BJP struggles as ‘garden city’ becomes ‘garbage city’

By V.S. Karnic, IANS,

Bangalore : As the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) first chief minister in Karnataka B.S. Yeddyurappa and scores of legislators battle cases against them related to what has come to be known as land-grabbing, the state government is struggling now to find land to dump the thousands of tonnes of garbage that ‘garden city’ Bangalore dishes out every day.

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This is one problem the land-scam- and corruption-marred BJP government did not expect in the last year of its maiden rule in Karnataka.

Bangalore is fast turning into a ‘garbage city’ with mounds of garbage visible at almost every street corner, driving people to desperation as heavy rains have compounded the problem.

The mounting garbage across the state capital has drawn the ire of not only the common people but also Governor H.R. Bhardwaj and the high court.

Bhardwaj has twice this week expressed displeasure at the failure of the BJP-ruled Bangalore civic body to keep the city clean. Hoping to shake it up, he said he was ready to clear the garbage if 20 workers were given to him.

Hearing a public interest petition filed by a Bangalore advocate, G.R. Mohan, on the garbage problem, Chief Justice Vikramajit Sen and Justice B.V. Nagarathna told BBMP (Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike) Monday that it was offering “lame excuses”.

Justice Sen said the court may have to order suspension or even dismissal of officials responsible for the problem.

Those who have to walk past the stinking mounds, particularly in market areas, covering their noses have taken to deriding the garden city as garbage city.

The problem got acute as heavy rains lashed many parts of the city almost daily since Sunday flooding the roads with garbage and adding to the stink.

The around eight million population of the city daily generates 5,000 tonnes of garbage, which was being dumped in three landfills on the outskirts of the city in spite of increasing protests from the people living around those areas.

Even then the city was not clean as heaps of garbage were to be found in many places.

The problem took a turn for the worse following a July 11 directive by the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board to stop dumping the garbage at Mavallipura, the biggest of the three landfills.

The board ordered the stoppage on the ground that a private firm, Ramky Enviro Engineering Ltd., which had got the contract to process the garbage dumped in Mavallipura had failed to do so, leading to accumulation of over two million tonnes of waste.

The board directed that garbage be dumped in the two other landfills, of which one is located at Mandur and the other managed by Terra Firma.

All the three landfills are in the Doddaballapur revenue sub-division (taluk), about 45 km north of the city.

BBMP mayor D. Venkatesh Murthy has been having meetings with people around these three landfills to persuade them to agree to the dumping. He has been assuring them that the garbage would not be left to rot creating health hazard but would be scientifically disposed of.

However, the residents are not buying the promise.

Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar, who is the third BJP leader to lead the state in four years, is also having a series of meetings with BBMP officials to find a way out of the increasingly unbearable stink and is hopeful of finding an early solution.

The immediate fallout of the high court’s stern warning to BBMP was that the government shunted out the BBMP commissioner M.K. Shankaralinge Gowda and appointed in his place another senior Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, Rajneesh Goel.

Goel has his work cut out and says he is ready for it.

Soon after taking over office, he told reporters that Surat faced a similar situation several years ago but is now one of the best cities. He also referred to how the problem is handled in Chandigarh, the city he hails from.

His mantra is micro-management.

The BJP, which is ruling the state and BBMP for the first time and has already earned a damning image as the most corrupt regime Karnataka has seen, can only hope that this approach will avoid more muck sticking to it.

(V.S. Karnic can be contacted at [email protected])