Power can be taken, but not given. The process of the taking is empowerment in itself.
– Gloria Steinem.
Until T.N. Seshan became the Chief Election Commissioner of India, the public did not know much about the Election Commission and the powers it had. We’ve seen individuals infusing life into public institutions that were seen as ‘weak’ or ‘ceremonial’. I will draw inspiration from such stories to leverage my one year term as Mayor of this great city Bengaluru.
My strategy would be to elevate the stature of the Mayor’s office, take up a small but significant set of things that lead to perceptible improvements in quality of life, get citizens involved in local decision making, kick start a debate on the need for reform in local governments. I will set things in motion that can’t be easily reversed by my successor. I will build relationships with corporators from all parties by finding common ground and by showing respect.
The first order of business would be to create public awareness about the roles and responsibilities of BBMP, Mayor, Corporators, various agencies that run the city, BWSSB, BESCOM, BMTC, LDA, BTP media. ‘City Government’ 53 years ago, then Mayor G Narayana published all public works and expenditure and physically distributed to citizens.
That level of transparency and accountability can be done with effectively deploying IT. I will recruit a CIO with extensive domain expertise to drive this and show results in 6 months. As a software professional, I will actively engage and monitor this work.
I will focus on seven wards, hand-picked from each of the seven divisions of BBMP, to deliver seven key things that bring visible and real change.
I will get a resolution passed that Ward Committee meetings must be held on first Saturday of every month and be open to general public. Agenda: 1. Review of current works 2. Proposals for new works
I will walk the talk by making my own ward a role model for effective functioning of ward committee, decentralisation, public participation and transparency. I will forfeit my right to veto to encourage more corporators to follow suit.
Garbage mafia thrives on transport. I will ensure that the seven wards become self-sufficient in managing waste by finding unused assets of BBMP to set up dry waste collection centers, biogas plants, compost units so that nothing needs to get out of the ward. I will mobilise public support to convert Poura Karmikas as BBMP employees within my term.
It is an open secret that there is more money changing hands by ‘fixing’ bad roads than laying good roads. I will work with the standing committees to create incentives for making good roads. I will push for a council resolution that mandates relaying of all roads during summer, before monsoon. It is important to have a pre-determined schedule to make this happen.
Lack of shoulder drains is another big reason for potholes as rain water stagnates on the streets. I will ask the corporators and ward committees to monitor every street and allocate funds to clear the shoulder drains and build them where needed. Shoulder drains must be leveraged for rain water harvesting.
Roads don’t just belong to vehicles but walkers and bicyclists too. The skywalks are a terrible idea – they just don’t work other than highways and ring roads. I will ensure every crossing has pedestrian walk signals that give sufficient time and footpaths are budgeted separately for annual maintenance.
We cannot call ourselves a global city, until we end public urination. The answer is not just in more public toilets but also a change in mindset. Our public toilets stink and are not exactly welcoming. I will seek help from star hotels in the city to build and operate toilets that are visually appealing and spotlessly clean. The success of prefabricated Indira Canteens gives me hope that we can deploy thousands of toilets across the city. I will rope in celebrities to champion the cause.
Fixing the toilets in all BBMP offices will be the top most priority!
Schools, Health Centers and Anganwadis
BBMP runs hundreds of schools and health centers and unfortunately most of them are not in great condition, especially the health centers. I will borrow from the experience of Delhi government and establish citizen committees to act as caretakers. The low wage migrants and urban poor must have access to quality education, healthcare and childcare and the seven model wards will lead the way in showing how it can be done.
Unfortunately as a Mayor, I have no direct ownership of either the bus or train or metro, but I believe I can bring all these agencies together in a way that hasn’t been done before. Public transport needs to become safe, convenient, affordable and most importantly faster than other modes of transport. I will urge the Bengaluru Traffic police to create priority lanes for bus where feasible in the seven wards. A campaign to make public transport cool is much needed, and I will use every opportunity to use public transport and interact with people.
Kempe Gowda’s mother famously told him ‘Kere Kattisi’ – the time has come for Bengaluru to build new lakes, tanks, open wells in public owned assets. I will ensure every large commercial entity and office complex has open wells and every drop of rainwater is harvested and reused within the office. I will ensure every one of the 1200+ parks owned by BBMP has an open well.
While my primary focus is on seven wards, I will spend serious time inspecting every single ward, monitor progress using the enhanced information technology system and help resolve issues with other departments.
At a city level, I will work on the following:
Increase revenues and identify new revenue sources
The entire city of Bengaluru gets a fraction of revenue that the Airport makes on advertisements. Internal reports state Rs 2,000 crores revenue was lost in the last nine years. I’d ensure the entire system is overhauled and market rates are realised by using Airport as a case study. Studies showed that 40% of city roads are occupied by parked private vehicles. This is a huge loss of revenue on public asset. I believe once I get into the system I will be able to discover many revenue opportunities let go due to corruption all these years.
Assets of BBMP
I will form a team to identify all BBMP assets across all the wards. These can be buildings, shopping complexes, parking lots, empty plots.
Bengaluru has nearly two lakh street vendors and unfortunately they live with constant fear of eviction. I will sensitize people about the street vendor law and ensure the rights of street vendors are protected.
Karnataka Mayors Conference
I will host a Mayor’s conference to share best practices for disaster management, solid waste management and leveraging technology and Information Technology for better city management.