Mangaluru: Addressing a press conference on October 23 2019, after the state election commission notified the dates for the election to the Mangalore City Corporation, Dakshina Kannada district Deputy Commissioner Sindhu B Rupesh informed the media that that the election will be held on November 12 between 7 am and 5 pm and if re-elections are necessitated, it will be conducted on November 13. The counting will be held on November 14 from 8 am onwards.
She informed prospective candidates to file their nomination on or before October 31 and said that the scrutiny of the nominations will be held on November 2 with the last date for withdrawing nomination is November 4. If you are Smart and really do want a smart city – maybe you will file your nomination? there is still time!
The Election announcement came after the High Court of Karnataka directed the State Election Commission to hold elections to the Mangaluru City Corporation (MCC) council on or before November 15. A Division Bench comprising Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice Mohammad Nawaz had issued these directions while disposing of a PIL petition filed by Abdul Gafoor and another person from Mangaluru seeking direction for holding elections to the council. Observing that the elections should have been held before the term of the elected council expired on March 12, 2019, as mandated by the Constitution, the Bench said the elections cannot be delayed further.
But what are the issues that a Smart City’s, smart citizens are concerned about? I spoke to a cross-section of people to gather their views; I also traversed netizen speak and compiled the following key result areas. It is just a glimpse but a glimpse that is revealing.
Parking:This constitutes a huge concern for the middle-class citizen of Mangalore. Mangalore has been beautified in places and in fits and starts. The roads have been widened in many places, and walkways created for pedestrians for which many trees have been cut - but that's another debate. But what about Parking for the increasing no. of vehicles in Mangalore? With the new fines for traffic violations being notified, and mobile cams taking pictures of all and sundry, parking has become a nightmare for most, especially at peak transit hours - 9 to 11 in the morning and 4-8 in the evening. The problem's roots lie in the burgeoning no. of vehicles on the road, but it also has a lot to do with the Corporation not providing for and enforcing, visitor parking provisions for Residential and Commercial Buildings in the city. To my mind, there should be provisions for parking at least two LCV's for at least 10% of the Apartments / Offices in a building... at least in the future. Also, the practice of allowing shops to be built in Basements must be stopped. A long term solution may be paid multi-level parking spaces near business districts which perhaps can be partially supported by vehicle dealerships?
Traffic Regulation: Traffic lights have been installed at most junctions. However, they hardly work. And when they do, it's sporadic. This puts pressure on the Police who have to man critical junctions at peak hours and provides for indiscipline among commuters. The signal lights must be made to work round the clock, much like in the gulf and those jumping it, penalized as per the newly notified Traffic regulations. Why these traffic signals do not work consistently is fodder for another article, but any guesses?
Quality of roads: There must be a qualitative improvement in road construction: there are many agencies that can offer the expertise: IIT Roorkee is one of them. There must however be a will to adopt new methods to cater to increasing traffic loads and heavy erratic (because of climate change) monsoons. What is also required is a transparent system of awarding contracts and their enforcement. Applying penalties for negligence and bad work is just one of the methods and if these are to be applied they must be applied first to the Political Executive - and it is almost certain that there will be an immediate improvement!
Completion certificates for completed buildings: A lot of buildings in Mangalore do not have completion certificates, with the corporation unwilling to issue them as the construction has deviated from the approved building plan in some way or the other. This puts the office / Apartment owner to great distress when he wants to avail of a loan to buy or for that matter to sell his investment. The builder washes his hands of the project once he hands over to an eager owner who wants to take possession perhaps on the assurance that the Completion Certificate will be provided in due course, when in fact it never is. So who's at fault and what's the solution? The Builder for the deviations obviously, and the Corporation for not seeking periodic / Milestone independent inspection reports from Chartered Engineers to arrest deviations. The solution: Issue the certificates but simultaneously prosecute and penalize the builder and concerned officials if the deviations are done in collusion. Nobody would like to see a repeat of the Kochi Maradu flats episode in Mangalore. That would be so unsmart in an aspiring smart city!
Property Card: There is a mad rush to obtain property cards from the UPOR office in the city and the office sees long queues and frustrated citizens every day. Citizens are in a tizzy because it was first announced that it is a must for property registration, and then it was announced it was not. There is no clarity on its purpose - does it replace the RTC and Khatha? or does it not? it would be good if the Citizen was informed in clear terms of the need for and utility of the Property Card. There must also be made available adequate facilities to ensure that the citizen is not put to hardship to obtain the same if it is required.
Water Shortages: The shortage of drinking water during summer in the city has its roots in two miscalculations: One, the lack of foresight and planning on how to meet the increasing needs of water for the city - this includes devising both short and long term solutions - dams and desalination perhaps; and two, the lack of foresight and planning when building plans are sanctioned - the requirement adds to the already minimal availability and must be counted in when plans are made for water. There must be convergence between the planning of different departments - Roads, Buildings, Traffic, Water, Trade licenses, etc. as they are all inter-dependent and inter-connected.
Digital Citizen Interface:The Mangalore City Corporation has made efforts to create a digital footprint for its citizen interface. But these are terribly inadequate. A visit to the MCC website will tell you that. Many parts of it are 'under construction' and many citizen services are still totally manual - even a simple thing like the payment of the water bill. It is time for a comprehensive MCC app and payment gateways in line with the Central Government’s push for a digital India and a cashless society. It will save both time and money for the citizen and the Corporation. It is an urgent need and one that must be taken up with priority by the new Council.
Waste Management: There is a lot of improvement seen in this segment of the city’s governance in the last couple of years. Smart bins are being installed across the city. But there are pockets, especially on the outskirts which need attention. Then there is the segregation of waste and the issue of the landfill and the treatment plant at Pachhanady which needs attention. The Plastic ban though notified is not being enforced evenly and transparently, adding to the woes of the smart city. Alternatives are not in place and the citizen is hard-pressed when he goes shopping. Lots of issues here that need resolution and quickly. But the key to all of it is a non-political approach to the problem.
Health Care and Education: Mangalore is blessed with a thriving healthcare sector - all of it private and high cost. It is time for the Corporation to come up with its own health center that can provide excellent services to its citizens through a corporation health biometric card. The Costing of the services must be at 50% of what the private health care sector provides much like the Jan Aushadhi and Arogya schemes, without a compromise on quality. The infrastructure can be planned and built with its help through a special purpose vehicle. It’s a radical thought, and alternatives can and must be explored. The same goes for the education sector - it’s time to take a leaf out of the Delhi Government's management of its schools. They are now world-class public schools.
Ward committees: Ward Committees can help improve governance. The rules have been notified by the state government, and though they are inadequate - recommendations have to come from the Corporator / Councillor - they are a good beginning for public participation and transparency and the new council must constitute them without fail although I would suggest that they include as ex-officio members (as there is no provision in the rules), professionals like civil engineers, CA's, Teachers and journalists.
There is also a separate issue of concern that will only magnify in the days to come: Migrant Labour. The Migrant labour component of the city's demographics is increasing by the day as the youth of the city migrate to metros to take up roles. They often do not have shelter, their children do not go to school, and they have limited access to health facilities and other government schemes as they are not of the city. Its time a serious thought be given to this issue.
These are just 10 concerns that perhaps you should ask your Smart representative to work on if elected. You may have your own too. You can also help him work on these and other concerns with constructive suggestions. That's the way forward for smart people desirous of a smart city!
Disclaimer: The views are personal to the author, and do not represent the views of NewsKarnataka.com