Bengaluru: G. Padmavathi, representing the Congress-JD(S) alliance was elected Bengaluru’s 50th mayor on Wednesday.
The post was reserved for a member of the backward minority this year Padmavathi was the frontrunner for the job.
Bengaluru, one of the largest cities in the country, has seen exponential growth, albeit unplanned, in the last few years, making it harder for the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (the city’s civic body) to govern the over 800 square kilometres.
Mint lists the mammoth challenges the newly-elected mayor will face while trying to fix the city, known for its congested roads, polluted lakes and unplanned growth.
Quenching the city’s thirst
The city requires around 16-19 tmcft of water per year, but with the sixth consecutive year of deficient rainfall in the Cauvery basin area, water could well become the most valuable commodity in Bengaluru this year.
Deficient rainfall in the catchment area and successive unfavourable directions by the Supreme Court could make life very difficult for the new mayor while trying to solve the water problem. Large housing complexes and other real estate projects have been encroaching lake bed areas and digging borewells, permanently damaging the alarmingly low groundwater table.
During the summer months, the city is held ransom to the demands of water tanker lobbies, which exploit existing resources and charge exorbitant prices—a section that is yet to be reined in by the council.
Demolition of trust
In August this year, the BBMP undertook a massive drive to clear encroachments by demolishing houses, businesses and commercial buildings believed to have been constructed on storm water drains. Of the 1,923 encroachments identified, 822 have been cleared and over 1,100 still remain, Mint reported on 13 August. The drive, which was aimed at unclogging drains to prevent flooding during heavy rains, snowballed into a controversy as the affected home and business owners had all requisite permissions including a “Khata certificate" issued by the civic body itself.
Big builders and celebrities houses were spared, drawing sharp criticism on the doublespeak of the civic body. The situation has led to potential home buyers delaying their decision until the corporation, which is at least 150 years old, finalizes one map that demarcates lakes, storm water drains, government and forest land among other things. Read more.
Staying in command
Women corporators in the BBMP have been forced to play proxy roles by their respective partners or male relatives. Though the woman represents herself in the council meetings and other occasions, her male relatives often call the shots in the ward, meet public on her behalf, filter contracts and, in many cases, even answer calls.
Women are reduced to mute spectators in council meetings with only a handful of them playing an active role inside the council and in the ward.
The new mayor will also have to keep a firm grip on the proceedings in the council, which is filled with disruptions, diversions and accounts for little or no constructive debates.
The BJP, whose attempt to occupy the top post was thwarted yet again by the JDS-Congress alliance in the 198-member council of the BBMP, is also expected to make it harder for the council to do its business.
Despite being home to some of the biggest information technology companies in the world and the hottest start-ups in the country, Bengaluru lacks in infrastructure. Though infrastructure spend has increased over the years, many projects are yet to be completed and those completed are below par in standard. Parts of the city seem like a large and shabby construction site due to the perennial road and pavement work.
The Metro rail construction in the city is also running behind schedule. With over 1,500 new vehicles being registered in the city everyday, travel times on its roads have doubled and average speeds have dropped considerably. Bengaluru citizens have had to deal with bad quality of roads, potholes, unscientific speed breakers and bottlenecks in the last few years.
A bigger challenge for the BBMP mayor will be to find a long-term solution for the disposal of the city’s waste. The civic body has made little effort to set up recycling plants and continues to rely on dumping yards on the outskirts of the city, which has led to strong protests by surrounding villages citing health concerns. During such protests, the civic body refrains from clearing the city streets of waste-earning the city the moniker of ‘Garbage city’ which derails its misconception of being a global city.
The BBMP presented a total outlay of ₹ 8,991.48 crore this year. But much of this estimate is backed by the hope for over ₹ 4,200 crore in funds from the state government.
According to its own estimates, BBMP expects around ₹ 2,445.10 crore revenue from taxable sources, ₹ 1,247.86 crore from non-taxable sources and ₹ 1,060.72 crore from other revenue streams, The Hindu reported on 28 March. But property tax collection—its biggest revenue earner—has failed to live up to expectations in recent years with more evaders.
The civic body has resorted to new techniques like threatening to dump garbage inside the premises of defaulters to make the owners cough up the tax.
The civic body also has pending bills to take care of and needs to pay about 2,000 contractors for various city projects which run into an estimated ₹ 2,800 crore, Mint reported on 21 August last year.