Bangalore allotted more funds, citizens still ignored

Civil society group Daksh releases report on state government’s functioning and finds focus on physical infrastructure rather than essential social infrastructure.

The first year of BJP administration in the state has been marked by lack of democratic process and increased corruption and violence, according to a report by DAKSH, an independant civil society group. The report assesses the overall functioning of Karnataka state government from June 2008 to November 2009. 

The detailed master report was released in January 2010 while the summary report was available a month earlier. The report was compiled from data obtained through RTI applications, annual reports of government departments, newspapers and reports by various national agencies and NGOs.

Daksh 2009 Review of the Karnataka Govt.

The Daksh Report includes a Qualitative Review, Survey Data and Administrative detail about MLAs. The Survey was conducted in Oct-Nov 2009 in 214 Karnataka Assembly Constituencies, talking to 8,192 respondents of various demographics.

Click here for the Summary Report in English. Click here for it in Kannada.

The full report is available here, in English.

The complete survey results by Constituency and details of MLA Attendance and Questions Asked is available here.

While Bangalore has benefited more than other parts of the state due to greater allocation of funds for infrastructure and commercial development, the public has largely been excluded in the decision-making process. In the 2009-10 state budget, the allocation for urban development formed 16 per cent (Rs. 4162.4 crores), while rural development took up only four per cent ( Rs.1070.2 crores) of the total funds. The highest allocation in the state’s 2009-10 budget was for commerce and industries, which got an increment of 136.9% from last year’s budget.

There is a growing trend of outsourcing policy-making to consultants – such as Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC), which drafted the Karnataka Vision 2020 document – and of equipping parallel bodies like ABIDe (Agenda for Bengaluru Infrastructure and Development) and KUIDFC (Karnataka Urban Infrastructure Development and Finance Corporation) to make decisions, minimising the influence of the cabinet and local governance agencies.

The government has initiated projects through ABIDe (Agenda for Bangalore Infrastructure Development), which was constituted in June 2008. The development of 12 signal free corridors is a key project under ABIDe now. “While ABIDe has used new technology in planning projects, the task force is dominated by members from corporate background and BJP’s friends. It should be inclusive and representative of all communities,” says DAKSH member, Harish Narasappa.

JNNURM (Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission), while having a poor work record, has many new projects – development of 33 lakes, addition of public buses, building a multipurpose citizen’s information centre – which gives information on civic bodies, schemes and promotes public participation – and a decentralised Solid Waste Management system – under its anvil (page 20 in the detailed report). Its housing project BSUP (Basic Service to Urban Poor) is in conflict with local communities as they are excluded in decision-making. Of BSUP’s pilot project in five slums, work is going on in three areas – Bakshi Garden, Kalyani and Kodihalli slums- while the remaining two have been ignored completely. JNNURM’s policy of commercialising basic services is in line with the government policy of increasingly outsourcing services such as water supply and garbage disposal, more so in rural areas.

The report questions cabinet’s decision to allow private companies to buy agricultural land without consulting the cabinet. The transaction only has to be recommended by a cabinet sub-committee headed by the Revenue Minister.

The allocation of JNNURM funds is highly skewed, with BSUP receiving 12% while UIG (Urban Infrastructure and Governance) – the JNNURM project responsible for developing water supply, transport and other infrastructure in inner city areas spending 88% of the funds in Bangalore. However, the administration, in accordance with the state level reforms imposed by JNNURM, has committed to forming Area Sabhas by the end of the year, which will involve disclosing information and inviting participation of the public in its projects.

“Bangalore in general has received lot of financial support due to initiatives such as JNNURM, but the focus is on elite projects such as roads to BIAL (Bangalore International Airport Limited), et cetera. Governance by and through democratic structures gets bypassed and elite and undemocratic structures such as ABIDe get to be called new mechanisms or bodies of governance. Hence, these are very problematic. More specially, they do not address the problems of the average and working class citizen,” says DAKSH member A R Vasavi.

Another key feature of governance is the increasing number of Public Private Partnership projects (PPPs), which further reduces transparency and increases costs. In November 2008, 57 roads were identified for development under the PPP model in the city. From 39 projects sanctioned earlier, the new government upped the number of PPPs to 166, estimated to cost over one lakh crore rupees.

