Public Affairs Centre (PAC), a non-profit organisation that works for independent scrutiny of the state structures, in a study of 15 cities in Karnataka, has drawn attention to the unbalanced pattern of urban development in Karnataka.
At the same time, it has called for a review of the state’s policies. A careful review of the state’s policies for correcting regional disparities and developing smaller cities is long overdue, the NGO says.
The study has put together many indicators on urban growth, infrastructure, services and quality of life that permits a more comprehensive comparison of these cities than has been possible until now. According to its authors Samuel Paul, Kala S Sridhar, A Venugopala Reddy, and Pavan Srinath, the study also provides a basis for benchmarking the progress of the cities over time and assessing the impact of government policies and programmes. PAC plans to extend this analysis to major cities across India and monitor this periodically.
The study points out that despite the state’s policies for correcting regional disparities, Bangalore’s economic dominance continues. It accounts for over four-fifths (82 per cent) of the total bank credit disbursed among the 15 cities. Almost half the value of all private investment proposals (49 per cent) in these cities in 2006-09 was directed to Bangalore. The BBMP leads in both total and per capita revenue receipts and capital expenditure.
While Bangalore leads in economic dimensions, smaller cities such as Bidar, Chitradurga and Chikmagalur are better than Bangalore in property tax collection efficiency. The proportion of population with water connections is higher than Bangalore in Mangalore, Bellary and Mysore. Five smaller cities have done better in door-to-door garbage collection than Bangalore. Three cities have more public toilets per slum than Bangalore. Bangalore, however, has more public parks than public toilets. Public sanitation is clearly a low priority for the capital city, the study has discovered.
Meanwhile, public transport has been found to be woefully inadequate in smaller cities and it is available to a significant extent only in Bangalore, Mysore, Hubli-Dharwad and Mangalore. This gap may well explain why the smaller cities lead in traffic congestion and road accidents/deaths. The study calls for investments in public transport in the smaller cities as the answer to this serious problem.
Bangalore has got the thumbs up on one front; in power distribution. The problem of transmission and distribution losses, it says, cannot be attributed to the cities per se, but to the management of the Escoms involved. The highest losses are in Bellary and Gulbarga (both managed by Gescom). Bescom seems to be the best performer in this regard.
Despite popular belief to the contrary, the state’s pollution control board data show that only two cities, Hubli-Dharwad and Gulbarga, are in violation of the norms. With respect to the drinking water quality, all cities meet the turbidity norms, except Belgaum.
The PAC study rues that smaller cities have hardly any private investment proposals of significance and their credit disbursals are low. Their public capital investment spending is equally miniscule. Part of the problem is that JNNURM favours the larger cities, it says. The sole exception is Mangalore which, though low in the total value of private investment proposals, has higher per capita investment proposals than Bangalore! Both Mangalore and Udupi are also ahead of Bangalore in the number of bank branches 100,000 population.