The complaints are supposed to be resolved within eight hours but remain unresolved for years.
Piles of pending files with citizens’ complaints in the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagare Palike (BBMP) office are still unresolved.
BBMP has not resolved 58.58 percent of the total online complaints since September 2020. Most complaints are about electricity, road maintenance, garbage clearance and street lights. There are also other complaints related to forest, animal, and health departments.
The BBMP elections are approaching in March 2022. The BBMP has received 16,133 complaints online since September 2020—this duration matches the tenure of Bengaluru’s mayor. Only one complaint of the 16,133 has been completely resolved. There are 41 percent complaints that still need to be resolved.
A report called ‘Improving the State of Urban Governance stated , “As cities are coming under the grip of the forces of demographic transition and of economic liberalisation, they are being engulfed by a number of problems. Unfortunately, most of the cities are not well equipped to tackle these problems and this leads to a failure of public institutions. There is an institutional vacuum in making the service delivery process.”
Babitha, IT wing, BBMP said, “For each and every complaint, there is a working hour. For example, the garbage complaints take 8 to 12 hours. The street lights complaint takes 24 to 48 hours. The road maintenance may take from 45 to 60 days. Apart from this, the other complaints will be resolved in one or two days. There is provision for the officer and the citizen to upload photos after the problem is solved.”
But the reality is different—complainants from different places need to wait to meet the officer in the BBMP premises. A complainant from Varthur said, “Due to heavy rain, water flooded inside our apartment and our compound wall collapsed and care taker’s family with kids is homeless now.” He filed the complaint on September 2020 and this complaint is among the pile of unresolved complaints.
Another complainant from Nagarabhavi faces a garbage dumping problem in the neighbourhood. His problem has also not been addressed. But complaints about basic amenities like water and health are also in the queue to be resolved.
Babitha said that due to many pending complaints, officers delay resolving complaints about street light management and road maintenance.
Khazi Nafiza, Assistant Commissioner (Admin), BBMP, said that the officers have more important covid duties instead of looking into the complaints.
Anil. B. Suraj, Professor, Centre for Public policy said, “I am not alarmed by the fact that the city receives 300 complaints on a daily basis. The key point to address is that the BBMP does not have a planned mechanism by which they are able to take up grievances in a comprehensive way. Instead of looking at water supply issue in one household when a person complains, they should be able to address the entire water supply issue.”
BBMP launched the Namma Bengaluru App in February, 2020, for citizens to post complaints to all departments, including Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB), Bengaluru Metro Rail Corporation (BMRCL), Bengaluru Development Authority (BDA), Bengaluru Metropolitan Region Development Authority (BMRDA), Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) and Bangalore Electricity Supply Company (BESCOM). During its launch, the then BBMP Commissioner B H Anil Kumar said that all the complaints will be met within a stipulated period—if no response was given to the complaint, then it would be transferred to higher officials for further action.
Apart from the application, BBMP also received complaints from a WhatsApp number (9480685700) and the Sagayam helpline number (080-22660000). There are also huge sacks of written complaints that the BBMP receives, said Nafiza.
Receipt of complaint
The citizens’ complaints through Sagayam 2.0 will be automatically assigned to the concerned officers, and the officer can then monitor the complained, said Babitha.
Looking at the website with 58.58 percent unresolved complaints, Nafiza said, “I am not aware of that. This seems to be a huge thing. I don’t think anyone looks into this.” A BBMP commissioner-level officer was also not aware of which website to look at to find the complaints.
A report on the role of Urban Governance for Sustainable Development in India states, “The obligatory functions of the Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) are; to create an effective, responsive, democratic, transparent, accountable local governance framework that promotes responsiveness and accountability, to strengthen the legal, fiscal, economic and service delivery functions.”
Appointment of officers
There is a lack of officials to look into the matter. Nafiza said, “We are operating with 50 percent staff in the BBMP.”
Vacancy in government offices are a problem across the country.
A report on the role of Urban Governance says, “Municipal management covers the entire gamut of administrative facets. But a lack of skilled human resources and technical knowledge has forced the ULBs to remain less efficient. In order to visualize a sustainable city with ‘inclusive growth’ the ULBs require elected representatives, skilled government officials and civil society as a stakeholder.”
A 2011 Report on Indian Urban Infrastructure and Services by the Government of India states, “The Report argues that the challenge of managing urbanisation will have to be addressed through a comprehensive capacity building programme at all levels of government.”
Irrelevant complaints become a major reason behind important complaints getting neglected.
Nafiza said that there are many irrelevant complaints that the BBMP gets in written format and that the important complaints that come with them also get “dumped”. Babitha added that when such irrelevant complaints are received online, it becomes extra work to call the complainant and clear the issue.
Suraj said, “It is not possible for you to dump any complaint. There should be standards of saying when a complaint is disposed. The citizen should be able to say ‘Now my problem has been solved.’ Let that be the ultimate feedback.” He added, “We have improved ways of people filing complaints. Unfortunately, we have not sufficiently improved the ways of addressing them. We should put in place an electronic online mechanism like RTI which is comprehensive, fool-proof and systematic.”
Act 53 of the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike Act, 2020, states that if any matter is pending for more than three months, an urgent decision is necessary. After the government gives the corporation a 15-day notice, the government can then decide how the matter can be resolved for the public good.