January 22, 2022 7:04:02 pm
Several Bengaluru residents participated in NGO Janaagraha’s webinar titled ‘MyCityMyBudget Phase 2 – Are Ward Committees Using Budget Allocated to Them’ on Saturday.
Notably, Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) allotted Rs 60 lakh to each of its 198 ward committees in August 2021. The decision was taken after over 9,000 citizens submitted their response in the #MyCityMyBudget (MCMB) campaign on how ward budgets needed to be spent.
“After we received inputs from citizens through the #MyCityMyBudget campaign, we wanted to give them a chance to have a say in the affairs of their respective wards. Citizens are the biggest stakeholders in ward development and maintenance. They need to continuously engage with their urban local bodies to ensure ward development,” said BBMP Special Commissioner (Finance) Thulasi Maddineni.
“Allotting Rs 60 lakh to each of the ward committees was an act of faith in our citizens. Ward Committees are like Grama Sabhas and we now have regular meetings in most wards. We are nearing the end of January. Citizens can submit their inputs in the ward committees, which will help us decide on how to spend the funds,” added Maddineni, who is also the nodal officer in charge of Ward 19 Sanjaya Nagar.
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Speaking on how the budget needs to be spent, the officer said, “Of the Rs 60 lakh, Rs 20 lakh has been used to repair potholes in October 2021. The details of how the money is being spent are available with the ward engineer. With regard to Rs 20 lakh allocated for footpaths, Janaagraha is taking up the Footpath Walkability Survey with citizens to help prioritise works. Decisions will be taken as per the inputs submitted by citizens in ward committees. The BBMP area also has close to 10,000 borewells and Rs 20 lakh has been allotted for their maintenance and repair.”
Srinivas Alavilli, Head, Civic Participation, Janaagraha said, “Participatory democracy in urban areas has been restricted to academic discussions and largely remained wishful thinking but not anymore in Bengaluru. The BBMP is making great strides in institutionalizing citizen participation by conducting ward committee meetings and allocating funds to ward committees and I’m confident that this is a great beginning. We urge more citizens to get involved locally and taste the power of community engagement and ownership. It can be done and it must be done not just in Bengaluru but in every city of India.”
To decide on the footpaths that need to be developed, Janaagraha has been working with ward committees as part of MCMB Phase II and has conducted a walkability survey in five wards. The walkability of the ward has been measured based on four broad parameters – accessibility, connectivity, safety and comfort.
In Banaswadi (Ward 27), a total of 9.5 km was surveyed and the ward has received a walkability score of 26 out of 100. Gottigere received a score of 17. Sanjay Nagara has scored 2 for the 3.45 kilometres surveyed. R K Nagara (Ward 19) has scored 10 and Varthur (Ward 149) zero.
Amith Nigli and Christopher Cruz, representing Banasawadi (Ward 17), spoke about how they drew up plans to identify vulnerable roads. Speaking on budget allocation, Christopher said, “Rs 60 lakh is negligible to start with. Yet, it is still something good to lay our hopes on.” He added that “unless we work together and understand how the system works, we cannot bring the change we all seek.”
The need of more funds for larger wards was raised by Jagadish Reddy, Co-Founder Varthur Rising. “Varthur (Ward 149) is a large ward. Thus, Rs 60 lakh is inadequate when it comes to repair and maintenance of assets. This is a great beginning but we hope that the BBMP will allocate more budget that can be utilized by citizens in our ward,” he said.
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