Which are the most corrupt states in India? Which are the states where hooliganism and mafia are most prevalent? Which are the states where there is a significant law and order problem? Most Indians who are asked this question will say UP, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, West Bengal or Jharkhand. I am leaving out Jammu and Kashmir out of this as there are problems of a different kind there. For many years now, we are made to believe that these states in India personify everything bad from corruption, lack of law and order, female infanticide, lack of safety for women, rape and so on, while the five South Indian states viz Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka are far more developed in comparison. What most people are not aware is that there is one state in Southern India by the name of Karnataka, where there has been over a decade of bad governance, which can give the above mentioned states tough competition. Over the last few months or so, Karnataka has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. The strange death of IAS officer DK Ravi, death of police officer Ganapathy under mysterious circumstances, resignation of Kudligi Dy SP Anupama Shenoy after she claimed a threat to her life for taking on Minister Parameshwar Naik and most recently the demolition drive of the Bruhar Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) are some of them.
In this article, we will concentrate on the BBMP and its demolition drive and I intend to give the real picture and a balanced view of this demolition drive.
The Bruhar Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) is the administrative body responsible for the civic and infrastructural assets of Greater Bangalore metropolitan area. Its roles and responsibilities include the orderly development of the city – zoning and building regulations, health, hygiene, licensing, trade and education, as well as quality of life issues such as lung spaces, water bodies, parks and greenery. Bangalore is divided into 198 wards, each ward having a corporator. The BJP has 100 out of 198 corporators, while the mayor Manjunath Reddy belongs to the Congress and deputy mayor Hemalatha Gopaliah is from the JDS.
I have been personally dealing with the various BBMP officials for a while now and I must admit that the way they go about their work is extremely unprofessional and unethical (there are very few exceptions and I have come across some very reasonable and efficient officials). The infrastructure in Bengaluru has been deteriorating day by day and one cannot imagine how the city is going to deal with more and more buildings and IT firms coming up. For all its tall claims on plastic ban and waste segregation enforcement, garbage is a major issue in Bengaluru and the officials seem to be clueless on how to tackle this problem. One would find huge piles of garbage in many parts of the city and burning garbage is very common here.
Bangalore, which not too long ago had 261 lakes and was known as the City of Lakes, now has only 68 lakes. Encroachment by builders is one of the main reasons for the near disappearance of wetlands in and around Bangalore. Many lakes were converted to bus stands, golf courses, playgrounds and residential colonies or leased out by the government. The rest have been encroached by slums and builders, some have dried up or turned into human and toxic waste cess pools.
After being in slumber for a long time, BBMP decided to go on a demolition drive targeting encroachments on lake beds and Rajakaluves or Storm Water Drains (SWDs). Around 1000 houses have been razed to the ground making several people in the city homeless. There have been accusations against the BBMP for targeting only small houses and middle class homes, but as per BBMP Joint Commisioner for Yelahanka, BBMP has demolished buildings on prime government land worth more than 50 crores and the recovered land would be used for expanding road.
There has also been a big hue and cry over the demolition of Lt Col Niranjan’s house. This is also not true and there is a small portion of encroachment, which the family has agreed to clear with the help of BBMP authorities. There are also talks of BBMP officials altering the markings, which is not true.
Six months ago, the officials had marked all the encroachment exactly to the measurement of the Storm water drain, which is 33 feet on an average as per revenue sketch and requested people to remove the encroachments. Some of the citizens have already done it. So it is not that adequate notice was not given to the people. Also, if the citizens have knowingly encroached the land, there is no justification in their demand for giving them notices and making noise over the issue.
Now here are a few questions to the BBMP. Will you target the politicians, the bureaucrats and the big builders with the same zeal and vigor as you target the common man, who is a pawn in all this? Why not target the big fishes first and then go to the common man? The Lakebed Encroachment committee, a panel set up by Karnataka legislature found that 11,000 acres of land were encroached. Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) has allocated 60,000 plots by encroaching lakes in the city.
The panel, in its report identified 24 private builders including Prestige, Shoba Developers, Advaita Developers, Adarsh Developers and Bagmane Techpark as private agencies that have encroached lakes. If the encroachments are illegal, why did the government give permission for these buildings to be constructed in the first place? Why was a thorough inspection not done during registration and issuance of Khata?
Anyone who has gone to a registration office in Bengaluru will be aware of the amount of corruption there. It’s a known fact that the builders pay a hefty bribe to the officials to ignore the encroachment and get permission to develop their project. The residents then become the soft target. How do you plan to compensate such victims? What actions are going to be taken against corrupt and erring officials? They cannot be left scot free. Lastly, could this demolition drive not have been done in a more sensitive manner by taking people into confidence?
To conclude, there have been large-scale encroachments in the city of Bengaluru and it is high time action is taken against the offenders. There is a general feeling among the citizens in the city that just about anything can be done by bribing the concerned officials as the corruption here is as much as any other place in India.
To that extent, I would say that the BBMP is justified in this demolition drive. But, the BBMP must target the big builders and politicians with as much vigor as they are doing with the common man. They must be targeted first. Strong action must be taken against the officials who have given permission to have buildings on unauthorized land. Innocent victims, who have been taken for a ride by the builders must not be left homeless and must be compensated adequately.
Rampant corruption in the government offices here, the lethargic and negligent attitude of the BBMP and the ‘I can do anything by paying a bribe’ attitude of the citizens have resulted in this mess.