The demands are basic. But the fact that this has to be put forward as a demands tells the tale of BBMP’s way of functioning. How many of these demands will be incorporated in the upcoming budget?
Unlike previous years, BBMP held a meeting with NGOs this time to get their suggestions for the 2012-13 budget. The meeting, held on May 26th, had over 15 representatives from NGOs such as CIVIC, KRIA Katte (Karnataka RTI Act Forum), Hasiru Usiru, Citizens Action Forum (CAF) etc.
The Chairman and three members of BBMP's Taxation and Finance Committee - which prepares the budget - attended. Chairman of the committee, Munendra Kumar (Jakkur Corporator, ward no.5), said that the budget draft has not been prepared and that public consultations will be done before its preparation. Speaking to Citizen Matters, he said, “It will take about 15 days for budget to be drafted. I am meeting 1-2 NGOs and citizens every day. There will no public meetings or circulation of draft documents though.”
Ganganagar (ward 20) corporator V Anand, Mathikere (36) corporator Muniswamy Gowda and Basavanapura (53) corporator K Poornima were the other members who attended.
NGOs suggested that property tax collection be increased, services like water and toilets be provided, public participation increased in governance, and that sufficient funds be allocated for health, education and welfare schemes.
N S Mukunda, President of Citizens Action Forum (CAF), said, “The budget should be clear as to what percentage of revenue will be spent for each sector. Even if there is revenue shortage, spending should be proportional to this allocation. Currently, when revenue falls short, most of it goes to infrastructure alone, while sectors like SC/ST welfare do not get any funds. There should be high quality of living for all groups.”
Activists proposed ways by which BBMP can increase its revenue - by revising rent/lease rates of BBMP properties, levying tax from IT companies, taxing hoardings of political parties and advertisements posted on pillars, etc. Kathyayini Chamaraj of CIVIC pointed out that many wine shops in Mahadevpura zone were operating without license.
Mukunda said that housing should be built for workers of Metro, migrants etc. “BBMP can accumulate land from 3-4 wards to create space for this,” he said.
Ejipura-based RTI activist Anil Kumar suggested that higher commercial tax be levied from owners of paying guest houses and service apartments, as they collect huge amounts as rent. "Advertisement tax is paid by only half the people. Of mobile towers, tax is collected from only 25-30%. In the case of Bangalore Palace, tax has never been assessed," he said. There were also suggestions that people owning more than one car, or those having cars without parking space, should be taxed.
Some activists also suggested that tax collection be outsourced to make it more efficient. Getting more revenue is necessary for BBMP to be independent and to enable decentralisation of finances and responsibility, they said. Munendra Kumar said that there was a plan to outsource identification and calculation of advertisement tax from properties. “We have sent this proposal to state government and are waiting for a response. Collection will not be outsourced,” he said, speaking to Citizen Matters. He said that PID (Property Identification numbers) has been given to 16 lakh properties.
Bus fare concessions for domestic workers
Activists demanded that domestic workers be given full or half concession in bus fares, as they spend much to commute to their workplaces. Labour department can be asked to give ID cards to domestic workers. When Munendra said that identifying domestic workers was difficult, activists said that many workers were part of domestic workers’ unions and could be identified with those ID cards. Apartment associations should be mandated to give information on domestic workers they employ, while filing their annual returns. BBMP should also hold surveys in slums to identify workers, activists said.
Currently BBMP officers are validating the PIDs again to check for errors. “About 10 lakh properties have been validated already and the rest are to be done. Currently apartments and shopping complexes have been given only one PID, later we will give different PIDs to each unit. We have also formed a committee which will identify new apartments in outskirts which are not under tax net yet,” says K R Niranjan, BBMP Special Commissioner (Projects), speaking to Citizen Matters.
There was also demand for more public participation - public should be included in the planning stage of the budget, and quarterly public reviews should be held on its implementation. When Munendra Kumar said that involving all public would be difficult, activists said that this could be done with the available representatives in each area, such as RWAs.
Kathyayini Chamaraj, Executive Trustee of CIVIC, said that area sabhas should be formed in each ward as per the Community Participation Act, and that untied funds should be given to these sabhas. As per the Act - passed by the state legislature in January 2011 - each ward is supposed to have a few area sabhas consisting of registered voters of that area.
Kathyayini said that there should be a source document for preparing the budget, as was done in 2008. “This pre-budget document should be available to public, so that they know where the budget is going,” she said. There was also criticism about budget being inflated, neglecting education and health sectors, and allocating more funds only for certain wards.
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