Bengaluru

Namma Bengaluru: Political U-turn on key projects

BJP never opposed TenderSURE conceptually, as it had introduced them in 2012. However, it had alleged corruption when the project was being implemented by the Congress.

BJP never opposed TenderSURE conceptually, as it had introduced them in 2012. However, it had alleged corruption when the project was being implemented by the Congress.   | Photo Credit: K_MURALI_KUMAR

Since coming to power, the BJP has softened its stand on various projects, which it had opposed or was sceptical of

Where you stand depends on where you sit — the aphorism used to describe political ambivalence seems to be the mantra for civic governance in the city, say activists and citizens groups.

A case in point is the recent decision taken by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which was in the opposition till recently, in both the State legislature and the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP). After coming to power, many of the projects which it had opposed earlier, have been resurrected in some form or the other. From Indira Canteens to TenderSURE and whitetopping, the BJP appears to have softened its stand on various projects they had either opposed or were sceptical of when the party was in the opposition.

For example, in the second week of August, Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa ordered an investigation into the alleged misuse of government funds while implementing the first two phases of white-topping and four packages of the TenderSURE projects by the BBMP. However, a preliminary report on white-topping found no evidence of corruption, and by the second week of September, the cabinet had cleared the second package of white-topping roads.

N.S. Mukunda, former president of Citizen Action Forum (CAF), said that such political behaviour is forcing people to fight for their rights. “It is citizens who have been suffering due to such politics,” he said.

Abdul Wajid, Leader of Opposition, BBMP, said that the BJP had vehemently opposed various projects started by the Congress but now that the party is in power, it are bringing them out in new forms. “The BJP opposed our projects for the sake of opposition.”

A BJP councillor defended the recent decisions arguing that when there were in opposition, they were unhappy with the way the projects were being implemented.

Citizens, however, are frustrated with the slow pace of work. “Politics has to be kept aside for development and welfare, and there needs to be continuity in projects,” said Srinivas Alavilli of Citizens for Bengaluru (CFB), which took part in movements against the elevated corridor project.

White-topping projects continue to get clearance

BJP had opposed white-topping citing durability and alleging corruption.

BJP had opposed white-topping citing durability and alleging corruption.   | Photo Credit: G_P_Sampath Kumar

 

While in opposition, the BJP had opposed both white-topping and TenderSURE projects alleging corruption. Shortly after it came to power, Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa ordered a probe. A preliminary report is believed to have given them a clean chit.

On September 18, the Cabinet cleared the second package of white-topping roads that had been put on hold while the probe was under way. This drew sharp criticism from former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah. “Leaders and fake news peddlers of the BJP opposed white-topping citing durability and other reasons. It's surprising that B.S. Yediyurappa is now keen on white-topping more roads,” he had tweeted.

Former councillor and BJP spokesperson N.R. Ramesh, in whose ward Yediyur, now represented by his wife, two roads are being whitetopped, claimed that these projects were taken up to demonstrate the real cost of white-topping and will not be extended to other parts of the city. “Compared to ₹12-14 crore under the Congress regime, the estimate of the work we are carrying out is ₹8.78 crore,” he said.

Yelahanka MLA S.R. Vishwanath has requested the chief minister for a road in his constituency to be whitetopped. While clearing the second package of white-topping roads, the Cabinet did not revive the third package worth ₹1,139 crore. “This will not be revived. White-topping is concretisation and harmful for the city's already depleting underground water table,” Mr. Ramesh claimed.

BJP has never opposed TenderSURE projects conceptually, as it had introduced them in 2012. However, it had later opposed the project when the Congress sought to expand it across the city on the ground that the process was corrupt and not transparent.

So far, 39 roads totalling a length of 30 km are being developed as per the TenderSURE model under the Smart Cities Project in Bengaluru. A senior BJP leader claimed the project was cleared by the previous coalition government, but the party is not opposed to it.

Indira Canteens: Minister to look into food quality

The BJP was highly sceptical of the Indira Canteen programme and had vehemently opposed the name.

