Civic and infrastructure issues are the main concerns of voters with the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) polls slated for September though a majority of them lack the basic knowledge about their municipal corporation.
A survey conducted by Janaagraha Centre for Citizenship and Democracy in 27 wards of the eight zones of Bengaluru showed the long-term civic problems plaguing the city, the public’s views on local governance, expectations from the upcoming election, and basic knowledge of city governance and politics.
A majority of the total 503 respondents, comprising people of different age groups and socioeconomic backgrounds, expressed five main concerns: traffic, water, pedestrian infrastructure, garbage collection and flooding. For slum dwellers, availability of water was the biggest issue residents in middle- and upper-class areas complained mostly about traffic congestion. Upper-class residents were the least concerned about garbage collection while poor and lower-middle-class residents were the most concerned.
The lack of pedestrian facilities was the biggest concern of voters from all classes at 23%, followed by garbage at 20%, traffic at 16% and water at 15%.
The City Politics Survey showed that both men and women respondents (83%) want the election to be fought on civic and infrastructure issues. Though the turnout in the previous polls in 2015 was only 49.36%, this time, 86% of first-time voters are keen to vote.
First-time voters were most worried about climate change as opposed to older voters. The survey showed that 89% of the voters are concerned about environmental issues and the change in Bengaluru’s climate. Only 25% feel that councillors give adequate importance to environmental issues.
According to the survey, 82% of voters expect better coordination between BBMP, Bangalore Electricity Supply Company, Bangalore Water Supply, Sewerage Board and Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation.
Another insight from the survey was the lack of civic knowledge among voters. More than half of the respondents did not know that a municipal ward is a unit of governance in BBMP. Similarly, 94% of respondents were clueless about BBMP allocating Rs 60 lakh per ward in FY 2020-2021. It also showed that 80% of the respondents didn’t know the name of the former mayor.
“The BBMP ward budget was allocated for three main areas—potholes, borewells and footpaths. It is essential for citizens to know the responsibilities of the BBMP,” said, Sapna Karim of Janaagraha. But she added that though a majority of the voters may not “fully understand the nature of ward-level governance, they expect the new council will ensure good footpaths, clean neighbourhoods, an efficient commute, clean water, and focus on mitigating climate and environment issues.”
Similarly, Srinivas Alavilli, head of civic participation, Janaagraha, said that though very few voters “understand the role of BBMP, ward corporators, ward committees”, they are keen to vote and “want civic polls to be conducted on the basis of everyday issues that affect them. To improve our city, local governance must be strengthened”.
Janaagraha is a nonprofit with the mission to “transform the quality of life in India’s cities and towns”. Some of their donors include The Ford Foundation, Omidyar Network and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, among others.