Bangalore Buzz: Citizens’ Rail Yatra | BBMP crackdown on smoking in eateries | Transport cess on the cards?

What made news in Namma Bengaluru last week? From the suburban rail campaign to the CM's plans for the city upon completion of 100 days in office -- catch it all here in our weekly round-up.

Citizens demand immediate development of suburban railway network

Civic collective Citizens for Bengaluru (CfB) first initiated the #ChukkuBukkuBeku campaign, demanding better suburban train connectivity, in 2016. A demonstrative rail yatra was held on August 31st as part of the revived campaign, now called #ModaluTrainBeku.  The yatra was aimed at highlighting the time saved in commute during peak hours for regular commuters from IT firms around the traffic-choked Outer Ring Road.

Sloganeering techies, RWAs, first-time riders and activists embarked on a journey from Yeshwanthpur railway station to Heelalige station on the local train numbered 76523 between 2:55 pm and 4:04 pm. The train passed through the stations at Yeshwanthpur, Bellandur, Carmelaram, and Hellalige in just one and a half hours, according to The Deccan Herald.

Citizens holding placards drove home the point that expensive proposals to build elevated corridors and pod taxis would not serve their real needs, but only add to their inconvenience. CfB co-founder Srinivas Alavilli said  in a report by The New Indian Express  that IT professionals could instead have easy access to the suburban railway network running along the same route on ORR.

Phase I of the project proposes to operate 58 trains on 440 kms, leading to a significant reduction in vehicle population on the congested roads. But the SPV constituted to implement the plan is mired in controversy due to its ownership pattern as reported earlier. Sanjeev Dyamannavar of Praja RAAG said this SPV has remained etched on paper, and has made little progress.

On January 31, 2018, the Government of Karnataka announced its plans to invest a whopping Rs 1745 crores into an SPV for the project, though nothing has materialized till date. The state cabinet made the first payment of Rs 349 crores (granting 20% equity) needed to kick-start the project, according to a condition laid down by the railways department.

Sources: Citizen Matters | The Times of India | The Deccan Herald | The New Indian Express | The Hindu

BBMP mandates NOC for smoking areas in eateries

On August 28th, BBMP put out a circular in the public domain requesting restaurants, and bars to secure No Objection Certificates (NOC) if they want to earmark a designated space for smokers within their premises. A unanimous decision was taken across parties in the council to put this into immediate effect. The rule is applicable to restaurants with the capacity to serve 30 tables or more.

The Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA) says that all restaurants should prohibit smoking. Non-compliance with this rule could potentially result in licenses being revoked, warns the notice. Restaurants are also banned from serving food and beverages in the smoking areas.

BBMP has constituted a special cell to control tobacco usage in public spaces under the health department of the Palike. BBMP Commissioner N Manjunatha Prasad said that the move was initiated to promote better health,  protect non-smokers, and make the environment cleaner.

Oncologists from a state-sponsored committee recently made a presentation to spread awareness on the ill effects of smoking. It showed specific concern for the health of passive smokers.  The high powered panel that gave the presentation had written to the BBMP in February earlier this year, pointing out that the Global Adult Tobacco survey revealed the widespread prevalence of passive-smoking in India.

The same news report says that inspections conducted by the then BBMP Joint Commissioner (Health) Sarfaraz Khan showed that smoking-related violations were rampant in restaurants. In his findings, smoking areas did not have enough ventilation to ensure that fumes do not travel to the main eating area.

Source: The Hindu | The Times of India | The New Indian Express

HDK completed 100 days on August 30, says will build elevated corridors in four years

The JD(S)-Congress coalition government led by Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy completed its first hundred days  on August 30th. In various media reports, the CM asserted that the government is stable, dismissing rumors on Congress MLAs  turning against him and joining former CM Siddaramaiah’s alleged planned coup. 

In an interview to mark the occasion, he divulged that it was necessary to put restrictions on permits to more industries to come up within the already saturated state capital. He added that he will initiate policies conducive to shifting upcoming industries to tier-2 cities.

In yet another interview, he asked citizens to trust his long term vision for Bengaluru. Kumaraswamy said that the government intends to complete the six interconnected-elevated corridors project in four years’ time. He also said the government wants to develop satellite townships around the city to reduce the pressure on resources in Bengaluru.

Source: The Hindustan Times | The Times of India | The Deccan Herald

2% of property tax to be imposed for transport cess: BBMP

The proposal to collect Land Transport Cess is back again on the corporation’s radar even after it was rejected once in 2014. It would amount to 2% of the property tax paid generally by a property owner. The intention behind the move is to make up for losses incurred by the BMTC up to Rs 30 crore and for the lack of funds available to maintain road infrastructure. The concept of the cess is now gaining ground again after the recently released CAG report raised objections on the corporation’s expenditure.

The council is considering bringing in amendments to the Karnataka Municipal Act, 1976 in order to enable the levying of this cess. If implemented, the BBMP said it will be applicable from the financial year 2018-2019.

Opposition leader Padmanabha Reddy was against the idea. He said that if the corporation diligently collected property tax from 19 lakh registered properties, it would be sufficient to help them meet expenses.

Source: The Deccan Herald | The New Indian Express | The Hindu

[Compiled by Seema Prasad]

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