Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Community halls in city in an unholy mess

Community halls in city in an unholy mess

Afshan Yasmeen

Only about five of the 20 community halls are being put to use

The civic body needs Rs. 10 lakh a year for maintaining each hall

Bangalore: Leaking roofs, broken taps, dirty rooms, filthy toilets and messy kitchens. This sums up the state of community halls run by the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) in the city.

There are around 20 BBMP community halls in Bangalore of which hardly four to five are being put to use.

The rest are used only for temporary rehabilitation of affected families during rain or for conducting exhibitions. There are no takers for these halls because they are badly maintained and are in a dilapidated condition.

Once occupied by victims of natural calamities, these halls turn into virtual housing settlements and the BBMP authorities say that they find it very hard to make the occupants leave the premises. This, it claims, is one of the reasons why the BBMP has lost interest in maintenance of these halls.

Following complaints of poor maintenance, the BBMP had proposed to privatise the halls and outsource their maintenance in 2002. In fact, the BMP Samudaya Bhavan on Thimmaiah Road in Bharatinagar was handed over to a private firm on a pilot basis. Though the firm managed it quite well for sometime, the situation is back to square one after the contract ended. The privatisation plan was dropped and the condition of these community halls is deteriorating day by day.

Recently, Minister for Science and Technology Ramachandra Gowda said the State Government is contemplating using BBMP community halls for conducting computer training courses and other skills development programmes. But this proposal too is still on paper.


But there are exceptions such as the community halls in Rajajinagar 6th Block, Yediyur and Sindhi colony. These halls are well maintained and are situated in prominent locations. Probably that is why even middle class families book these halls for their family functions. These halls are most of times booked by government-aided agencies for conducting exhibitions.

BBMP officials, who admitted that the maintenance of community halls is very bad, said running the community halls was not financially viable. “Though we require at least Rs. 10 lakh a year for maintaining each hall, the minimal charges collected from the citizens is hardly enough to pay the power charges,” a top official said.

At a time when the rent of private wedding halls in the city is not less than Rs. 20,000, the BBMP is charging between Rs. 2,000 and Rs. 7,000 depending on the location.

“Lack of civic consciousness and disregard for government property among people has resulted in such a situation. We are ready to repair these halls and maintain them in a better way if people use them with a little care,” the official said.

Citing an example, he said, “While lighting firewood to cook is not allowed in any private halls, people use only firewood in our halls. The resultant soot and smoke settles on the walls making them dirtier. People think that it is government property and they can use it anyway they want,” he pointed out.

Will outsourcing help then? “We do not think so because we fear we will only end up spending more money. Running community halls is one of the social obligations of the civic body and we will continue it,” the official added.


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