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That Bengaluru missed the smart city bus may not be a problem but why it did isPixabay. Image for representational use only
news Saturday, August 29, 2015 - 23:22
Bengaluru has been going gaga over its non-inclusion in the list of cities to be developed as smart cities. But some of the city’s residents say that it may not be much of a loss.

The Garden City / Pensioners’ Paradise etc has been in the news for all the wrong reasons these last few years – a massive garbage crisis (which earned the nickname Garbage City), housing problems, frustration traffic jams, water-logging due to rain, bad roads and no roads, mismanagement of sewage. For starters.

The systemic nature of these problems has prompted many to be skeptical of what a smart city will actually entail.

One problem that has not gone unnoticed, is the amount allocated for each city. Under the project, Rs 200 crore is the proposed annual allocation for a smart city for a period of five years. According to one estimate, this is just a third of the money that will be spent on solid waste disposal for Bengaluru city this year alone.

The BBMP has earmarked Rs 415 crore for solid waste management this year in its budget while the Karnataka Urban Infrastructure Development Corporation has sanctioned Rs 270 crore for building infrastructure.

Civic activist with Environment Support Group Meena Artwani told The News Minute that the TenderSURE project was proposed to cost the BBMP Rs 200 for seven roads, but had actually far exceeded the estimated cost.

Executive Trustee of Civic Bangalore Katyayini Chamraj told The News Minute that inclusion of the city in the smart city proposal would do nothing for the basic problems of the city namely housing, sewage disposal and water supply which had led to the “collapse of the city” because “the laws have not been enforced”.

Stating that “having slogans like smart cities” could not be make the city “inclusive” for all its inhabitants, she called for the government to provide affordable housing, food, and health care for all its residents, especially the thousands of migrants who lived and worked in the city for years together.

Giving an example, she said, “The government acquires land all the time, but it does not provide adequate housing to slum-dwellers, or migrant workers.”

She added that the currently, Rs 3,000 collected as building cess under the Building and Other Construction Workers’ Act was lying unused even though it was meant for the welfare of construction workers. “You do not allot land for them to live on, and when they (squat) somewhere, you call them illegal. It’s like saying ‘We want your services, but we don’t want to see you’.”

But a worrying aspect of Bengaluru’s non-inclusion is that it did not meet certain criteria. According to a report in The Times of India, Bengaluru lost out because of two crucial factors – failure to submit bills and documents for auditing and also lack of public toilets.

The former is particularly problematic because there have been numerous CAG reports regularly pointing out alleged financial irregularities in the BBMP’s expenditure. One of the most recent is the money spent on contractors who transported garbage. Between January 2013 and October 2014, when the city was reeling under a garbage crisis, the BBMP had spent over Rs 400 crore on contractors, many of whom did not exist.

 

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