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Bengaluru civic body presents budget with eye on Karnataka assembly polls

LiveMint logoLiveMint 25-03-2017 Sharan Poovanna

Bengaluru: Keeping in line with the state budget, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), Karnataka capital’s civic body, doled out welfare measures for the city to lure voters in favour of the incumbent Congress government ahead of the 2018 assembly polls.

The Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) combine presented a Rs9,241-crore BBMP budget on Saturday.

Targeting the scheduled caste (SC), schedule tribe (ST) and other backward classes (OBC), M.K.Gunashekar, chairman of taxation and finance committee earmarked Rs503.25 crore for various welfare schemes in the city for 2017-18. “Even if there is vision for the 2018 (assembly) elections, it is still a pro-people and realistic budget,” G.Padmavathi, mayor of Bengaluru said on Saturday.

The Congress and the JD(S) joined hands in 2015 to form a coalition and keep control of the influential civic body and deny the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)—the single largest party in the local body—to retain power. More importantly, BBMP’s largesse would potentially influence voters in the city’s 27 assembly constituencies which would play a key role in the formation of the next government.

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Some of the welfare measures include Rs100 crore for construction of homes for SC/ST; Rs167 crore for development of community facilities in areas which are predominantly SC/ST; Rs10 crore to empower SC/ST; Rs75 crore for construction of houses in wards for other backward classes(OBC), Rs15 crore for welfare of OBCs; Rs20 crore for construction of houses for economic weaker sections, distribution of cycles and sewing machines and even night shelters at Rs2 crore.

“There is nothing in this budget for anybody. They have just repackaged the state budget for the city,” B.S. Sathyanarayana, senior BJP councillor and former mayor said.

Though the ruling coalition claims that the budget utilisation has been in excess of 60% last year, opposition parties claim the number is below 50%.

The BBMP which covers a total area of over 820 sq. km has faced financial challenges with no new revenue sources other than inadequate property taxes and state government grants.

In a bid to detach itself from the Karnataka Municipal Corporation Act 1976, that governs all cities in the state, the BBMP has proposed a new act with specific focus on Bengaluru which has different challenges due to its considerably higher growth rate when compared to other cities.

The BBMP budget has little for Bengaluru’s crumbling infrastructure in terms of new projects as this part of the budget repeats portions of the state budget presented earlier this month by Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah.

The BBMP has also introduced e-Khata’s or occupancy certificates for property owners which is unlikely to bridge the trust deficit of aggrieved citizens whose homes were demolished last year by the local body as part of a drive to clear out storm water drain (SWD) encroachments despite possessing all valid documents and permissions.

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The BBMP said that its drive will continue and has earmarked Rs300 crore for the construction and maintenance work of SWD’s in different areas of the city.

Gunanshekar proposed to curb diversions in new buildings by getting the owner to register the ground floor to the BBMP with a nominal fee and this would be released only if the building does not violate any by-law provisions. The local body has earmarked Rs751.70 crore for effective management of garbage which has so far remained one of the biggest challenges for the municipal administration.

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