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CITY (22)

Ad space in our city is free for all

Written by Friday, 12 July 2013 10:13

boards

Revenue from hoardings can generate at least Rs 198 crore a year. Though reeling under a debt of more than Rs 3,000 crore, the BBMP does little to collect this amount, or even act against agencies displaying hoarding illegally



The BBMP in its 2012-13 budget statement had estimated revenue of Rs 198 crore from rentals for hoardings across the city. But an assessment of the inflow as of March 2013 reveals that the municipal body has been able to garner only a fraction of the amount, a mere Rs 20 crore. BBMP Leader of the Opposition MK Gunashekar had on June 16 written to the BBMP Commissioner asking for immediate action to remove about 1,000 illegal advertisement hoardings. In a council meeting, Gunashekar pointed out: “Agencies seek permission to put up a specific number of hoardings.

 

However, numerous additional ones are put up illegally because of which the BBMP is losing revenue. It needs to immediately remove these hoardings and furnish a list of authorised hoardings, and the revenue generated.” The BBMP has two main sources of revenue—property tax and advertisement tax, fees and rentals. Middle-class citizens have consistently been paying property tax, which translates into a steady source of revenue. The BBMP’s revenue stream is being dented because of evasion by some among the ultra rich. In addition, its Akrama-Sakrama (illegal building regularisation) scheme is caught in red tape, and revenue has not been coming in steadily over the years.

 

Revenue comes from space allotted for hoardings on the properties of the BBMP, the railways and the police department. The BBMP’s website lists 5,000 boards on its properties, 199 on railway properties and 18 on police department properties in the city. Despite these large numbers, the revenue from these sources is poor and slack. The area under the agency is divided into A, B and C regions. Region A comprising Raj Bhavan, Vidhana Soudha and High Court are closed to advertisement hoardings, while region B comprising MG Road, Brigade Road, Commercial Street, Rajajinagar, Basavangudi and Jayanagar are allowed to display them.

 

bbmpmpRegion C, comprising new areas of Bangalore after villages were incorporated into the BBMP, falls under a grey area—there is ambiguity about whether boards can be placed or not. The BBMP deputy commissioner’s office is entrusted with monitoring advertisement revenue and space. It has to ensure that agencies pay rent in time, and scrutinising that licenses are not used beyond May 31 of every year. It has failed on all the above counts. There has been only the occasional blacklisting—the BBMP blacklisted the ODM Media Services advertising agency for not remitting over Rs 1.5 crore in revenue after having used public spaces for advertising. Jagadeesh Advertising Agency owes the BBMP over Rs 2 crore. Yet, no action has been taken against the agency so far.

 

A Congress corporator who wishes to remain anonymous alleges that the BBMP has failed to collect almost Rs 15 crore from the 199 boards placed on a railway property that comes under the BBMP. Advertisement revenue from bus stands too has failed to come in. After having bagged orders to build 48 bus stands where they could display advertisement boards, contractors connived with some politicians and went on to build nearly 94 bus stands, displaying boards at all these sites without paying any fee to the BBMP. The Dasarahalli area of Bangalore which comes under region C has caused perpetual loss of revenue for the BBMP. The area has six corporators including twice-elected Muniraju.

 

The Peenya Industrial Estate and the Bangalore- Tumkur national highway fall under this region. The BBMP has issued an official circular stating that there are no advertisement boards in the area, but a JD(S) corporator says this is shocking as these hoardings are there for all to see. “This circular is part of a conspiracy hatched by the BBMP officials, elected leaders and ad agencies to pretend there are no hoardings, when we get to see plenty of them in public.” To compound the BBMP’s problem, advertising agencies have managed to get a stay order on the removal of boards across the city.

 

boardWhen asked why the BBMP failed to act, an official said, “Each agency has a corporator backing it, not to speak of the support from higher politicians. When we confront the agencies, they flash a stay order at us. Before the legal section within the BBMP can take any action, they have to work on getting the stay orders vacated, which takes anywhere from three to six months. Besides, it has to contend with the prohibitive cost of removing each board. We have estimated that there are at least 3,000 illegal boards and most of them are from agencies with political support.” Former mayor K Chandrashekar told Talk, “People at the BBMP don’t listen to anyone.

