Updated: March 26, 2021 8:58:14 am
As Bengaluru’s local civic body the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) is set to present the budget for the financial year 2021-22, activists from across important sectors of the city’s infrastructure are hopeful that resources are used in complete public interest.
While the impact of the pandemic is likely to affect the outlay of the budget, a call to improve public health infrastructure in the city itself is one of the major expectations put forth by experts this time.
“Most people from low-income groups who cannot afford to get insurance benefits or private treatment depend on these primary health centres (PHCs). The BBMP should ideally set aside more budget to improve the basic infrastructure at PHCs in this regard,” Ameen Mudassar of the CIGMA foundation opined. Also, as an active member of the Emergency Response Team (ERT) set up by individuals and members of various NGOs and other organisations in the city, he added that the municipal body should involve more volunteers for better public outreach.
Meanwhile, human rights activist Tanveer Ahmed feels there’s a need to activate more public redressal forums. “Such efforts to infuse more confidence among the public about government facilities thereby providing options to check accountability and scrutiny of utility are also essential,” he said. He also demanded steps to be taken to ensure government facilities are on par with their private counterparts, primarily in the healthcare and education sectors.
However, Srinivas Alavilli of Janaagraha, a Bengaluru-based non-profit working on urban governance issues, chose to keep his expectations “realistic.” He said he expects BBMP to get the basics done effectively and efficiently. “Substance matters more than form. Getting every ward to manage their roads and drains, garbage and parks are also important,” he said.
Alavilli said he was hopeful of inputs from the ‘My City My Budget’ campaign run by the NGO being considered in which inputs from 9,700 citizens are “meticulously analysed and incorporated for two specific areas – public toilets and footpaths.” “Unlike the Union or state budgets which are read-only documents for ordinary citizens, the city budget gives an excellent opportunity for the citizenry to give specific and localised inputs,” he added.
However, Shaheen Shasa of the Bengaluru Bus Prayaanikara Vedike, a community forum for bus commuters in the city, was disappointed that BBMP did not seek any public inputs with regard to the budget in the public transport sector. Nonetheless, she stressed on the need to incentivise public transport while increasing taxes for private vehicle usage.
“It is very critical for a city to enable its people to commute to access basic rights and needs. It is also essential for overall economic development since more affordable mobility will make people access work and businesses and services better. With the pandemic and economic crisis that we are going through currently, this can boost things up for everyone,” she said.
She also suggested that the BBMP can try to offer grants to BMTC (Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation) similar to the situation in Mumbai, even though BMTC does not operate under the oversight of the local body in Bengaluru. Shasa added that extending bus shelters footpaths, and safe crossing at adequate intervals across all city main roads would also encourage more public transport.
‘Need to take more steps towards making Bengaluru carbon neutral’
At the same time, Kshitij Urs, professor of public policy at the National Law School of India, remarked that it was high time the BBMP presented a budget that can take steps towards making the city carbon neutral. “The budget should announce well-funded targets to cut down carbon emissions while drastically improving nature-based sequestration options with clear short and long-term plans on urban forests, water bodies, wetlands, and parks,” he said.
Urs also felt climate mitigation strategies have been scientifically proven to be effective when planned both locally and at the macro level. “Ward-level climate plans and targets need to involve people participating and making the corporator accountable. This is not possible with bureaucrats,” he said.
Sandeep Anirudhan, Founder of Citizens Agenda for Bengaluru, echoed Urs’ views, saying Bengaluru needs to evolve into a self-governing city. “Ward committees should be equipped with the capacity to budget, and to plan locally,” he said.
The absence of an elected council has been a major talking point this time, ahead of the BBMP budget presentation. Alavilli said, “Elected representatives bring in perspective from all sections of the society. It helps in balancing the needs of different parts of the city without which the budget is incomplete.”
Meanwhile, Mudassar had recommendations on how to curtail unnecessary expenditure, ahead of a budget that is expected to have a lower outlay this time. “Allocations for white topping of roads, skywalks at unnecessary locations, unwanted steel fabrication works on pavements and such should be completely avoided,” he asserted.
A couple of days prior to the scheduled presentation, senior BBMP officials hinted that the outlay for the 2021-22 budget was likely to be estimated at Rs 8,000 crore, almost Rs 3,500 crore less than the same for the previous fiscal year. “With the BBMP Council yet to be picked, the Administrator (Gaurav Gupta) will make the presentation this time,” an official confirmed to the indianexpress.com.
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