Come Monsoon in Bangalore and another innocent life lost. Last year the story of Abishek – a young boy being washed away in the Storm water drains of Bangalore – exemplified the state of affairs and apathy in City governance. We had the sorry sight of apathetic commissioner blaming the parents. This year come monsoon, and another tragedy - the sad story of a young student Sanjana Singh – killed by a collapsing compound wall – constructed by a current Corporator who received the contract - shines the spotlight on the ‘why’ of this neglect. A young girl – from all accounts a good student and with a bright future – whose life should have full of dreams of a bright future and of fulfilling them– instead snuffed out because of the corruption and politics entrenched into our contracting system for building, maintaining and delivering public infrastructure and services.
The culprit here is reportedly or allegedly a Corporator ie a representative of the People, voted in by the people. Theres something very wrong in this picture – of People electing a person to be their representative – The representative in turn becomes a contractor, enriching himself of public works that are awarded in a cosy nexus between crooked officers who are supposed to oversee the contractor and a contractor who (because he is a corporator) oversees the officers.
Talk about a system that is designed to fail the people it is supposed to serve !
Unless this dysfunctional system is reformed and changed, we will continue to lose Abhisheks and Sanjanas – lives lost as a direct consequence of the corruption and lack of accountability and transparency in our contracting system.
With Bangalore expected to witness deluge of projects – underpasses, flyovers, signal free corridors - which will supposedly spruce the physical infrastructure, the need to ensure transparency in awards of these works become imperative. We simply cannot afford to have a situation where another Corporator or elected representatives received construction contracts without iota of expertise and solely on the basis of their proximity to power. This is sure recipe for disaster and endangers public lives and public money.
Further, we must look at abandoning the current practice of awarding piece meal contracts which is synonymous with corruption and poor quality. Instead consider giving large and multi-year contracts to proven experience and expertise to ensure quality of work and accountability.
Most important, we need to weed out this conflict of interest in Politicians – of using Politics as a means of business. It is criminal to have the one person donning the roles of both builder and as well as the supervisor. Corporators or MLAs or MPs cannot and should be not permitted to do business with Government or if they do so must publicly disclose it.