BENGALURU: Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike Administrator Gaurav Gupta on Saturday presented a budget with an outlay of Rs 9,286.80 crore for 2021-22, with the focus on decentralising funds and accountability at the zonal and ward level. The outlay for the coming fiscal year, however, is lower compared to the previous two years, with Rs 10,716 crore allocated in 2020-21 and Rs 10,688 crore in 2019-20. While citizens have welcomed a ‘citizen-friendly’ budget, experts say the budget leaves a lot to be desired as it is largely a rehash of what was proposed in the past.
A citizen, who declined to be named, was critical of the budget being presented by the BBMP Administrator. “Elected representatives must be a part of the budget as they bring an overall perspective. This helps bring in a balance which is missing,” the citizen said.
The budget announced that decision-making on maintenance of various assets and public utilities would be made at the zonal level, and Rs 2,000 crore has been allocated for the purpose. Administrative decisions involving financial resources, too, will now be made at the zonal level.
According to Srinivas Alavilli, head of civic participation at NGO Janaagraha, this is a good move. “Compared to the past few years, we seem to have a more realistic budget. The new BBMP Act introduced zonal councils, and the budget allocation strengthens that system. Success depends on ward committees and zonal councils taking ownership. Giving a share of property tax to ward committees is a small but very progressive step forward. The allocations per ward for footpath maintenance also shows clear intent to give funds and functions to the ward committee,” he said.
Solid Waste Management, which also saw a major mention in the recently presented State Budget, got a huge chunk at Rs 1,622 crore, which includes funds to build 67 new toilets across the city. Laying emphasis on Mission 2022, BBMP has set aside Rs 473 crore to upgrade 191km of roads to the standard of national highways.
The civic body has allocated Rs 337 crore for health, to combat the second wave of Covid infections in Bengaluru. This will be in addition to funds from the state government. The Palike said BBMP would partner with private medical colleges to provide specialist doctors at BBMP-run hospitals, to provide multi-speciality care in hospitals and improve facilities.
However, Bengaluru Navanirmana Party has criticised the lack of focus on health.
“Primary and preventive healthcare is extremely important, but has been completely ignored in the past. BBMP needs to allocate at least 5% of the budget for healthcare. Also, every ward needs a dedicated primary health centre and a 24x7 ambulance, and they should have provided this,” the party said in a release.
Air pollution -- which according to some estimates claimed 12,000 lives last year -- also found a mention in the budget. BBMP has set aside Rs 279 crore for air quality management. The forest department will get Rs 39 crore to plant saplings and nourish trees.
For the first time, citizens’ participation has received formal recognition in the budget through the ward-level footpath allocation of Rs 20 lakh per ward, as a part of the MyCityMyBudget campaign. Also, prize money of Rs 50 lakh has been sanctioned for ward committees for innovations in solid waste management.
Gupta also said that from now on, the new BBMP Act would be in force, and an online system will be in place for citizens to give feedback. Srikanth Viswanathan, CEO of Janaagraha, said that BBMP needed more funds. “The elements of citizen participation and decentralisation of funds to zones and wards are most welcome. However, the current status of meagre funds and staffing is adversely impacting Bengaluru. Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation manages half the area of BBMP, possibly one-third the road length, but has more than three times its budget. BBMP will need a budget size of at least Rs 30,000 crore, and the capacity and systems to utilize funds well, to break the current status quo.”