The greatest decentralised scam of all time

BBMP’s 2011 garbage tender draft is a scam.

Complaining about garbage is easy. Collecting it and transporting it is tough. Citizen Matters expose of one contractor who handles a part of Bellandur ward has shown this: Contractors continue to severely and illegally underpay garbage workers and cook the books. Collection is very irregular and some areas are left out completely. New residents are ignored.

With no other choice, citizens, who are themselves not very civic minded, start dumping garbage in vacant sites and outside roads, unwilling as they are to chase down a contractor with no name and no face. Other citizens mistake roadside garbage heaps as ‘collection points’ and dump there further! Contractors ignore construction debris even though they are supposed to transport this out. BBMP officials know all this, but aside from making partial payments, they do little else, because of ‘pressure’.

Compound this across the city through many more such contractors, and you’ll see why Bengaluru’s inner streets and bylanes are still littered with garbage.

BBMP’s latest garbage collection proposal has nothing in it that suggests officials are serious about firing contractors and increasing penalties to deter widespread and systematic wrongdoing. Worse, as Kathayini Chamaraj points out in her analysis in Citizen Matters, none of the Ministry of Environment’s waste management rules, a decade old now, have been included in the new draft contract. (Those rules specifically aim at modernising our age-old and even inhuman municipal garbage collection and transportation methods.)

There is a reason for the tender being such a mess. BBMP officials are themselves very aware that our crony contractors are simply not ready to invest in processes and standards to make collection really work. The elected BBMP council already indicated sometime back that it prefers garbage collection to be farmed out to shiploads of small contractors all around the city.

It said no when ‘reformists’ in ABIDe recommended bunching of contracts into more zonal-like chunks, so that larger standards-based firms can bid for the tenders. Larger companies with higher cost structures and professionalised manpower are also more invested in taking on more modern rules. (Even they will require to be watched. ‘Large’ does not automatically mean ‘better’.) Yet the council said no.

This is how we have entered 2011-12. Scores of well-connected crony contractors getting ready to bid for the city’s new deal soon. Bengaluru’s garbage collection is turning out to be an example of the greatest decentralised scam of all time, played over and over again.