Meddling by politicians and a poor property tax system are other issues.
Financial, technological and planning inefficiencies are to be blamed for BBMP’s low ranking in the Municipal Performance Index report 2020. BBMP ranks 31st out of 51 municipalities.
According to the Municipal Performance Index report 2020, published by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs with the Institute for Competitiveness, “…big cities such as Bengaluru have a much lower ranking at 31 due to comparatively low scores attained in finance, technology and planning verticals.”
The report highlighted that the BBMP does not practise local area planning, has not implemented town planning schemes, has not updated its city development plan in the past 10 years, and does not incentivize “green buildings”. Violations from building plans are high – sometimes as high as 90 per cent. Further, it said BBMP did not put its financial and operational statistics in the public domain in the past financial year.
Krishna Panyam, a public policy expert, informed The Observer: “The problem is lack of transparency and delayed project completion.” He gave the example of the Sankey tank project, which has been under way for years. BBMP has not released details of the amount spent on the project.
Apart from transparency, one problem is political interference. Ravi Acharya, a member of the citizen activist group Malleswaram Social, said: “The problem of lack of transparency is because of political influence in the corporation. Disclosing the amount that has been spent on certain projects which have been going on for ages would become impossible.”
The Municipal Performance Index compares different municipalities on five different verticals: Services, Finance, Technology, Planning and Governance. Out of the five verticals, BBMP performed badly in three. In Finance, Technology and Planning, it was not up to the mark due to the budget deficit, which means the corporation has few means of income and outdated development plans.
Other cities with a population of more than 10 lakh, like Surat, Indore, Bhopal and Pune, have relatively performed much better. “The Pune Municipal Corporation has done some good work in this regard. They have managed to keep their costs low and revenue high,” Panyam noted.
BBMP’s major source of income is property tax. According to the BBMP budget, 2020, the corporation was supposed to collect Rs 3,500 crore from 4.1 lakh owners who had incorrectly assessed their property tax. The tax filing process has been digitized for private properties but not for commercial ones.
“BBMP keeps saying they will be more stringent with the property tax defaulters, but that has clearly not worked. For residential property tax, the BBMP did take a positive step by digitizing the process, but did not do the same for commercial properties,” Panyam added.
In the past, BBMP employed unconventional ways of collecting tax. “BBMP hired bands and asked them to beat drums in front of properties to name and shame the defaulters, but that was also of no use,” Panyam said.
Suresh L, BBMP PRO, said: “BBMP got less money than expected this year. The revenue department of BBMP is taking care of increasing revenue. We have decided to be more stringent with our commercial property tax collection. The Municipal Performance Index report was put out by a private agency on the central government’s demand, so the BBMP has not decided to put out an official statement on the ranking.”
A few displeased Bengalureans said the ranking of the municipality is justified as there are several never-ending projects and inefficient waste-collection system.
“BBMP asks us to segregate the dry and wet waste at source, but the BBMP workers mix the waste while collecting it. They later pay dry waste collection centres to segregate the waste. Bad planning and revenue models justify BBMP’s low ranking,” said Swarna Bajpayee, a resident of Halasuru.
Ryan Rehman, a resident of Fraser Town, said: “I’ve lived in Bengaluru all my life and the problems haven’t changed. That BBMP officials lack the will to bring change is evident. The report has only substantiated what Bengalureans have been saying for years. Bad roads and drainage problems never seem to go away.”
While Bengaluru topped the Ease of Living Index, it ranked low among municipalities because of BBMP’s major inefficiency problems.