore had grown around the peripheries with the result, the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) was set up in January 2007. Things changed in local governance after BBMP came in.
“The administrative set up of BBMP was decentralized with a shift from central offices to zonal offices to handle local affairs and make BBMP more accessible to the public,” senior BBMP official K H Govindaraj said.
FACELIFT FOR NEW AREAS
A whole new set of areas were added to form Bruhat Bangalore that included peripheral areas. Some of these areas were given a major facelift through good infrastructure turning them into clean, livable colonies. “Mahadevapura, Yelahanka, Dasarahalli and Byatarayanapura are just some examples of new peripheral areas becoming more comfortable to live. They now have the looks of a typical city,” says Govindaraj. Connectivity and access to satellite and peripheral areas were also improved. In the core areas of the city, BBMP has undertaken construction of a number of underpasses and flyovers to ease congestion. There have been mixed results from this new infrastructure with some areas getting freedup and others getting clogged. But BBMP made a concerted effort to ease traffic with its flyover-underpass strategy. The BBMP is now initiating steps to establish signal-free corridors to ease traffic flow along some major roads.
BBMP also implemented self-assessment of property tax, which was mired in controversy in relation to the basis of calculating tax. “We accept an owner’s assessment of property tax. That means we trust what an owner states. This is a very citizen-friendly initiative that was implemented again in 2008-09 after a break,” says Govindaraj.
The property tax, also began to be accepted online, a new IT initiative in BBMP. BBMP One centres were also established — places where citizens could pay property tax instead of having to go to BBMP offices.
INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY COMES IN
There have been IT initiatives too in the post-2007 period. BBMP launched the Works Monitoring System (WMS), a software that helped monitor progress of developmental work. It also launched online issue of trade licences, and began to use GIS systems to identify properties and bring more properties under the tax ambit. Making Bangalore a garbage-free city has been a long-term objective of BBMP. Though this is yet be achieved in entirety, a step has been taken with door-to-door collection of garbage.
B-FORMS FIRST, NOMINATION LATER: ESHWARAPPA
Strict orders have been issued by BJP state president K S Eshwarappa to party ticket aspirants — not to file their nominations before B-forms are issued. While of most candidates who have been recognized by BJP for long time as potential candidates, had plans to file their nomination on Wednesday, considered auspicious and submit the B-form to the returning officers later, the diktat issued late on Tuesday night stopped them.
Following this, as many as 150 BJP candidates who had plans to complete the nomination process by Thursday have to wait till Friday. Even though March 15 is the last day to file papers, aspirants do not wish to do so because Amavasya falls on the same day. BJP functionary said that the party would issue B-forms to 130 candidates, where there are only single candidates, on Thursday night and rest on Friday.
“If candidates are allowed to file nominations without a B-form, the process will lead to confusion. The party can have proper account only after issuing the Bform,” he maintained.TNN


BBMP’s main challenge is to improve infrastructure, especially on the traffic front

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