Bengaluru Buzz: COVID testing scaled up | Home delivery of essentials | BMTC seeks Rs 100 cr to pay staff…and more

Bengalureans are dealing with a range of problems arising from the lockdown - rising food prices, restrictions in accessing essential commodities, job insecurity and difficulty paying rent. Read the updates on these issues, in our weekly roundup.

COVID-19 testing scaled up

The number of tests for COVID-19 has been scaled up by five times, said Medical Education Minister Sudhakar K. He said that earlier, 200-300 real time RT-PCR (reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction) tests used to be conducted in the state everyday. This has been increased by around five times, to 1500 tests per day.

Given the rate at which the disease is spreading, Karnataka needs to further ramp up testing but is ill-equipped for this, said health experts. There is shortage of PCR machines, testing kits, biosafety level-2 labs, and trained technicians.

Sources admitted that the Centre’s direction to States to not procure COVID diagnostic and treatment materials on its own, was delaying surveillance. While Karnataka is waiting for its order of one lakh rapid antibody testing strips, the Centre allotted it only 11,400 strips from a consignment of 6.5 lakh strips that arrived from China. Jawaid Akhtar, Additional Chief Secretary, Health and Family Welfare, said that the strips were allotted based on the number of cases in the state.

Source: The Hindu | Deccan Herald

Vegetable prices fluctuate, meat prices soar

The closure of KR Market and disruption in trading have led to crash of wholesale vegetable prices, but retail prices vary in different areas. Prices of some vegetables have crashed in retail markets too.

However, the prices of meat products, especially chicken and mutton, have rocketed. Hence BBMP has notified the prices of meat products under the Consumer Protection Act, until the end of lockdown period. As per this, the price of dressed chicken would be Rs 160 per kg, and that of skin out chicken Rs 180 per kg. The live weight sale of chicken has been fixed at Rs 125 per kilogram. Mutton rate is fixed at Rs 700 per kg.

Source: Deccan Herald

Authorities facilitating home delivery of essentials

BBMP and the Karnataka State Disaster Management Authority have urged shop owners across the city to register with the BBMP’s COVID-19 home delivery helpline. It promises home delivery of essential goods and is currently operational in four constituencies in south Bengaluru. BBMP is in the process of extending the service. Groceries, supermarkets, pharmacies and other such services have also been asked to register on the helpline, which will allow citizens to place their orders either by calling or sending a message on WhatsApp.

South Division police has deployed constables to accompany push cart vendors who have been roped in to sell vegetables at street corners, so that people don’t have to walk too far from their homes. As per a pilot project, vendors will sell fruits and vegetables at each lane every day, at a specific time. The aim is to avoid people crowding markets and grocery stores, and also to prevent unwanted competition among traders.

Source: The Hindu

Rent negotiations in the wake of lockdown

Many tenants and landlords have begun negotiating the rentals for April. Landlords of most labour camps in the outskirts of the city have announced a waiver. Renegotiations over the rent for April have begun in middle-class residential localities as well. N S Mukunda, Founder-President of Citizen’s Action Forum, said they have decided to send a circular to over 110 resident welfare associations under their umbrella, appealing that they renegotiate rents on humanitarian grounds.

Traders and businessmen are also finding it difficult to pay rent for commercial properties, as they need to pay salaries to staff too.

Source: The Hindu

Garment and security workers hit

Nearly 4.5 lakh garment workers, and those employed in security services, have been badly hit by the lockdown. Most of them have not received their salaries. They are usually paid only for the days they report to work. Violating a Labour Department directive that made paying the full salary for March mandatory, several factories have treated March 25-31 (when the factories were closed due to the lockdown) as earned leave of the employees for the year, while some factories even deducted pay for these days, said K R Jayaram of Garments and Textiles Workers Union (GATWU).

Security guards, deemed as essential service providers, have mostly been working. But nearly a lakh out of the estimated four lakh guards in Bengaluru have been told not to report to work, especially at commercial establishments like factories, tech parks and malls.

BMTC seeks over Rs 100 cr from govt to pay staff

The four road transport corporations in the State have approached the government seeking financial assistance to pay their employees for April. As buses have remained off the road for nearly a month, the financial health of the four corporations (KSRTC, BMTC, NWKRTC, and NEKRTC) has been hit.

KSRTC Managing Director Shivayogi C Kalasad said that the four corporations together had 1.3 lakh employees on their rolls. They need Rs 364 crore to pay salaries for April. Both the KSRTC and BMTC have sought more than Rs 100 crore each from the government.

Source: The Hindu

BBMP hopes to up revenue through property tax

BBMP is hoping that prompt payments of property tax would improve its financial situation. However, a senior revenue official said they would not be forcing property owners to pay dues.

In the first 17 days of the new financial year, the BBMP had garnered Rs 90.89 crore, of which Rs 86.45 crore was paid online and the remaining through banks. The official said that if the lockdown had not been announced by the end of March, the municipal body would have been able to collect an additional Rs 150 crore.

Meanwhile, the state government is planning to revive Akrama Sakrama, a scheme to regularise illegal buildings, in order to generate additional revenue. On Friday, Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa held a meeting with his Cabinet colleagues on this, and asked the Urban Development Department to prepare in a week new guidelines for regularisation of illegal buildings. As per estimates, there are 2.93 lakh unauthorised buildings in Bengaluru alone.

Source: The Hindu

[Compiled by Revathi Siva Kumar]

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