Bengaluru Buzz: Outrage over voter data theft | ‘Saffron’ schools controversy…and more

Weekly news recap: Among other news, M A Saleem appointed new head of traffic police and inauguration of the Bengaluru Tech Summit.

Opposition slams BJP government for voter data theft

The BBMP (Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike) filed a complaint with the Halasaru Gate Police Station to look into allegations of voter data theft by Chilume Educational Cultural and Rural Development Trust, a private agency. The State Election Commission directed the district election officer (DEO) to conduct a probe and submit a detailed report.

Senior Congress leaders, on November 17th, slammed the ‘40% Commission Sarkara’, the BJP-run government, for permitting Chilume to conduct a house-to-house survey and steal personal voter data. The agency had claimed to be creating awareness on filing online applications through the voter helpline mobile app. Congress leaders demanded a judicial probe into it and the resignation of CM Bommai, explaining that the private entity had agreed to take up the task “free of cost” granted initially for the Mahadevapura Assembly and later extended it to all 28 Assembly Constituencies on August 20th.

The data theft was enabled by a government order, permitting the private agency that called itself an NGO to ‘create awareness’ about voter rights and revision of electoral rolls. But the agency is linked to an election management company through one of its directors.

A joint investigation for three months by six journalists from The News Minute and the Kannada outlet, Pratidvani, led to the discovery. The Chilume field workers made voters share personal information such as their caste, mother tongue, marital status, age, gender, employment and education details along with their Aadhaar number, phone number, address, Voter ID number and email address. Voters were also made to answer subjective questions about the performance of their elected representatives. The data has a huge commercial value for private corporations and politicians.

Source: The Indian Express, The Hindu, The News Minute

Bengaluru Tech Summit inaugurated

The Silver Jubilee edition of the BTS 22 (Bengaluru Tech Summit) was virtually inaugurated on November 16th by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who said that the city is number one on the innovation index and the home of technology. In his video message, he added that technology is being used as a weapon in the war against poverty. The inauguration ceremony was attended by several global leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron and participants from more than 15 countries, including Japan, Finland, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, Germany, Australia, the US, Lithuania, and Canada.

BTS has attracted more than 575 exhibitors, with at least nine MoUs being signed and the launch of more than 20 products, while startups belonging to 16 states participated. Over 350 experts of international repute addressed issues related to technological developments themed Tech4NextGen. About 5000 entrepreneurs are expected to visit the summit.

Meanwhile, Karnataka Research Development and Innovation Policy was released at the inaugural, with the objective of financing infrastructure and institutions. It is expected to support undergraduate, postgraduate students, doctoral scholars, and early-stage researchers to undertake high-quality research and acquire skills. Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai also announced that the government would begin work on a dedicated startup park near the international airport to help promote various spheres of the startup eco-system. The city became the sixth centre to house a science and technology cluster with the Bengaluru Science and Technology (BeST) cluster being launched.

Source: The Times of India, Deccan Herald, Indian Express, The Hindu

Read More: Opinion: “Use technology, repurpose Volvos to boost bus services in Bengaluru”

New police commissioners

On November 15th, M A Saleem was appointed the new head of the Bengaluru traffic police amid several transfers in the police department. He is an officer of the rank of additional director-general of police taking charge of the management of traffic. The 1993-batch IPS officer will replace joint commissioner Ravikanthe Gowda, an officer of the rank of deputy inspector-general of police.

The deputy commissioner (crime) S D Sharanappa will be the joint commissioner of crime, replacing Raman Gupta, who has been posted to the intelligence wing.

Source: The Indian Express

Govt offices lag in payment

The executive engineers of two divisions of Bangalore Electricity Supply Company (Bescom) – Hebbal and Jalahalli – have sent notices to many government offices, including Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB), Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), Horticulture Department, Bangalore Development Authority (BDA), and village panchayats, for nonpayment of electricity bills amounting to crores.  

In the four sub-divisions of Hebbal (Ganganagar, Kaval Byrasandra, Yelahanka, and Sahakaranagar sub-divisions), Rs 131.8 crore is due, with BWSSB having the highest dues of Rs 65.09 crore, while BBMP has not paid Rs 54.53 crore. In Jalahalli (Jalahalli, Vidyaranyapura, Soladevanahalli sub-divisions), by the end of October, Rs 99.2 crore was due.

