Of the 10 ‘babus’ helming BBMP, as many as 8 are IAS officers. But this ‘cream’ of the Karnataka bureaucracy has allotted just Rs 150 crore for all 198 wards. Half of that would go towards pothole and footpath repairs, leaving virtually nothing for road asphalting
Of the nearly 1.30 crore Bengalurueans, many would have thought the city’s fortunes would change for the better when bureaucrats, many of them IAS officers, took over the civic administration in the absence of corporators after the BBMP council’s term ended on September 10, 2020, But their expectations have been sadly belied as the civic agency has not reserved any grants for new road works or asphalting of roads in BBMP’s eight zones.
After more than a decade of BBMP’s formation and governance by elected representatives, the civic agency is under the purview of senior bureaucrats, including BBMP Administrator Rakesh Singh, Chief Commissioner Gaurav Gupta, Thulasi Maddineni (Special Commissioner, Finance and South zone), Manoz Jain (Special Commissioner, Projects and East zone), D Randeep (Special Commissioner, Health and Mahadevapura) Basavaraju (Special Commissioner, Revenue and West zone), Raveendra S (Special Commissioner, Welfare and Dasarahalli), B Reddy Shankar Babu (Special Commissioner, Estates, Education, Markets and RR Nagar), Harish Kumar K (Special Commissioner, Solid Waste Management and Bommanahalli) and Dayanand (Special Commissioner, Administration and Yelahanka).
These officers among themselves cover all the possible developments that can happen in the city. But with one level of ‘oversight’ missing in the form of elected corporators, even the other elected representatives – Bengaluru MLAs – seem to have washed their hands of BBMP’s day-to-day affairs. Interestingly, more than two dozen MLAs are from the ruling BJP while many stalwarts are from the Congress party.
Going by the figures available with TheBengaluruLive, the civic administration has allotted Rs 29.82 crore for the East zone with 44 wards (each ward gets approximately Rs 67 lakh), Rs 25.90 crore for the West zone with 44 wards (each ward gets approximately Rs 58 lakh), Rs 28.56 crore for the South zone with 44 wards (each ward gets approximately Rs 64 lakh), Rs 11.23 crore for Yelahanka zone with five wards (each ward gets Rs 2.2 crore), Rs 21.48 crore for Mahadevapura zone with 17 wards (each ward gets Rs 1.2 crore), Rs 14.09 crore for Bommanahalli zone with 16 wards (each ward gets Rs 88 lakh), Rs 12.90 crore for Rajarajeshwari Nagar zone with 14 wards (each ward gets Rs 92 lakh), and Rs 6.02 crore for Dasarahalli zone with eight wards (each ward gets Rs 75 lakh).
As per the plans of BBMP, these amounts will be spent on zonal public works, of which 60% will go towards annual maintenance and re-asphalting of roads in ward jurisdictions — work demanded by citizens. But the ground reality, especially in the outer areas of Bengaluru falling under Mahadevapura, Dasarahalli, Yelahanka, RR Nagar and Bommanahalli zones, is that in many places new roads have not been laid in the last one decade.
“What have these bureaucrats done by allotting peanuts for the developments of roads in these areas? Are we going to see any development during this governance of IAS officers? Did any single officer tour these areas before preparing the budget? Have they checked the ground reality before coming up with the sanctioned budget figures?” question angry citizens.
Interestingly, the budget was prepared by Thulasi Maddineni (Special Commissioner, Finance and South zone) but before signing the official order Chief Commissioner Gaurav Gupta too did not take cognizance of the meagre allotment of funds for the development of wards.
‘IAS but not pro-people’
In fact, disappointed citizens rue being trapped between the non-performance of both the erstwhile corporators and the current crop of bureaucrats. “Why do these IAS officers forget that they were common citizens before clearing the UPSC exams and getting appointed to the Indian Administrative Services. Their aim should be to get connected with the people and to provide pro-people governance, and not to work against the interests of taxpayers,” says one angry Bengalurean, voicing the sentiments of millions of frustrated fellow-citizens.
The figures speak for themselves. As per the office order, a total of Rs 150 crore has been granted for development work in all 198 wards, as against Rs 500 crore allotted during the corporators’ governance.
Going by the current plan, out of this measly Rs 150 crore, Rs 20 lakh has been reserved for the development of footpaths and Rs 20 for pothole-filling in each ward, Interestingly, Chief Commissioner Gaurav Gupta has directed his team to prepare an action plan for utilisation of the allotted funds by August 2021 so as to get it approved by the Administrator.
Will Administrator change things?
This is where the role of Administrator Rakesh Singh (1989 IAS batch and seniormost among the IAS officers working in BBMP) becomes very crucial in reviewing and relooking at the allotted funds — with a view to doing justice to the needs of the city’s taxpayers.
“Why should taxpayers from Mahadevapura and Bommanahalli suffer and be deprived of developmental works despite paying the highest property taxes? Bengaluru’s core 100 wards contribute in equal measure to property tax, and hence equality needs to be maintained in allocating funds for the execution of works in these wards,” says a civic activist and close observer of the civic body’s functioning.