Bengaluru needs funds: Will HD Kumaraswamy budge(t)?

All eyes are fixed on CM H.D. Kumaraswamy today, as he presents his maiden budget. Citizens anticipating significant allocations to fix the city's infrastructural problems, have had their hopes fade away with the CM's promise of a loan waiver for farmers. Metropolitan cities contribute to large chunks of the state's GDP but remain overburdened by too many people, lack of infrastructure and inadequate allocations. At the risk of sounding repetitive, we would like to reinforce that it‘s time to strike a balance between rural and urban needs as well as develop tier 2 cities to help address urban woes like congested roads, better commutes and waste management, reports Chandrashekar G. 

The rural-urban tussle for allocation has always been a problem, given the ups and downs of regional politics. Loan waivers and farmer subsidies are common tools in the political agenda; expensive promises that result in a tremendous drain on the exchequer. The balance is skewed even further by the fact that urban areas contribute in far greater measure to GDP, in Karnataka, revenue from Bengaluru makes up some 70% of the state’s GDP. That said, far from making the cities more conducive for business, urban areas languish under total administrative apathy, despite protests from citizens who demand a more just balance.

There are sustainable alternatives to loan waivers, suggests activist N. Mukunda Rao, General Secretary, Citizens Action Forum (CAF). These include a minimum support price to incentivise and cushion the arrival of produce into the market. “Modern skills and technology should be provided, along the  lines of initiatives in Israel,” he says.

Cities aren’t much better off. Bengaluru struggles to keep the basics together, from mobility to cleanliness and solid waste management. The Circular Railway Project, which will provide much-needed connectivity from the peripheries to the city centre,  need to be given higher priority as a solution to congested roads.

The burden placed on metropolitan and tier 1 cities does more harm than good. Governments are hugely reliant on urban centres to fill their coffers, often creating an infrastructural burden on a city. Experts have long since cried for the  development of tier II cities like Mysuru, Mangaluru and Hubli-Dharwada for more equitable distribution of wealth and industry, Rao explains.

Security has become a major concern and the shortage of police personnel both in traffic as well as law and order department must be addressed as a priority. The Lack of police and policing has been leading to a lot of law and order issues across the state and particularly in the city, adds Rao.

The government must set up Karnataka Industrial development Council and rope in commerce bodies to promote industrial developments. The city must consider more industrial townships along the lines of Peenya, with all amenities provided. Importance must be given to source the raw material required.

Karnataka tourism and trade office must be set up at US and UK to attract investments. These investments must be utilised optimally which helps to generate revenue as well as employment. Tourism universities must be started. Tourism University should be set up at Mysore and explore the potential of tourism sector across the state. Hospitality university must be set up at Coorg and these universities and tourist destinations must have adequate train and other modes of connectivity, he said.

Meanwhile, Revathy Ashok, CEO, BPAC feels that areas like connectivity, roads, waste management and lake development cannot be ignored either.

Priority should be given for ongoing projects so that they are completed on time. Mobility, which must not be limited to the Metro, needs to be given priority. This includes trains, suburban trains, footpaths, bicycle tracks, elevated corridors, white topping and last-mile connectivity.

“Unless we look at a comprehensive vision for mobility for the city, we will not make enough progress. It will only be transactional. A multi-modal approach to interconnectivity is the need of the hour. We should be able to cross the city within 30 to 40 minutes,” she said.

Bengaluru is a city with 11 million people and it should have multimodal transportation system.

As far as waste management is concerned, a lot of work has already been started. The city, has achieved 40 per cent segregation at source. However, visual cleanliness has remained a distant reality.

The ban on plastic must be enforced and debris rule implemented in principle. This helps reduce pollution significantly, says Ashok.

A lot of investments have been made for waste processing plants. They are lying under utilised. They have to be brought to full capacity. It is not about money. There is no dearth of money, she added.    

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