Unlike previous years, BBMP held a meeting with NGOs this time to get their suggestions for the 2012-13 budget. The meeting, held on May 26th, had over 15 representatives from NGOs such as CIVIC, KRIA Katte (Karnataka RTI Act Forum), Hasiru Usiru, Citizens Action Forum (CAF) etc.
The Chairman and three members of BBMP’s Taxation and Finance Committee – which prepares the budget – attended. Chairman of the committee, Munendra Kumar (Jakkur Corporator, ward no.5), said that the budget draft has not been prepared and that public consultations will be done before its preparation. Speaking to Citizen Matters, he said, “It will take about 15 days for budget to be drafted. I am meeting 1-2 NGOs and citizens every day. There will no public meetings or circulation of draft documents though.”
Ganganagar (ward 20) corporator V Anand, Mathikere (36) corporator Muniswamy Gowda and Basavanapura (53) corporator K Poornima were the other members who attended.
NGOs suggested that property tax collection be increased, services like water and toilets be provided, public participation increased in governance, and that sufficient funds be allocated for health, education and welfare schemes.
N S Mukunda, President of Citizens Action Forum (CAF), said, “The budget should be clear as to what percentage of revenue will be spent for each sector. Even if there is revenue shortage, spending should be proportional to this allocation. Currently, when revenue falls short, most of it goes to infrastructure alone, while sectors like SC/ST welfare do not get any funds. There should be high quality of living for all groups.”
Activists proposed ways by which BBMP can increase its revenue – by revising rent/lease rates of BBMP properties, levying tax from IT companies, taxing hoardings of political parties and advertisements posted on pillars, etc. Kathyayini Chamaraj of CIVIC pointed out that many wine shops in Mahadevpura zone were operating without license.
Mukunda said that housing should be built for workers of Metro, migrants etc. “BBMP can accumulate land from 3-4 wards to create space for this,” he said.
Ejipura-based RTI activist Anil Kumar suggested that higher commercial tax be levied from owners of paying guest houses and service apartments, as they collect huge amounts as rent. “Advertisement tax is paid by only half the people. Of mobile towers, tax is collected from only 25-30%. In the case of Bangalore Palace, tax has never been assessed,” he said. There were also suggestions that people owning more than one car, or those having cars without parking space, should be taxed.
Some activists also suggested that tax collection be outsourced to make it more efficient. Getting more revenue is necessary for BBMP to be independent and to enable decentralisation of finances and responsibility, they said. Munendra Kumar said that there was a plan to outsource identification and calculation of advertisement tax from properties. “We have sent this proposal to state government and are waiting for a response. Collection will not be outsourced,” he said, speaking to Citizen Matters. He said that PID (Property Identification numbers) has been given to 16 lakh properties.
Bus fare concessions for domestic workers
Activists demanded that domestic workers be given full or half concession in bus fares, as they spend much to commute to their workplaces. Labour department can be asked to give ID cards to domestic workers. When Munendra said that identifying domestic workers was difficult, activists said that many workers were part of domestic workers’ unions and could be identified with those ID cards. Apartment associations should be mandated to give information on domestic workers they employ, while filing their annual returns. BBMP should also hold surveys in slums to identify workers, activists said.
Currently BBMP officers are validating the PIDs again to check for errors. “About 10 lakh properties have been validated already and the rest are to be done. Currently apartments and shopping complexes have been given only one PID, later we will give different PIDs to each unit. We have also formed a committee which will identify new apartments in outskirts which are not under tax net yet,” says K R Niranjan, BBMP Special Commissioner (Projects), speaking to Citizen Matters.
There was also demand for more public participation – public should be included in the planning stage of the budget, and quarterly public reviews should be held on its implementation. When Munendra Kumar said that involving all public would be difficult, activists said that this could be done with the available representatives in each area, such as RWAs.
Kathyayini Chamaraj, Executive Trustee of CIVIC, said that area sabhas should be formed in each ward as per the Community Participation Act, and that untied funds should be given to these sabhas. As per the Act – passed by the state legislature in January 2011 – each ward is supposed to have a few area sabhas consisting of registered voters of that area.
Kathyayini said that there should be a source document for preparing the budget, as was done in 2008. “This pre-budget document should be available to public, so that they know where the budget is going,” she said. There was also criticism about budget being inflated, neglecting education and health sectors, and allocating more funds only for certain wards.
