Clean the mess
After four months of needless cold war, it was refreshing to see chief minister Siddaramaiah connecting with prime minister Narendra Modi during the latter’s visit to Bangalore and Tumkur for a couple of important functions which really showcased Karnataka as a land of achievement and future growth.
After Modi’s election as prime minister, Siddaramaiah’s pre-poll jibes at Modi had left him with an awkward and uncomfortable feeling forcing him to skip Modi’s swearing-in ceremony with a lame excuse though several other Congress chief ministers and Sonia Gandhi herself were present there. A few days later Siddaramaiah visited Delhi to personally congratulate Modi, but the warmth was clearly missing.
In a federal structure where the states depend so much on the Centre for the funds, project clearances and inter-state issues, you cannot really work in isolation. Soon after the NDA government came to power, Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalitha put pressure on the Centre to constitute Cauvery River Monitoring Board. Siddaramaiah took a delegation to Modi and impressed upon him why the board would create more problems than solve them. Modi seemed to concur with Karnataka and quietly ignored Jayalalitha’s plea.
Since then Modi has been busy travelling abroad and hosting foreign dignitaries at New Delhi. In between, Modi’s couple of public meetings with Congress chief ministers turned unpleasant as BJP supporters, fresh from Lok Sabha triumph, jeered the chief ministers and some Congress leaders issued statements calling for boycotting of Modi’s functions.But when Modi’s two-day Karnataka visit was announced, Siddaramaiah unequivocally declared that he would welcome the prime minister at the airport and attend all the public functions with him. It was a real ice breaker as both Modi and Siddaramaiah together basked in the success of Mangalyaan Mission monitored at the Isro telemetry and command network centre in Bangalore. Later they participated in the opening of a futuristic food processing plant at Tumkur before travelling together by helicopter to the airport.
It is just as well that Siddaramaiah has started using Facebook and Twitter following in the footsteps of Modi, but there are a few more lessons he can draw from the prime minister’s book. Ever since his Independence Day address, Modi has been harping on cleansing the administration and launching a national campaign to cleanse our cities and towns of mounting garbage. In his airport address to BJP workers, there was a hint of politics when he referred to “people have done their cleaning of government and now let’s do ours.” He dwelt at length on the Swachh Bharat programme to be kick-started on Gandhi Jayanti day next week promising to pick up a broom himself. If there was a veiled reference to Bangalore’s unsolved garbage problem, it might just as well be because we need to take it on our shin and quickly find solutions.
Tall claims, no action
Bangalore’s garbage problem has been festering for over two years now and soon after becoming chief minister in May 2013, Siddaramaiah had declared that his government would find a permanent solution within a year. In fact, he launched ‘Kasa Mukta Bengaluru’ (garbage-free Bangalore) programme with a lot of fanfare on July 24 last year but it fizzled out in no time as there was no pressure on officials to act and show results. The dumping of nearly 5,000 tonnes of garbage produced by Bangalore everyday continued unabated at Mandur, about 25 km from the city, until the residents of the area held angry protests and began blocking the trucks carrying the filth. About two months ago Siddaramaiah visited Mandur and personally saw the appalling situation there. The media captured the chief minister covering his nose from the stench and promising the local people that there would be no more garbage dumping from December.As the deadline is approaching, there are no visible signs that the government will be able to keep the promise. On the other hand, the BBMP officials seem to be hunting for alternative sites for garbage disposal, which is a callous and counter-productive approach.
There can be no real solution unless the chief minister finds the resolve to break the powerful garbage contractor-politician nexus which has a vested interest in continuing the present system of ‘garbage management.’ The expenditure on transportation alone is said to be over Rs 400 crore, with a lot of manipulation of the number and weight of truckloads carried. It no longer remains a secret that an influential minister from Bangalore and some of the entrenched corporators and BBMP officials are said to be behind the multi-crore racket. Will Siddaramaiah dare to smash this coterie and rid Bangalore of the garbage menace by sincerely adopting various scientific methods that have been suggested?