For the first time in its history, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) Council has more women corporators than male corporators. Among the 198 corporators, 101 are women and 97 are men. Though 97 of the wards out of 198 wards are reserved for women as per the 50 percent reservation norm, 101 women have managed to make it to the BBMP Council. Now the pertinent query is: Are these women corporators capable of, if not strong enough for street fights, attending to civic problems and redressing public grievances at their respective wards?
If the feedback received by citizens and volunteers of non-governmental organizations is anything to go by, it seems the need of the hour is to empower these women corporators to handle their mobile phones on their own. A majority of women corporators are not able to attend phone calls. Some of them are seen apathetic towards their responsibilities. For example, Sowmya Shivakumar, corporator of Shanthinagar ward, depends on her husband to even chairthe BBMP Maternity Hospital Betterment Committee meeting. It is said that Sowmya’s husband Shivakumar happened to be seated on the dais during a public grievance meet organized by Shanthinagar MLA N A Haris. As per norms, Shivakumar is neither an elected representative nor does he represent any government organization. “We are not against women corporators. What can we do when a woman corporator is not interested to attend a BBMP Maternity Hospital Betterment Committee meeting of which she is the chairman? The government sanctioned funds for the development of the hospital but the hospital cannot utilize it without approval of the betterment committee. I was the only person representing an NGO. I asked the authorities concerned whether I can chair the meeting. My intention was to facilitate the usage of allocated funds to the hospital. The authorities told me that I can chair the meeting only if the chairman gives me in writing to preside over the meeting since she could not attend the meeting. Three meetings were held but the chairman did not attend even a single meeting. What can you expect from such a corporator?’’ asks Kathyayini Chamaraj, Executive Trustee, CIVIC, Bengaluru.
Forget about attending meetings and taking decisions on their own, a majority of women corporators fail to attend phone calls from aggrieved citizens of their respective wards. Whether it is Mamatha Saravana, Aruna Ravi, Netthra Pallavi, K Veena Kumari, Shashirekha M or S Bhavya, majority of the women corporators do not carry mobile phones. “Whenever I try to contact Veena Kumari over the phone, her husband Vijayakumar responds. Sometimes her husband is rude while answering queries pertaining to civic problems. Whenever heavy rain lashes Bengaluru, our area gets inundated due to the storm water drain developed unscientifically. We have been complaining about this problem for the last one year. We never had an opportunity to meet our elected representative (corporator),’’ said Ganesh V, a resident of Jeevan Bhima Nagar ward.
Now-a-days It is common to come across proxy corporators (husbands of women corporators) wandering at the BBMP Head Office. They are seen accompanied by a few followers, meeting BBMP engineers, the Mayor or Commissioner to get developmental works done in their respective wards.
The irony is that while majority of the women corporators are apathetic, some of them over enthusiastic. Such people, for example, Poornima K, Asha Suresh, Manjula Narayana Swamy and the latest addition to the list Mamata Vasudev, are ready not only to inspect the quality of the roads but also fisticuffs. While Poornima has been ever ready to challenge KR Puram MLA Byrathi Basavaraj, Asha Suresh is the victim of her own party MLA Munirathna. Asha Suresh even announced her decision to quit as corporator during a BBMP Council meeting alleging that she was not able to carry her responsibilities due to the interference of Congress MLA Munirathna.
Manjula Narayana Swamy, who represents Laggere ward, had to fight with a nominated corporator Siddegowda while inspecting the quality of the newly asphalted road. Though Mamata Vasudev is lucky enough to have a woman competitor (Sunanda, who had unsuccessfully contested during the last BBMP election as a Congress candidate), she fainted while staging a protest in front of Yesvantpur police station. It is not that Sunanda was strong enough to give a tough fight to Mamata. Finally, Sunanda too fainted to get admitted into a private hospital. All this happened on the 70th Independence Day.
Expressing shock and dismay over the goonda raj prevailing in Raja Rajeswari Nagar assembly segment, Asha Suresh, Congress corporator representing HMT Layout ward said that she was not able to start any developmental works in the ward. “Developmental works worth Rs: 1.50 crore during the year 2015-16 are yet to commence. The other developmental works worth Rs: 5 crore for this current year are also yet to be taken up. BBMP engineers are not cooperating with us in preparing estimates for the developmental works. They say that most of the works are being taken up with MLA funds. I do not know what to do. I want to ask the BBMP Commissioner why the BBMP Council take so much risk to prepare the Budget and allocate funds to the wards when developmental works by the BBMP are not given preference?’’ asks Asha Suresh.
It may be recalled Chief Minister Siddaramaiah had advised women corporators not to allow their husbands to meddle with the BBMP work while addressing a training programme organized for women coporators at Vikas Soudha in October last year. The Chief Minister also announced special grants would be given as prizes to women corporators who make their wards garbage-free. The million dollar question is how many of these corporators are following the Chief Minister’s valuable and useful advice?
Let us hope, the women corporators will be empowered as early as possible and decide to handle their own mobile phones at least. It is only then that the citizens of Bengaluru can hope for some relief.