BENGALURU: The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) may be perennially cash-strapped, but that had not stopped the Congress-JDS government from buying 225 iPads in 2018, and distributing them among councillors, officials and elected members. When the BBMP Council’s tenure ended on September 10, only 13 of the 198 councillors returned their iPads. Ten days ago, BBMP Council Secretary Hemanth wrote to the councillors, reminding them that they had to return the iPads, which are BBMP property. “We told them they had three days to return them, but so far, we got back only 13 iPads,” he told TNIE.
In 2018, the government had bought the iPads with unusual alacrity -- at Rs 44,000 apiece and a total bill of Rs 1 crore -- and handed them out to eager councillors within 48 hours. The Council had merely passed a resolution, without calling for tenders, which is in violation of the Karnataka Municipal Corporation Act and Transparency Act.
Some BBMP councillors, however, are indignant. “When the BBMP gave the iPads, there was no mention of returning them after our term ended. What was the need to send us notices and make us look corrupt? We will return them,” a former senior councillor said, on condition of anonymity. Padmanabha Reddy, then the leader of the ruling party, who had said that he didn’t need an iPad, now says that “the iPads are BBMP property and have to be returned”.
The expensive gadgets do not appear to have served their purpose of turning the Palike into a paperless office. A BBMP official said that a majority of the councillors didn’t know how to use the iPads even when their term ended.Things are likely to get more interesting as the state government recently approved increasing in the number of wards t0 243, meaning that more of these high-end gadgets would need to be bought. “Buying a fresh set of iPads or any other gadget is a waste of public money,” the official said.