Source: The Hindu

Controversy over ‘saffronisation’ of classrooms

The opposition condemned the saffronisation of 7,601 classrooms built under the Viveka scheme. When there are not enough classrooms, books, midday meals or teachers, the government should concentrate on these issues rather than paint classrooms saffron, cried the opponents. The plan was described as an attempt to subvert the educational system, built on the principles of scientific inquiry, which will now use public money to promote the BJP’s ideology.

Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai at the launch of the Viveka scheme
Viveka scheme launched by CM. Pic courtesy: Twitter/KrishnaBajpai@SecretaryKKRDB

Countering the charge, CM Bommai asked what was wrong with the colour. Saffron is part of the (national) tricolour and Swami Vivekananda used to wear a saffron robe, he said.

Source: The Indian Express, The Times of India

Auto drivers: Ban services from ride-hailing apps

Members of 21 autorickshaw driver unions, including representatives from Ola, Uber, and Rapido, and officials of the transport and road safety department shared differences over fare rates, among other issues on November 15th. However, there was no resolution. Auto driver unions alleged that the government did not act against cab aggregators that ‘illegally’ operated auto services without a licence since 2016 and “looted public money”. The demand was to ban auto services from ride-hailing apps. The unions also said that ride-hailing apps have only been allowed to run taxi aggregator services and are not permitted to fix prices.

Meanwhile, Ola and Uber representatives submitted their proposals, asking the high court to allow dynamic pricing by permitting Rs 25 platform fees and 25% commission. Ola requested that the base fare be doubled from Rs 30 to Rs 60.

Commuters, on November 16th, said the Transport Department should start an app-based taxi aggregation service to stop the exorbitant pricing by private aggregators. The department might submit the proceedings of the two meetings to the High Court on Wednesday.

Source: The Indian Express, Deccan Herald

Read More: Bengaluru’s traffic cop shortage: Can technology, mannequins bridge the gap?

Hoteliers want discounts on commercial LPGs

Hoteliers oppose the plan of the public sector oil marketing companies to cancel discounts on commercial LPG cylinders. Hindustan Petroleum (HP), Bharat Petroleum (BP), and Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL) have withdrawn discounts/offers on non-domestic LPG from November 8th, as non-domestic LPG has been reported to be cheaper than household LPG.

The BBHA (Bruhat Bangalore Hotels’ Association) resident P C Rao said that the cancellation of the discount is a “big blow” to the hotel industry, which relies on commercial LPG. He also asked for reducing GST on commercial LPG from 18% to 5%, to bring it on par with domestic LPG.

Source: Deccan Herald

Residents demand better road work

The BBMP has done ‘shoddy’ road work in the New Thippasandra market and is currently laying roads without even basic work, such as cleaning the ground for dust, grass, and other material and quality checks, before asphalting, said residents. They added that the roads will become death traps.

Meanwhile, reports and videos of traffic gridlocked on Varthur-Balagere main road, where schoolchildren were stuck for more than two hours, have mobilised the Palike to agree to widen the road to 18 metres from the existing 12 metres. BBMP officials said that widening the road is a ‘comprehensive development project’, worth Rs 18 crore. About 60% of the work is over, but it might may take six months to complete it.

Almost 39 roads, covering 114.46 kms – including 19-km Outer Ring Road between Central Silk Board and Lowry Junction in KR Puram – will be white-topped at Rs 1,449 crore. Even as the first and second phases of the project are almost done, a fresh proposal for the third phase seeks the government’s grants.

So far, the BBMP has white-topped almost 125 kilometres. As per the BBMP’s new design, there will be two underground ducts, much bigger in size, below the pavements for cables and electricity lines. For roads with six lanes, only two lanes on both sides will be white-topped, while asphalt or cobblestones will be laid on other portions. For four-lane roads, the white-topping would be only on one-and-a-half lanes. BBMP’s Chief Commissioner Tushar Giri Nath explained that the design is being tweaked to speed up the project.

Source: The New Indian Express, Deccan Herald

[Compiled by Revathi Siva Kumar]

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