 

They are so thick-skinned they ignore suggestions, advice, insights or even plain information. Even when there are exposes in the media, the BJP-ruled BBMP remains unperturbed. People should rise against the agency.” Mayor Venkatesh Murthy has completed his term in office. However, with the issue of appointing a candidate from the reserved category to the post cropping up, the matter of his successor is in court. Meanwhile, the BBMP’s debt has grown to Rs 3,350 crore. Yet, it appears to be in no mood to recover the Rs 178 crore from its projected 198 crore advertisement revenue. If it thinks this is too little an amount to bother about, the BBMP’s attitude can only be described as callous.

 

market

It is one among Bangalore’s traditional fruit and vegetable bazaars that may soon perish to make way for a mall. Opinion is divided over its preservation



Bangalore’s market spaces are witnessing a battle between tradition and modernity. While it’s too early to declare a sole winner, modernity has a definite edge. The modern commercial complexes and malls that are fast replacing traditional vegetable and flower markets all over the city are a case in point. Over the years, area after area has seen these battles and most times, it is the traditional markets that fall.

 

Now, is the High Court sounding the death knell for the Malleswaram traditional market by backing the Government agencies’ BBMP and Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) modernity drive? According to varied accounts, the Malleswaram market on Sampige Road, opposite the Kaadu Malleswara temple is between 30 and 50 years old, and houses between 200 to 250 vegetable and flower vendors. The market is spread over roughly two acres of land. According to MLA Dr Ashwath Narayana, for the past 10 years, the city corporation has been trying to realise the true commercial value of the land by planning a commercial complex.

 

The vendors, on their part, have been resisting this move, for fear of losing business. After all, who would want to come into a complex to buy vegetables, they argue. But just last week, in a boost to the city corporation’s campaign, the High Court decreed that work on the commercial project could commence once the vendors were rehabilitated. The corporation has its own arguments in favour of the commercial project. It contends that each vegetable vendor here pays a mere Rs 150 as rent per month while rents from commercial set ups like shops can fetch ten times the amount at current market rates.

 

An official, who did not want to be named, said, “How fair is it to collect just Rs 150 per shop, per month on two acres in the heart of the city, when it can generate crores? As the city corporation we are mandated to utilise land in such a way as to realise its true market potential. We have given away public land to a few vendors at throwaway prices.” The corporation official argues that the vendors will not be forgotten. The commercial property that will come up on the land will have a floor dedicated to them. “Vendors can be part of the complex when ready, provided they follow certain regulations. Until the complex is built, they will be given an alternative place to conduct their business.

 

” The vendors on their part have submitted a memorandum to chief minister Siddaramaiah, through political leader, and former ACP BK Shivaram, seeking his intervention to stop the demolition of the old market. Shivaram, a Malleswaram resident, who has taken up the cause of the vendors, told Talk, “The city corporation says vendors pay only a rent of Rs 150 per month. But doesn’t it have the right to charge market rates from them? Why is the corporation not exercising its right? They can improve the structure, fix leakages, set right wiring, improve roofing and tidy up the place to ensure that vendors remain. This is a traditional market that has existed for nearly 30 to 50 years.

 

Can’t we preserve the few local spaces we have in the city?” Shivaram alleges that the real concern “for some people” is not the commercial complex itself, but the financial gains that come out of it. “I am told the contract may be given to the relative of a tainted contractor in the city. As BBMP and BDA are cash-strapped, they will naturally hand the land over to a contractor to build the complex and then try to fork rent out of it. What part of this will be official and unofficial is anybody’s guess. Who is to know what part will be paid off as commission to officials and politicians by the contractor? In the end, the whole project will end up being profitable for the contractor and a few bureaucrats and politicians.

 

market1” A senior BDA official who did not want to be named rubbished the allegations, “The BDA issued a tender, and after competitive bids one agency has emerged the winner. Only after a legal and transparent process have we appointed a contractor to begin work.” The policeman-turned-politician also alleges that while the BDA does not even have enough money to pay salaries to its staff, the fact is it has no revenue-generating work. “Won’t it therefore be convenient to start off projects that will bring in some money for it to survive? Such projects justify their existence. What money will be passed on as commission, we don’t know. My theory is that such commercial projects are meant to keep the BDA afloat which otherwise has no work in the city.” The BDA official, who did not want to be named, argued back, “BDA is in no financial crisis.

 

The staff gets their salaries. It is a figment of imagination to state we have no work or money, and that we are creating work to justify ourselves.”Meanwhile residents are rallying around to preserve Malleshwaram’s traditions. Residents around Eighth Cross Malleswaram have formed the Kaadu Malleswara Devasthana Geleyara Sangha (Kaadu Malleswara Temple Friends Association) and frequently organise cultural programmes at the temple located opposite the market. “We are desperately trying to keep the old traditions of Malleswaram alive. The market is part of this cultural ecosystem,” says Shivaram. Meenakshi Bharath, a civic activist, echoes Shivaram’s sentiment. “Malleswaram’s traditional spaces are disappearing one by one.

