On the day this story was published (29th June), the state government effected transfers to two key officials in the city government. BBMP Commissioner Bharat Lal Meena was transferred to head the BDA, and the latter’s commissioner H Siddiah was transferred to head the BBMP.
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Talking to Citizen Matters on this, Mayor S K Nataraj said he was not consulted on the transfers and that he viewed it as a ‘routine’ state government decision.
The Mayor of Bengaluru S K Nataraj has announced that a separate BBMP council session will be held to discuss road widening in the city. In the wake of many protests against widening of roads, the Mayor said this needs to be separately discussed.
At the monthly meeting of the council, on June 29th, several corporators raised the issue of road widening. BJP’s D Venkatesh Murthy of Kathriguppe (Ward 163) was the first among them.
Leader of the Opposition M Nagaraj (Congress, Ward 43 – Nandini Layout) said, "Give them houses elsewhere. You are sending these people to the footpath." He then demanded that a separate meeting be called to discuss the issue in detail. The mayor, however, did not reveal when exactly this meeting would be held.
BBMP Commissioner Bharat Lal Meena said, "We have informed officials to carry out work only on roads that are proposed to be widened under the CDP (Comprehensive Development Plan)".
The mayor also said that a separate meeting will be held to discuss traffic problems in the city.
"Allot sites for corporators"
Corporator of Kempegowda ward (Ward 1) Y N Ashwath made an unusual request saying each of the 198 corporators should be allotted a site.
The mayor responded saying, "There’s nothing wrong in giving sites to corporators. But sites should be given to only those who don’t already have a site."
Karnataka law has a controversial clause called G-category that allows the chief minister to allocate BDA sites to ’eminent’ people in the state. The law has been used by chief ministers across party lines to allocate sites to MLAs and MPs.
Leader of the Opposition Nagaraj also brought up the issue of illegal hoardings in the city. He stated that there are over 5000 illegal hoardings in the city and even showed photographic evidence of some of them. "Is the BBMP’s advertisement department even following the bye-laws? Is there a nexus between the agencies and the officials?", Nagaraj asked.
He also said that many of advertising agencies rent out hoardings despite a status quo on many of them. He demanded the BBMP to take immediate action.
Commissioner Meena said that the corporation is looking to take after the Hyderabad model of using Geographic Information System (GIS) to keep track of all hoardings.
Hanumanthanagar (Ward 155) corporator K Chandrashekar asked the Commissioner how much revenue the advertisement department has made in 2009-2010, to which Meena replied saying, "Rs 18 crores and 24 lakhs."
Chandrashekar said advertising agencies are making Rs 128 crores, far from the BBMP’s revenue. He told the BBMP not to renew old hoardings until a new policy is put in place.
The mayor agreed saying this will be discussed in a separate meeting.
Meena promised that an intensive drive will be launched to check hoardings in the city. He also added that a departmental inquiry will be initiated against officials who are found to be faultering with regard to these illegal hoardings.
Legal cell or illegal cell?
Another BJP Corporator brought up the issue of the functioning of the BBMP’s legal cell. B R Nanjundappa of JP Park (Ward 17) asked the BBMP about the lethargic functioning of the legal cell. "In one month, they’ve spent Rs 20 lakhs. Whose money is this? Why has the legal cell become like this?", he asked.
Corporators demanded why the legal cell chief was not present at the meeting.
Never-ending water woes
Despite a two-day session on Bengaluru’s water woes in May, water problems also figured in the corporators’ lists. JD(S)’s Floor Leader Padmanabha Reddy (Kacharkanahalli, Ward 29) said the water problems in his ward have continued to remain. "Borewells haven’t been drilled in every ward as you promised", he said.
Another JD(S) corporator L Nagarathna (Vrishabavathi Nagar, Ward 102) also complained about the water problems in her ward. "In the neighbouring ward there are 15 borewells. I still haven’t got the four borewells promised for each ward", she said. The neighbouring ward incidentally happened to be Leader of the Opposition Nagaraj’s ward.
BJP’s Katte Sathyanarayana, corporator of Basavanagudi (Ward 154), said that monthly sub-division-wise meetings have also not happened, as announced earlier by the BWSSB Chairman.
BWSSB’s Additional Chief Engineer V Mahesh, who was present at the meeting, said only two such meetings have taken place so far with the MLA and corporators. Neither did he have details of those meetings.
To this, the corporators voiced their opinion saying a separate meeting can be called for MLAs. "Call us, we’ll come."
Mayor Nataraj demanded that these meetings take place across the city.
Independents speak out
Amidst all the problems that poured in, the five independents in the council made a special appeal to the mayor. Speaking on their behalf was Thimmananjaiah (Ward 41, Peenya Industrial Area). He said the independent candidates had no identity in the council as they were forced to sit with either Congress or JD(S) members. "Please give us a proper place", they said.
However, the mayor refused this request and told them separate seating cannot be provided. "But don’t worry, your voice will be heard", Nataraj consoled them.
P Dhanraj, Corporator of Dharmaraya Swamy Temple ward (Ward 119) told the mayor that some residential quarters at Dasappa hospital (located near Town Hall) were occupied by drivers of BBMP officials. "These quarters are meant for doctors so that they can attend to emergency calls," Dhanraj said.
The mayor directed the BBMP health department to check this.
Thimmananjaiah (Ward 41, Peenya Industrial Area) raised the issue of health problems. He narrated the case of a recent dengue death in his ward and held BBMP’s health department responsible for this.
The mayor directed the three corporators, who also happen to be doctors, to submit a report on these illnesses.
Unique emergency number for BBMP
Another BJP Corporator, citing the case of Sanjana Singh’s death, said the BBMP should have a three-digit emergency contact number. "The emergency numbers are difficult to remember. Can we have a unique number?", he asked.
The mayor said this will be ‘looked into’.⊕