Thursday, April 15, 2010

We have nothing to lose, but our misery!

We have nothing to lose, but our misery!

What can Bangaloreans hope for after the BBMP polls? Sadly, the answer is "nothing". What could we expect? Oh yes, we could expect the same noises for all major parties and the same blame games, while they go about feathering their nests.
Why should this be so? Haven't they promised many things, among the promised goodies good roads, water supply, drainage, ration cards for the poor, parks etc? How could a municipal councillor provide any of these? Clearly, there is a divergence between people's expectations from their elected councillors and also between the councillors' view of what they could deliver on their promises to the people.
People expect councillors to provide civic amenities and services. This is the function of the municipality. However, the municipal council has neither executive functions nor is it a legislative body. The council functions as an overseeing body to ensure that the executive of the municipality, headed by the Commissioner, provides the civic amenities and services. The council has eight "steering committees". It exercises its oversight through these committees. The council presents a budget to the government for sanction. There is a plethora of government organs that are responsible for providing civic amenities, none of which have, any responsibility towards the council. The BWSSB, which provides water and sanitation, the Bescom, which provides power, the BDA and BMRDA, which are responsible for town planning, and so on. There are others, which are in some way or the other responsible for various civic services. The slum clearance board, urban development ministry, BMTC and police commissioner are some of these. There are two ministers who have been given "charge" of the city, whatever that means. Then there are non-state or semi-state "advisers", ABIDe and special adviser to the CM, for example, who exercise some influence in decision-making at the highest levels with regard to city infrastructure and services. The list of these "cooks" who are "spoiling our broth" is endless. A suggestion by ABIDe was to have a "directly elected" mayor with all the agencies responsible for providing civic services under mayoral control. This is a pipedream even if were to be accepted. ABIDe simultaneously, sought to retain BDA and BMRDA in marginally changed avatars.
The council is studded with MPs, MLAs, MLAs and persons nominated by the chief minister. What do the "poor" councillors do to find the way through this maze? They may simply adopt the age-old trick of influence pedalling to see that a road is asphalted or a drain cleared. They may use the MLAs or MPs ability to arm twist a BBMP official to "get the job done".
Is there a solution? Yes, if people close ranks, rise, question the government, and use all democratic means at their disposal to force it to deliver what it is constitutionally mandated to do. So, let us forget the polls and march on to claim our rights. We have nothing to lose, but our misery!


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