Welfare Schemes & Sops: LS Campaigning Main Agenda in BBMP Budget
Public WiFi, rainwater harvesting program, pedestrianisation and developmental measures were put on the back-burner.
With one eye trained on the Lok Sabha polls that are less than 60 days away, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) presented a budget for Bengaluru laden with sops, subsidies and welfare schemes for underprivileged communities.
Decried by the Opposition BJP corporators in the city council as being a ‘bogus’ budget with no actual people-friendly measures, it is clear that Bengaluru citizens are being wooed ahead of the polls. The mayor and deputy mayor in the BBMP council also belong to the ruling Congress-JD(S) coalition in the state, making them an easy target for criticism over a budget that seems motivated by the upcoming polls.
With a slight increase of approximately Rs 558 crore from last year’s budget, this year’s budget sees an outlay of Rs 10,687 crore with the expected receipts to be just about Rs 7,982 crores. A large chunk of the money earned by the city council through property tax, advertisement tax, betterment charges and other earnings has been diverted towards housing and welfare programmes aimed at the differently-abled, SC/ST communities, economically weaker sections, and women.
Many big-ticket and pending infrastructure projects like public WiFi system, rainwater harvesting programme, road works, solid waste management and lake rejuvenation took a backseat.
Welfare Schemes Galore
From individual housing to up-skilling to provision of infrastructural facilities like drains and RO plants in areas with a large concentration of the SC/ST community, grants under various subheads were allocated for the betterment of the underprivileged communities.
A sum of Rs 240 crore has been set aside under different heads to fund the housing programme for the SC/ST communities. This is separate from the amounts set aside for housing for the poor and financial aid to be provided for the differently abled.
Another important allocation is towards setting up mobile canteens in every ward selling subsidised food for the needy, and run by women.
Provision of tricycles and bicycles, sewing machines, mid-day meals in BBMP schools and to pourakarmikas, push carts for street vendors, kidney dialysis facilities, tailoring centres, community halls, free stents are some of the measures that have been mentioned in the budget keeping in mind the coming elections and capitalising on traditional votebanks.
Partnering with Microsoft, the BBMP will also look to improve the state of its schools and colleges under a public-private partnership model.
What Do Women Get?
Being a woman, Bengaluru mayor Gangambike Mallikarjun put the onus on welfare schemes for women. A sum of Rs 60 crore has been set aside for the Mahalakshmi Yojane, which is a bond of Rs 1 lakh that matures in 15 years, for the first girl child to be born in a family in all BBMP hospitals from January 2019 to March 2020.
Needy women will also be empowered and trained to operate mobile canteens selling cheap food across the city. Mobile testing buses for cancer detection are also going to be set up across the city, similar to Primary Health centres.
Key Projects Overlooked; Contentious Ones Revived Because, Elections
The Budget remained silent on the long-demanded free public WiFi system, a solid rainwater harvesting programme for the city tormented by water shortage and pedestrianisation programme for the traffic-clogged city.
The BBMP has also decided to formulate a new advertising policy to earn maximum revenue from foot-over-bridges, elevated walkways and skywalks in the city- another controversial initiative decried by activists. Lake rejuvenation also saw less than expected allocation.
A sum of Rs 1,000 crore has been allocated for six elevated corridors crisscrossing the city, that has been heavily opposed by civic activists gunning for a better public transportation system and suburban rail network. The development of the important IT-BT corridor has been allocated Rs 125 crore for development of the IT hubs across all wards. Rs 10 crore has been set aside for mass afforestation in the city through plantation drives and setting up of nurseries.
Rs 5 crore has been set aside to build a statue of Dr Sri Sri Sri Shivakumara Swami on Tumkur road, after the demise of the revered 111-year-old seer earlier this year. Rs 5.5 crore has also been allocated for celebrating Ambedkar’s birthday and Pourakarmikas day.
What Makes Sense in the Budget?
Keeping in mind the pollution in the city, the BBMP has decided to set up air-purifying units in the most polluted and populous wards in the city, after identification. However, there is no indication about the mechanism involved to treat the air or how many of them will come up. Rs 5 crore has been set aside for this.
An old inclusion, the Budget also proposed Rs 2 crore be set aside to set up bike ambulances for speedy medical assistance of the needy. Bringing relief to the pourakarmikas or sanitation workers, Rs 375 crore has been allocated towards paying their dues.
In collaboration with NIMHANS, BBMP has also planned a de-addiction and rehabilitation centre for treating various conditions.
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