Election is the time to recall whatever a party has done to the constituency during its rule and find out what are the promises for Bangalore the party has in store. Narayana Rao, head of the Bangalore manifesto committee of JD(S), says that the main topics in the JD(S) manifesto are water, electricity and the issue of whether Bangalore should be allowed to grow the way it is now.
Here are excerpts from the interview:
In BWSSB’s water supply, about 35% is lost because of leaks alone. Why had JD(S) government not done anything about this?
Leakage is an administrative matter, not related to political parties. The leakage itself may not be 35%, much loss is because of free taps in slum areas, illegal connections etc. Kumaraswamy was in power for hardly 20 months, so no concrete steps could be taken on this, except to see that Cauvery Stage – IV was sanctioned. In 1989-90, during Deve Gowda’s tenure, more than Rs 100 crore was sanctioned to replace old pipes. The project was started, and it was decided to complete it stage by stage.
During the BBMP election in 2010, we had discussed the leakage issue. For BBMP election manifesto, we had suggested that the BWSSB decentralise its distribution system. In each constituency, there should be a central point from where all water to the constituency goes. The BWSSB should monitor it, along with losses and revenue.
There is zone system now in the BWSSB, in which many constituencies are clubbed together. There will be 5-6 constituencies in one zone, and there will be shifting of burden between AEEs. At the constituency level, responsibility can be fixed on one AEE. Billing, accounting and wastage can be addressed and unaccounted connections checked. The BWSSB should have a map of its pipelines, gadgets should be fixed to detect leakages, and damages corrected soon. We had proposed account auditing for power segment during the BBMP elections.
Is the idea of decentralisation along constituencies to ensure that MLAs can monitor water-related issues?
Constituency is only a unit for administrative purpose here. The BWSSB can make any other area also as a unit. MLAs are not responsible for looking at these issues, but they can use this system to get the issues fixed easily.
We are also suggesting that there should be a power manufacturing unit for Bangalore alone. In Mumbai, Tatas are doing this for the city. There is a complaint that Bangalore is consuming too much power, while some rural areas don’t even have five hours of power daily.
We have suggested a gas-based generating unit for Bangalore. There will be a separate pricing system for this power. If not gas, garbage or waste water can also be used to generate power.
Garbage issue had been festering for a long time, but nothing was done about it by JD(S) government. Your comment.
Whether it was our time or others’, garbage issue has been mishandled. At least it should have been assured that no layout is near landfills or that landfills are shifted. Probably the JD(S) government did not take steps because the issue was not aggravated at that time. The problems were lesser, so they might have slept on it. There was no planning.
Nearly one and half years back, our Rajarajeshwari Nagar unit had protested against the concept of landfills. The BBMP should have taken steps to see that landfills are away from the city. There should be 10-15 units across Bangalore to convert garbage into manure. Segregation should be compulsory and wet waste composted.
Kumaraswamy had suggested developing four satellite towns around Bangalore, to control the city’s growth. But this has not been done either.
Are you making any proposal to counter water shortage?
We are proposing BWSSB STPs – currently there are STPs, but they are not working. For Rain Water Harvesting, there is not enough rain; so there is no need to make people spend for it. (However the JD(S) manifesto released on 14 April 2013 has given prominence for rain water harvesting.) Rivers like Hemavathi should be used to augment supply.
Borewell digging should be controlled – this should have been done 25 years ago. This is mentioned in the BWSSB Act itself. As a legislator, I was in the Board of BWSSB in the 1980s. I had suggested introducing sewage cess and control over borewells. The cess was introduced immediately, but borewell digging was not controlled.
In some apartment complexes, people have shifted as they could not find water even after digging up to 2000 ft. It will only get worse. We have no immediate proposals on water crisis as such, because many such proposals will not be agreeable to public – such as rationing of water, different water pricing for houses with and without bore wells etc. After election, we can think of solutions.
There have been too many land scams in the city. Your comment.
The BDA should only be a planning authority. Corruption is there because the BDA is the executing authority for layouts. There are too many scams because of government denotifying and acquiring land. Forming of layouts should be completely privatised. There is no dearth of capital and managerial skills in private sector; so the government does not have to invest in real estate. Government should only enforce bye-laws relating to plans.
The government can insist that private builders should set aside a certain percentage of sites for the poor (middle/ lower middle class), or distribute the sites to the poor at subsidised prices. Government can incentivise builders to give these sites, by giving subsidy in power, water etc. Pricing of sites can also be controlled easily by government.
Sites will become cheaper when left to private initiatives – these don’t have to be big builders or co-operative societies. Land owners themselves can join together to form private companies and develop layouts. These are my views, and we are discussing this in the committee now. We will also implement A T Ramaswamy’s and V Balasubramaniam’s reports on land grab.
Recently, thousands of people were evicted from Ejipura EWS slum. There is a large number of poor who need housing, but government says there is not enough land for this. On the other hand, government is sanctioning large chunks of land for industrial projects, for example the upcoming Manipal ETA Infotech SEZ in Agara. Can industries be asked to reserve part of their land for housing the urban poor?
When Bangalore developed, everyone has benefited from it, including the poor. Ejipura EWS is not an ideal example of a slum. For example, In Swatantrapalya slum in Srirampura, earlier there were huts, now the houses are RCC buildings with 2-3 floors. Slum housing has become a business. Government should adopt some other method of improving slums other than giving housing.
But isn’t housing still an issue for the extremely poor? About one-third of people in the city are said to be below poverty line.
In Bangalore, except beggars, extremely poor people are very low in number. Every house in slums has appliances like TV. About BPL cards, there are even government employees with monthly salary of Rs 15,000 who own a BPL card – it is just another form of corruption.
What other things are you planning to include in the manifesto?
All tanks must be rejuvenated, and parks developed. Bangalore Palace Ground should be made a fully public park like Lalbagh. It should become a ‘carbon sink’ to purify air.
There is no holistic study on transport now. A flyover is built in one junction because of traffic, but this traffic will go and collapse at the next junction. Projects like Metro Rail will not solve traffic problems – Bangaloreans are too individualistic to leave their own vehicles and use public transport. Those who are already using buses may use Metro, but others will not.
Road widening will not solve traffic problem either. So, studies should be done to see how traffic problem is tackled in other cities. For instance, in Delhi, some roads are made one-way during peak hours. I am not suggesting that politicians should go on tours for study though.⊕