The BJP was highly sceptical of the Indira Canteen programme and had vehemently opposed the name.   | Photo Credit: G_P_Sampath Kumar

 

Indira Canteens were launched in the city in August 2017 under the Congress government with the aim of providing subsidised meals. The BJP, which was in the opposition then, both in the State Assembly and in the BBMP, was highly sceptical of the programme and had vehemently opposed the name. There were even talks by senior BJP leaders that Indira Canteens will be renamed as Annapoorna Canteens or Namma Canteens.

Revenue Minister R. Ashok on Tuesday said that he has been getting requests to change the name of Indira Canteen to Maharshi Valmiki Anna Kutira, and that he would take up the matter with the Chief Minister. He also said he would take up complaints on the quality of food.

With the allocation for Indira Canteens shrinking in the 2019 budget under the JD(S)-Congress coalition, it was being said that the BJP government would not be keen on continuing the project as they were more reluctant to fund it. However, Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa has time and again assured that Indira Canteens would neither be closed, though a name change may be in the offing. The government initiated an inquiry into the functioning of Indira Canteens, including the financial aspects and allegations of inflating the numbers.

One of the contractors running the canteens told The Hindu that since Indira Canteen are intended towards providing good quality food at subsidised rates for the urban poor, it should not be scrapped. “When the BJP was in the opposition, there were many accusations about the quality of food. Lately, this has become muted,” he said.

A senior BJP councillor, acknowledging that Indira Canteens had benefited the poor, said the initiative would continue. “ When asked about renaming the Indira Canteen, he said that the decision was left to the State leadership. Tenders to run the canteens have been called as the present contract ended in August,” he added.

Elevated corridor project not scrapped

Citizens’ groups had vehemently opposed the elevated road project mooted by the previous Congress and JD(S) government citing that it was not sustainable environmentally. This sentiment was ‘echoed’ by the BJP.

Some of the BJP leaders had criticised the coalition claiming that public money was being wasted and that consultations had not been held. They had also alleged that the previous government had floated tenders in haste, just prior to the announcement of the Lok Sabha elections.

After coming to power the BJP government took a decision to cancel the tender floated for construction of the north-south corridor from Baptist Hospital to Central Silk Board. The KRDCL had floated a tender for 22.21 km of elevated corridor and the project cost was estimated to be ₹4,611 crore.

Later, the government only cancelled the tender but did not scrap the project, which is still under consideration. In March this year, the KRDCL had floated a tender for the north-south corridor without public consultations on the project.

Waste management: Mixed signals on segregation

Mayor M. Goutham Kumar is pushing for the Indore model where a single vehicle collects both wet and dry waste every day.

Mayor M. Goutham Kumar is pushing for the Indore model where a single vehicle collects both wet and dry waste every day.   | Photo Credit: Bhagya Prakash K

 

The BBMP, which had set November 1 as the deadline for implementing new tenders for collection of wet and dry waste, has pushed the deadline to January. This comes even as Mayor M. Goutham Kumar is pushing for the Indore model where a single vehicle collects both wet and dry waste every day.

Earlier this year, Bellahalli quarry reached its limit, leading to a garbage crisis in the city. On the other hand, the level of segregation of waste at source has dropped to around 30%.

Solid waste management experts have pointed out that apart from a flurry of plans, nothing has changed on the ground.

“There is no difference in plans between the previous and the present government. We are pushing for no mixed waste to be collected, but unfortunately the councillors are against the idea of separate contractors for wet and dry waste. There has been no clarity on what the plan is. The fine for non-segregation is not being enforced,” said N.S. Ramakanth.

The BBMP maintains that landfills are only a ‘stop-gap arrangement’ until the civic body has its own plants for processing wet waste, but officials said dry waste rejects will be sent to landfills, and those with high calorific value to cement factories.

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Printable version | Apr 1, 2020 1:32:54 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/bangalore/namma-bengaluru-political-u-turn-on-key-projects/article30332885.ece

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