The BBMP initiative to involve citizens' groups, NGOs and corporate houses in a 10-day cleaning programme in Bengaluru city is welcome, but considering the enormity of the problem, it is like a drop in the ocean. BBMP had said the drive would clear all solid waste, e-waste and construction debris, besides removing encroachments and obstructions on footpaths and drains, along 1,000 km of city roads, but how much was achieved is anybody's guess. The Palike should release photographic and video evidence from different locations, other than those of the minister and officials wielding brooms on the inaugural day of the drive, to show the actual progress in the cleaning campaign. The government's apathy towards restoring Bengaluru's reputation as a clean, green city is so well-entrenched that citizens are entitled to believe that this hurried campaign is no more than a tinkering job and an election stunt.
One other important reason for BBMP to suddenly wake up to its basic responsibilities and initiate some patchwork could be that the Centre's annual Swachh Sarvekshan survey has begun and it will go on till the end of March. In the 2017 survey across the country, which covered 434 cities and towns with over one lakh population, Bengaluru had slipped to an abysmal ranking of 210, from 37 the previous year. Among the cities in Karnataka, only Mysuru has been a shining example, coming first in 2016 and ranked fifth last year. Bengaluru is growing at an alarming rate, but the BBMP is hopelessly ill-equipped to meet its basic needs of cleanliness, water, sanitation and public transport. Apart from the inability to raise sufficient taxes and funds to upgrade amenities, there is also a serious lack of political will in the government and the Palike. The garbage problem, which raised its ugly head during the BJP rule earlier, for instance, has become more acute under the Congress regime because neither party was able to tame the garbage mafia. Perhaps, more precisely, we must say that the tap that allows hundreds of crores to be made from garbage mismanagement, is probably too alluring to be turned off.
But, with elections round the corner, no political party can ignore issues affecting the health and well-being of the people. Citizens' welfare associations should demand that every political party present a manifesto for the city's future. They should also spell out complete programmes - not just one-line promises €" with timelines and financials on issues of immediate concern, such as scientific disposal of garbage, proper maintenance of lakes, parks and playgrounds and an effective solution to traffic congestion. Temporary fixes, like the clean-up drive, will not do.