There was high drama at the special meeting of the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) council on Saturday.
The councillors targeted Commissioner Rajneesh Goel for floating tenders to clear garbage without tabling them first in the council. To this, Mr. Goel said he had exercised his powers and floated the tenders after the High Court of Karnataka directed the BBMP to solve the garbage crisis as soon as possible.
The councillors later blamed the administration for the crisis and said they could not be held responsible for the bureaucracy’s failure to monitor the situation in the landfills on the city’s outskirts.
Though the special meeting was called to discuss the draft solid waste management bylaws, discussions centred only around the garbage tenders that were floated recently.
‘Holding city to ransom’
Earlier, Yediyur councillor N.R. Ramesh compared the garbage mafia to ‘Ali Baba and the 40 thieves’ and said the mafia was holding the city to ransom. The BBMP was spending more than Rs. 400 crore on solid waste management. However, the civic authority in Greater Mumbai spends only Rs. 191 crore, Delhi Rs. 205 crore and the Chennai civic authority spends Rs. 135 crore on solid waste management.
He said officials had failed to ensure that garbage contractors followed the 19 terms and conditions prescribed in the contract. He urged Mr. Goel to relax the new tender conditions so that the hold of the garbage mafia could be broken.
Hanumanthanagar councillor K. Chandrashekar blamed the Commissioner (bureaucracy) for failing to monitor the garbage contractors. He also sought to know on what basis the new conditions were framed. Suspecting the involvement of certain organisations, he said they were slowly “entering the BBMP through the back door.”
“On what basis have the rates been fixed? Surprisingly, the new rates mentioned in the tenders are similar to what the garbage mafia has been demanding for the past year,” he said.
Responding to these charges, a visibly emotional Mr. Goel said the BBMP should have made garbage segregation mandatory around five years ago. “We need to understand the gravity of the situation. Mandur is the only landfill where garbage from the city is being dumped now. And this can’t continue after October 1. What are we going to do then? That is why the short-term tenders were floated, so that they can be finalised before October. If waste is segregated, the quantum going to the landfill will come down to 1,500 tonnes.”
While admitting that the council was supreme, Mr. Goel said he only had powers to float the tenders. “The council can decide on whether it has to be approved or not. All the rates quoted are as per the Schedule of Rates of the Public Works Department.” He also said that no condition had been changed in the tender. “The conditions in the 2011 tender have been used in the new tenders. When there was no objection from the elected body then, why is there opposition now?” he said.
He said the BBMP had been “dumping poison” in the landfills, making life hell for communities there. “We can understand their problems if we spend one night there,” he said.
Responding to the Commissioner’s charges, Nandini Layout councillor M. Nagaraj said the elected body could not be blamed for the fault of bureaucracy.
“Why did the administration not think of alternatives some six years ago? Why did the officials let the matter precipitate to this level?” he said. He also said it was wrong for the Commissioner to challenge the council.
Kacharakanahalli councillor Padmanabha Reddy said the Opposition parties would support Mr. Goel if the garbage crisis was solved by October 1. “If it persists, will you resign?” he sought to know.
At the end of the meeting, Mr. Goel said he was a “foot soldier of the council” and urged the councillors to cooperate with the administration in solving the garbage crisis. “We have to work together as a team under the leadership of the Mayor,” the Commissioner added.