The report points out the lack of accountability resulting from the cabinet’s decision in February 2009 to allow private companies to buy agricultural land without consulting the cabinet. The transaction only has to be recommended by a cabinet sub-committee headed by the revenue minister.

The government has taken initiative to fill vacancies in municipal bodies and higher education departments. The Department of Elementary Education showed progress in implementing many projects such as provision of free bus passes, text books, bicycles and routine health check up programmes for students. It has also allocated Rs 1.6 lakh for SSA (Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan), which meets the requirement of 35% fund contribution from the state. But there were attempts to saffronise education, with workshops on anti-terrorism which had a strong anti-Muslim stance and classes on Bhagvad Gita for students and teachers. Irregularities were found in appointments of a principal and a registrar in Maharani College and Bangalore University respectively. “The urban schools run by the government are dysfunctional and much more attention needs to be paid to them. But, to indicate this for the period of the report is difficult,” says Vasavi.

The city police also came out with the ‘Licensing and Controlling of Assemblies and Processions (Bangalore) Order’ in 2008, which views protests as a law and order problem and seeks to regulate them through a method of licenses.

The law and order situation in the state deteriorated soon after the government came to power, with the attacks on churches by Hindutva groups all over the state in August – September 2008. This was followed by right wing groups’ cultural policing and attacks on women. Four such cases were reported in Bangalore in February 2009. The complicity of the government in both instances attracted criticism. The arrest of five sexual minority activists, who enquired about the illegal detention of five hijras, on false charges in October 2009 was another blot on the Bangalore police’s record. The human rights activists who protested against this illegal action were also taken to task. Thirty one activists were arrested and later released by the police.

The city police also came out with the ‘Licensing and Controlling of Assemblies and Processions (Bangalore) Order’ in 2008, which views protests as a law and order problem and seeks to regulate them through a method of licenses.

The corruption levels in governance also continues as the Lokayukta remains a toothless tiger. While the Kumaraswamy government had recommended provision of suo moto powers to Lokayukta, the new government has not taken any step in this direction.

The functioning of the State Human Rights Commission has been stalled due to lack of funds and resources. Right to Information Act (RTI) implementation is reported to be unsatisfactory. The National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) also fared poorly, with only 20% of eligible households availing 100 work days in 2008-09.

The indiscriminate felling of hundreds of trees in Bangalore for road widening or for metro rail construction showed a lack of environmental sensitivity. Many illegal encroachments were also dismantled without any prior notice to the occupants. The report also says that the conversion of encroached lands to legal holdings is also being done without any consideration to the impact on infrastructure. “Legalising of enchroachments through the Akrama Sakrama  schemes makes legitimate all kinds of encroachments, this is problematic,” says Vasavi.

Citizen Survey
The findings of the report correspond with popular perception as well. A survey conducted by DAKSH among 8192 citizens showed dissatisfaction with governance. The participants were chosen from a cross section varying across income, education, age et cetera, with maximum number of participants from Bangalore city (11.26%).The respondents gave legislators an average performance rating of 2.84 out of 5. Bangalore (Urban) gave an average rating of 2.82, while rural Bangalore’s rating was slightly higher at 3.65.

“The performance of MLAs from Bangalore have been very poor. Only two MLAs – Haris and Narendra Babu – have performed well.”

Electricity, water, employment, job training, reservations in job and education and better educational facilities were the top priorities of people across the state. The state wise average performance rating of legislators on these issues is 3.23 out of 5. In terms of people’s accessibility to MLAs, the average rating was 2.96 out of 5. People’s perception of different political parties’ performance was similar, though independent candidates received a better rating than political party candidates.

Performance of MLAs
The performance of MLAs, judged by their attendance and activity in the assembly, was also disappointing. In the Assembly’s three sessions comprising 46 days, only 12 MLAs have 100 per cent attendance, 32 have a record between 50% and 75% and nine have a record of less than 50%. There are three members who have attended the sessions for less than 15 days. Seventy eight MLAs have never asked any question in the assembly, while only nine MLAs have asked 50 or more questions.

“The performance of MLAs from Bangalore have been very poor. Only two MLAs – Haris and Narendra Babu – have performed well. Since Bangalore is the centre of development in the state, such performance reflects badly,” says Narasappa.

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