The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) is an administrative body that is responsible for the civic and infrastructural assets of the metropolitan area of Greater Bangalore Municipal Corporation and represents a third government run by a city council.
Of the 18 functions that belong to the legitimate domain of is included planning for economic and social development; Public health, sanitation, conservancy and Solid Waste Management; Safeguarding the interests of weaker sections of society, including the handicapped and the mentally retarded; Slum improvement and upgradation; Urban Poverty Alleviation; public amenities.
In Devarjeevanahalli, BBMP has violated all these functions with total impunity although this may be the story in most of the wards under the BBMP. In July 2013, following the death of a 6 year old child called Meghala and a huge public outcry followed by a public hearing, BBMP made sweeping promises – of a Nutritional Rehabilitation centre, of a 24 hour ambulance, of a regular supply of essential medicines and the availability of a permanent doctor. None of these promises have been met. Although a doctor has been appointed, there are no systems in place to support him. The UFWC doctor has access to Rs. 5000/- per month, that too, after the maternity centre needs are prioritized. With Rs. 5000- the doctor is expected to run an Urban Family Welfare Centre for a population of 1 lakh. For elderly patients, for whom private medical care runs up to a minimum of Rs 1000/- a month, the UFWc is nothing more than a joke. Neither essential hypertensive nor diabetic medicines are available nor minimum surgical/dressing facilities. When confronted, the BBMP officials express one of their predictable responses – belligerence, indifference or denial. Officials have no qualms about screaming abuses, feigning ignorance or resorting to straightforward lying. BBMP ethics are non-existent and the entire body is unresponsive and unaccountable.
In DJ halli, where the overwhelming majority of the population is poor SC/ST and Muslim, one also sees the discriminatory nature of BBMP. The overt and covert discrimination based on caste and religion rears its head in several ugly ways. There is a lack of ownership by BBMP of the maternity home and family welfare centre. The funding of the centre is adequate proof of negligence.
The link workers in the DJ halli hospital are predominantly women who are SC/ST or Muslim. After having been employed by the BBMP for years on contract, they have not received their measly wages of Rs. 3000/- month. BBMP violates every labour law guideline with total impunity when it comes to its most vulnerable staff. Under NUHM, the link workers are likely to be removed without so much as a second thought. Their names will be struck off the registers as though they never existed. It represents the structural violence that is being perpetrated by the government. It is a daylight practice of casteism and discrimination of religious minority communities by a government that is apparently more supportive of non discrimination. This is the same story of the pourakarmikas who slave for the BBMP without recourse to grievance redressal or any kind of labour rights. The pourakarmika women are again SC/ST – unpaid even the measly salary of 6500/- due to them. The ones that question are removed from the contract – swift responses that cut off dissenting voices even before they are raised.
The BBMP can therefore be easily labeled casteist and non secular. While contracts are being dished out to unscrupulous private profiteerers like Swathi Ramanathan of Tendersure, with no consideration of legalities or guidelines, denials and discrimination by the BBMP of the most marginalized and vulnerable communities continue unabated and unchecked.
What does one ask a system that is shameless, unethical and unaccountable? How do the most vulnerable staff of this system get justice?
How do the most vulnerable populations hold this shameless system to account?
It is the nature of these systems to be violative and they will continue to be so – till they are taken to task. While that is no small feat, it has to be done and it can only be done with the support of those who don’t feel the pinch directly, those who wont lose their jobs for protesting, those who can afford not to use these services. It calls for a certain ethic – of thinking beyond one’s one little bubble. Till then Bengaluru will be the city that invisibilises caste and religious minority discrimination. It will be the city where the most marginalized and vulnerable labour unpaid for months on end. It will be a city where nameless poor die because they didn’t get what is essentially their right – to life.
Bengaluru is an unjust place for the poor. It is particularly unjust to those who belong to a marginalized community. One can never hold one’s head up in false pride as long as this injustice is not addressed. In that way, each of us is responsible and accountable for the violations that happen under our very noses.