Hawking zones needed
Activists demanded that BBMP should acquire land near existing markets to create hawking zones. “Hawkers should be registered and a registration fee should be collected from them. Hawkers are ready for this, if insured spots are given to them – BBMP and police should work this out,” said Kathyayini.
Bins for garbage
Kathyayini said that, other than in commercial areas, separate bins for wet and dry waste should be put in residential areas every 50-100 m. “BBMP workers should be able to transfer this segregated waste directly from bins to their lorries. Manual handling of waste is illegal,” she said.
Meenakshi Bharath of SWMRT (Solid Waste Management Round Table) suggested that wet and dry waste centres be put up in all wards to generate revenue, shredders used to make compost, plastic used in making roads, and power generated using biogas. Activists said that BBMP offices alone spend Rs 30 cr a month for power usage, and that this power can be generated from waste. Munendra Kumar said that waste segregation was already working well in 50-60 wards, and that disciplinary action will be taken against those who do not comply.
No road widening
Vinay Sreenivasa of Hasiru Usiru said that road widening schemes should be scrapped from the budget, as public has been opposing these projects for the last five years. Former Mayor Sharadamma R, and Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Suresh Kumar, had promised discussions on this, but these were not held; Council should discuss the need for road widening, Sreenivasa said.
Footpaths, cycle tracks and bus corridors should be built. Public projects should not be outsourced or built under PPP as it benefits only private companies, he said. “NICE ring road was built in PPP, but now cycles are not allowed in that road. In Hosur Road, BMTC buses have to pay high toll fee.”
Improve basic facilities
Ensuring water supply and finding funds necessary for this, is BBMP’s responsibility, as per Karnataka Municipal Corporation (KMC) Act, said NGOs. “Water supply and sanitation was entrusted to BWSSB only because BBMP did not have the capacity for this,” said Issac Arul Selva of Bengaluru Janara Vedike. He said that Sulabh toilets were less in number, not well-maintained, and was not accessible to everyone as they charge for usage.
He pointed out that many slums did not have basic facilities, and that BBMP itself should re-develop slums instead of handing over those to private companies. “There are 67 slums under BBMP’s control. Malleswaram slum and Ashok Nagar slum were demolished to build malls. Now Ejipura slum land has been handed over to Maverick Holdings wherein they will build a mall in half the land. This is only a scheme for builders to make profit,” Selva said.
Activists said that BBMP should acquire slums and develop them using funds from JNNURM and its own BSUP (Basic Services for Urban Poor) scheme. Though money was allocated for slum development in earlier Council meetings, this was never given, Selva said.
Venkatesh M of Dalit Bahujan Movement Karnataka said that allocation should be made for education and financial development of SC/ST communities. He pointed out that the allocation was only Rs 65 cr last year and that many schemes were not implemented properly. “This year, there should be funds for professional training in computer, tailoring etc. Full fee of Dalit children in schools and diploma courses should be reimbursed. Package tours should be held for school children in co-ordination with Tourism department,” he said.
Some other suggestions were, to
– Improve manpower, equipments and drugs in BBMP hospitals and maternity homes
– Construct roads as per specifications instead of doing patch-up works
– Build care centres for sex workers’ children, many of whom are HIV-infected
– Hold meetings with senior citizens every 1-2 months
– Build separate night shelters for homeless men and women, and EWS (Economically Weaker Section) quarters for sex workers
– Keep good, local variety saplings in BBMP nurseries
– Put names and contact numbers of officers responsible for works, on BBMP’s wall paintings
– Audit BBMP accounts, including at the ward level; each project should be audited in quality and quantity, and all audit information published in newspapers
– Scholarships for SC/ST children in school level itself, as many drop out by 8th standard
– Build more anganwadis to cover more children, as slum children do not get nutritious food otherwise
– Set up micro-business centres in wards to train people in skills and entrepreneurship, and place them in jobs
Another suggestion was to stop councillors’ study trips to foreign countries. “Much of this information can be found online itself. If trips are necessary, information should be published on what was learnt and what action will be taken,” said activists.
Speaking to Citizen Matters later, Munendra said that 2-3 proposals put forth by NGOs in the meeting had been accepted, but did not clarify which ones.⊕