The Karnataka state budget, with a total outlay of Rs 3.27 lakh crore, presented by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah on July 7th, was expected to deliver on the five guarantees. But Bengalureans were also looking forward to what the city’s share would be in the budget and if it would be any different from allocations made by previous governments.
The new government has often emphasised its commitment to improving the city’s infrastructure. The recent launch of ‘Brand Bengaluru’, a portal to seek suggestions from residents for the city’s development, can be considered a step in that direction.
As was expected, the state government has promised to prioritise traffic management, solid waste management, proper utilisation of public places, flood management, and public health, among others. Overall, the budget has allocated Rs 45,000 crore for Bengaluru, including Rs 30,000 crore for ‘Namma Metro’. Approximately Rs 12,000 crore will be spent through various schemes, such as Amrutha Nagarothana, high-density corridor, white-topping of roads, encroachment removal, repairs of canals, filling of potholes, etc.
A much changed ‘Indira Canteens’ initiative, launched by the previous Siddaramaiah government that the Bommai government had allowed to go to seed, is set for a major relaunch in Bengaluru and all other urban local bodies of the state.
This scheme will be extended to all newly created towns and new wards of BBMP in phase-2. For the current year, Rs 100 crore will be earmarked for repair, renovation, and maintenance of these canteens.
Overall, the allocations for Bengaluru, in this budget, have been on the same lines of most previous governments, heavily focusing on roads and public transit. In fact, in 2022, Bengaluru was ranked as the second most congested city in the world with an average commute speed of merely 18.7 kmph.
What the budget missed out
However, other important issues like water supply, solid waste management, affordable housing, lake rejuvenation, and health care at the city level also needed adequate attention.
Drinking water shortage continues to be a serious crisis in the city, especially in the outer zones and several densely populated lower-income group pockets even within the core city area.
As per BBMP records, the city generates 5,500-6,000 metric tonnes of waste everyday. It has seven landfills and six waste-processing units, which have not been upgraded since 2015. There are 150 dry waste collection centres, which can handle only one tonne of waste on an average. Nine decentralised biogas units have not been functioning since 2017. Overall, BBMP is struggling to provide efficient solid waste management from collection to safe disposal.
A recent water quality analysis of Bengaluru‘s lakes by Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) has revealed that 78 water bodies are not even suited for aquatic life. The issue of direct inflow of sewage into the lakes continues across the city, despite several court orders and many initiatives by the government and citizen groups. Even restored lakes tend to reverse to their previous condition within a couple of years.
As Nagesh Aras, an author and urban activist in Bellandur, says: “It is a challenging task to restore lakes in Bengaluru, because the custodians themselves do not know which lakes they have to look after. Worse, there is no coordination among a multiplicity of agencies that are supposed to manage the lakes. Also, if individual lakes are restored without first stopping incoming pollution, they get ruined rapidly. Indeed, the only way to restore them is to restore the entire water system as a whole, including SWDs, UGDs and lakes. Any piecemeal approach would be a waste of money and effort.”
On the continuing poor condition of the city’s infrastructure, Kathyayini Chamaraj, executive trustee CIVIC and an expert working in the field of decentralisation and governance, says: “Rather than discussing only on the budgetary allocations, which as expected focuses on roads and transport, one should look at how these expenditures translate at the ward level. In fact, an efficient expenditure tracking system like Panchatantra (Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Department) for Bengaluru would really help in enhancing transparency and accountability.”
Governance issues need to be resolved
High budgetary allocations and high capital expenditures alone have often not been enough to resolve the city’s infrastructure challenges. Fast growing megacities like Bengaluru face newer challenges of scale, never seen before and no matter how much budgetary allocations are set aside, the city’s infrastructure will always be playing ‘catchup’ till core governance issues are resolved.
The governance challenges for Bengaluru are many; the implementation of the new Master Plan has been lingering for years now. The Bengaluru Metropolitan Land Transport Authority (BMLTA) Bill, 2022, that seeks to bring about better integration and management of city’s urban mobility has not made any progress so far. Even the implementation of the three decade old 74th Amendment has seen limited progress, with a defunct Metropolitan Planning Committee and ward committees not being consulted for approval of local projects.
Overall, the allocations for Bengaluru, even if implemented efficiently, will not be able to attain the desired results till all the supporting processes and the implementing agencies work in tandem.
As renowned urbanist Ashwin Mahesh says: “Even when large amounts of money are spent, the right outcomes are not produced because of poor processes. And at this time, the government doesn’t even have much money to spend, because of all its other commitments. Therefore it is the right time to focus on improving governance processes and administration”.
Summary of allocations for Bengaluru
- Rs 1,411 crore to the Bengaluru Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) for upgrading 20 Sewage Treatment Plants by March, 2026
- Rs 263 crore for the construction of a new flyover to provide access to Sir M. Visveswaraya Terminal at Baiyappanahalli
- Rs 800 crore for white-topping 100 kms of major roads
- Rs 273 crore for the development of 83 km of high density corridors such as Old Madras road, Ballari road, Tumkur road etc.
- Rs 1,000 crore for the Bengaluru Suburban Railway Project
- Rs 1,250 crore for effective disposal of legacy waste, liquid waste management, and to control the flow of pollutants into rivers and lakes
- Rs 100 crore for Indira Canteens
- Rs 100 crore for the Bengaluru Solid Waste Management Corporation Limited (BSWMCL) to collect, treat and dispose waste in a scientific and sustainable manner
- The government also plans to mobilise Rs.1,000 crore through green bonds for infrastructure development in urban areas
- Rs 10 crore each for Regional Basketball Training Centre in Bengaluru
- Rs 5 crores to set up fully automated and centralised blood bank management system in Bengaluru Medical College and Research Institute
What changes would you want in the budget?
Read the details of the state budget. What would you change if you had the power? Do you think there needs to be better allocation for the local needs of your neighbourhood?