Civic experts slam proposal for separate authority to oversee road maintenance

Many suggest that the govt. should identify problems and strengthen BBMP instead

The government’s proposal to constitute a separate authority for the maintenance of 860-km of arterial and sub-arterial roads in the city has not gone down well with citizens’ groups and civic experts.

The proposal was one of the main talking points at a meeting on city development chaired by Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai on August 10.

The State government has already divested the civic body of solid waste management and constituted a separate body to handle it. There were also conversations about divesting the BBMP of health and education. However, those proposals never came to fruition especially after the onset of COVID-19. Since then, the civic body’s role in public health has become even more important.

Srikanth Viswanathan, chief executive officer of Janaagraha Centre for Citizenship and Democracy, labelled the government’s proposal for a separate authority to oversee as regressive. “While not perfect, the BBMP Act showed some positive elements, such as functional devolution of powers. However, such proposals further weaken it. Ideally, the government should strengthen the BBMP, which is open to public scrutiny because of the elected body,” he said, and added that even if a separate body is created, it should be accountable to the local elected body.

Concurring, Srikanth Narasimhan, co-founder and general secretary of the Bengaluru NavaNirmana Party (BNP), pointed out that there were many “non-performing agencies” in the city, such as Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board, Bangalore Development Authority etc. “Instead of identifying the problem and strengthening the civic body, the government is looking to create new power centres and newer problems,” he said, and added that the solution to what ails the city lies in bringing all civic agencies under the BBMP’s control.

The government’s proposal shows that it had no faith in the third tier of governance, said V. Ravichandar, member of the BBMP Restructuring Committee. “Now, it is the turn of arterial and sub-arterial roads. Will it be the turn of the projects division next?” he said, and added that the government doesn’t seem to have followed subsidiary principles, where activities are housed in areas that are handled efficiently. “While I can agree that it is a dysfunctional set up, efforts must be made to make the civic body function better. Constituting authority after authority is a distraction technique.”

Mr. Narasimhan sought to know if the government would hand over poor performing State agencies to the Centre. “This is the same logic as constituting parastatals to handle functions that are primarily the responsibilities of the BBMP,” he said.

A former councillor pointed out that the proposal was against the spirit of the 74th Amendment of the Constitution of India that sought to empower local bodies and take governance closer to the people. “This shows the double standards of the government,” he added.

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