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‘Ill-conceived, retrograde’: Bengaluru citizens oppose govt plan to relieve BBMP of public health duties amid Covid

The proposal — even when Bengaluru is yet to witness a clear recovery from the daily surge in Covid-19 cases — is in direct contradiction to the “spirit of decentralisation” enshrined in the Constitution, many have argued.

Written by Ralph Alex Arakal | Bengaluru |
Updated: May 17, 2021 7:27:55 am
Voices of reproval broke out in Bengaluru a day after Deputy Chief Minister C N Ashwathnarayan announced that the government was likely to hand over Covid-19-related responsibilities from BBMP to the Bengaluru Health Directorate — a parastatal body constituted under the Department of Health and Family Welfare. (PTI)

A recent proposal put forth by the ministerial task force overseeing Covid management in Karnataka to relieve the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) of public health duties, including its role in the ongoing pandemic, has not gone down well with the citizens of the state capital.

The proposal — even when Bengaluru is yet to witness a clear recovery from the daily surge in Covid-19 cases — is in direct contradiction to the “spirit of decentralisation” enshrined in the Constitution, many have argued.

Kathyayini Chamaraj, Executive Trustee of CIVIC, a city-based voluntary initiative, told Indianexpress.com that such a proposal was in “direct contradiction” to the state government’s recent decision to form Decentralized Triage and Emergency Response (DETER) committees at the ward-level to manage the pandemic at the local level.

“When the government has a very recent case study of how even zonal war rooms failed to do their task, forming a parastatal body directly under the state government is never the right track to follow. Instead, operating ward-level war rooms and committees is the only way to ensure transparency,” she said.

She added that involving citizens and micromanaging the pandemic at the ward level would also increase the efficiency of each related activity. “While a parastatal body might have better technical expertise, making it accountable to BBMP is the key. The government should also carry out activity mapping in a comprehensive manner spelling out roles and responsibilities for people concerned at each level,” Chamaraj said.

Meanwhile, Zibi Jamal of Whitefield Rising wondered, “While various works to set up triage centres and CCCs at the ward-level is already underway, how would beginning a parastatal agency to manage Covid-19 be of help to Bengaluru?”

She added, “We have a lot to learn from Mumbai on how they managed this second wave with the help of ward committees. The move now should be, as announced earlier, to decentralize Covid management. Ward-level taskforces, CCCs, and empowering health inspectors and ward committees to work within their neighbourhoods is the need of the hour.”

At the same time, Srikanth Viswanathan, CEO of Janaagraha, a non-profit working on urban governance issues, opined that the city needed a lasting political solution instead of “ill-conceived administrative fixes”.

He said, “This is a retrograde proposal being considered as a panic reaction.  It is true that Covid response in Bengaluru is fragmented.  The solution to that is to further empower the BBMP as the single point of executive authority over public health, water and sanitation and climate change, and not to divest it of the public health function.”

Voices of reproval broke out in Bengaluru a day after Deputy Chief Minister C N Ashwathnarayan announced that the government was likely to hand over Covid-19-related responsibilities from BBMP to the Bengaluru Health Directorate — a parastatal body constituted under the Department of Health and Family Welfare.

After a meeting with ministers and top government officials on Saturday, Ashwathnarayan, who also chairs the ministerial task force, said, “There are many agencies carrying out public health functions in Bengaluru. The newly proposed Bengaluru Health Directorate aims to bring them all under one umbrella, thereby strengthening health services provided in the city.”

He added that a committee would submit a report to the government after looking into the technicalities to set up a new body for the same.

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