 

We already have two malls—the Orion and the Mantri. Do we need another one? A city like London has preserved its old market areas that host music programmes with people gathering in the evenings over music and tea. When London is preserving its heritage, why can’t Bangalore do the same with its traditional markets? An architect could have been invited to design the market to make it come alive culturally while allowing the economic activity of the vendors. When the whole of Europe is concerned about heritage preservation despite being modern, why is Bangalore systematically destroying its tradition?” MLA Ashwath Narayana is dismissive of heritage claims.

 

“I can understand heritage concerns if the market was hundreds of years old. How can a structure that is leaking, that has no clean space, that has no proper basic amenities and that is not even occupied entirely, be called heritage space? Vendors don’t want to sit at the back of the market because people don’t come in so far to make their purchases. What is to be done with the space then? Is it not a waste of space and commercial value?” In addition, the MLA says, “We are building a car park area and floors with shops. One floor will be given to the vendors. It will be cleaner, have electricity, better toilets. What objection can they have to this? Sampige road, he points out is packed with cars. “If we can get the cars parked inside, won’t it be a relief for vehicle users? Won’t the roads be free? When we put forward this argument, people say we’re trying to favour a contractor or we’re trying to make money.

 

” He says he is open to exploring alternative options if they indeed exist. “Malleshwaram already has two malls, and we understand that there is no need for another one. We have specifically suggested a car park to ease traffic congestion. People think a commercial complex means a mall.” But Shivaram draws attention to the KR Market complex and Jayanagar complex. “The KR Market complex is ugly, dirty and inconvenient. Vendors there have found people don’t come into the complex to buy anything. The Jayanagar complex, though occupied, has too many problems— from roofing, electricity, to water issues. Fortunately, the plan for a complex at KR Puram has been dropped owing to public pressure, but the traditional market at Seshadripuram has been destroyed.

 

Only some markets in Cottonpet area have survived, but we don’t know for how long.” The High Court has in some sense brought an end to this debate by ordering the construction of the commercial complex only after the rehabilitation of the vendors. Transition can be disruptive and it is only natural that vendors feel anxious about this change from tradition to modernity. Even as they continue to sell their wares on the streets of Malleswaram, they are keeping their fingers crossed about their future. As for the BDA, only time will tell if their modern market project is a ruse to justify their existence.

city

FALL GUY? Allah Baksh has been convicted on a theft charge; he claims he is innocent

Nazeema gets to see Allah Baksh for the first time in four years, but only because he attempts suicide

FB powers change in civic authorities

Written by Friday, 21 June 2013 06:15

qewqw

Power-related grievances find quick redressal, thanks to a customer-friendly MD.The traffic police are using social media, too

long

Till recently, Sukumaran Menon K (62) sat before the Mahatma Gandhi statue to demand the return of the 1.7 acres the government took away from him for the Bangalore-Mysore NICEexpressway. With no politician heeding his pleas, he is now weak and in bed, resting after a hospital stint 

Asks Nitin Pai, Director of Takshashila Institution, a Bangalore-based think tank

SHELVED HOPES

Written by Friday, 29 March 2013 10:14

The BBMP has collected about Rs 120 crore in library cess since 2005, but failed to hand it over to the libraries department. And that's just one of many problems leaving book lovers deprived

A TERROR- ACCUSED REPORTER'S JAIL DIARY

Written by Saturday, 02 March 2013 08:14

Six months ago, Muthi-ur-Rahman Siddiqui was rudely woken up, whisked away, and charged with plotting to assassinate prominent Bangalore media persons. A court released the Deccan Herald journalist earlier this week, finding no evidence to back the police’ charges. He narrates to Talk the disturbing experience of his arrest and incarceration

RIGHT TO HOUSING IS RIGHT TO LIFE

Written by Saturday, 26 January 2013 07:48

 

The Constitution classifies the right to housing as a part of the right to life, but the vagaries of 'judicial interpretation' mean settlements of the urban poor often find themselves on the wrong side of the law

STICKING IT TO THE POOR

Written by Saturday, 26 January 2013 07:31

Families callously ejected from the Ejipura shanty town last week are struggling for day-to-day survival, even as they are threatened by the police and preyed upon by goons 

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