Much has been said about Local Administration in India at various forums. As a civil society, by being extremely scrupulous in attention to detail, are we overlooking the important aspect of appreciating responsiveness of our local administration?
Indian local administration has always been on the firing line. There have been umpteen number of incidents when local administrations across India have been criticized, scoffed at and jeered at for a lot of reasons. Be it in Hyderabad, be it in Bangalore or Delhi or Mumbai, local administration finds itself very low on PR. While there have been suggestions of different kinds from columnists to bloggers, one must ask the question “is there one example where local administration received the appreciation it deserves?”. This question requires due attention to keep the system running while “intelligentia” tries to arrive at what they think is the best system for local governance.
The case in question is Bangalore local administration. Innovation in Bangalore in handling local administration has been very encouraging to say the least. Unfortunately, hypocrites in our society tend to turn a blind eye to the achievements of local administration. There are issues in various departments in local administration. Which city does not have issues? Like the DNA ad upon its entry into Bangalore said “even New York has traffic issues”, it is but logical that a city like Bangalore experiencing unprecedented economic growth since the past three decades is facing issues – small and big. The larger issue is whether or not we, the civil society judge our local administration on the right yardstick. It is sad, but true that we do not use the right yardstick.
The question upon which local administration must be judged is “how did the local administration react to an incident or event or issue?”. Instead we almost always tend to judge local administration on the basis of “why a particular incident or event or issue occurred despite the existence of local administration”. Like in software engineering, local administration must be dealt with like “agile technology” in a dynamic fashion, rather than in a static fashion.
While Bangalore local administration faces flak almost everyday from various sections of media, NGOs and civil society in general, very rarely their work gets noticed. The most voracious and verbose detractor of local administration in Bangalore is the print media. Almost every national newspaper, and some local newspapers too, never miss an opportunity to write articles sounding as if BBMP/BMTC/BDA is simply filled with lazy and procrastinating personnel. However, there could be nothing farther from truth.
There have been several incidents where BBMP/BMTC/BDA showed great diligence and responsibility in handling issues. For example, the most famous incident in recent times is 106.8 mm of rainfall in span of two hours which left BBMP off guard. The picture – now notorious representation of BBMP – of a bus drowned in water under a railway underpass spread virally in emails, blogs and several newspapers for next few days.
Several people raised voices. Several bloggers showed their skill at sarcasm in most innovative ways. The question of “how BBMP reacted” was never asked. The BBMP did its best given the resources. The same newspaper which reported the sudden heavy rain with the picture of BMTC bus, on October 14 reported the steps being taken by BBMP when rainfall started again. Mysteriously, the article is not available on the website of the newspaper. However, a copy of the article is available and it reports
Even as the city recorded about 36 mm rainfall on Thursday, officials of the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) pulled up their socks and got to work, even planning ahead for the worst. Prahari teams were rushed to locations which were water logged, such as H.S.R. Layout, Koramangala, Adugodi Main Road, and to East End Main Road, B.E.M.L. Main Road, New Thippasandra and J.P. Nagar, where there were reports of tree fall.
The same news reported by other newspapers also. The question is how many people in civil society, bloggers etc appreciated this effort? Notice that the news item itself sounds as if the news reporter is of the opinion that BBMP never works. It would be interesting to answer why, but lets reserve it for another day.
It is unfortunate that such effort generally goes unnoticed. The case with BMTC and BDA is no different. BDA worked on conservation of 12 lakes. How many people appreciated this effort by BDA? BMTC has been doing a great job in public transportation. The success of vajra volvo service is something which could well be taken as a benchmark for public transportation services across India. Recently, BMTC announced plans for Bus Rapid Trasport System, which is suitable for Bangalore commuters in many ways. BMTC and KSRTC roped in Mercedes Benz buses as addendum to existing bus services. The efforts of BMTC in bringing better service by collaborating with Google is noteworthy. How much appreciation did these endeavors receive?
While showing severe dissatisfaction at apathy of local administration is fine, civil society must also be in the forefront in appreciating efforts of local administration in responding to issues. Only when such appreciation is there, local administration would be able to find required motivation in doing their job. Theirs is a tough job.