Saturday, April 30, 2016

Bangalore and Taxes...

Bangalore, much touted as Indias silicon valley, is perhaps the worst metro to live in these days.
Property taxes were hiked in Bangalore a few months ago. The hike almost doubled the amount property owners pay in Bangalore and as per zones. (The hike has since been rolled back - partially.)
The zones have been classified in BBMPs infinite wisdom along these lines:

The city is classified into six tax zones -- A to F, with A the high tax bracket, and reducing to F, the lowest bracket. As a result of the reorganization, some areas have been moved from the lower E and F zones to D, C, B or A zones, where the tax is heavy. "Owners of properties which have moved to higher tax zones have to cough up more tax. The recent property tax hike has come as an additional burden to them. In some cases, where properties have jumped multiple zones, the tax may go up 100% per cent or more.

The logic used seems to be the hike in property rates - mind you, not the civic amenities provided. So, if you walked into any of these 'posh' localities and expected to see a beautiful modern city, you would be wrong. What you would see are dilapidated roads, bad sewage, no water supply and erratic electricity. Traffic conditions are abysmal. Pollution is high. There is tons of dust floating everywhere  Yes, you will also see big cars, huge apartment buildings. 

Now let us see how this money is getting used. No, I am not in a mood at this point to dive into data and give you sources, but anecdotal evidence is sufficient. 

Let us look at basic stuff you need in a city. The first is water. The water situation in Bangalore as per this article is so bad that the city will have to be evacuated by 2023. BBMP (or BWSSB) does not supply water to the entire city. It supplies it partly to the part of the city. From the link above, see this:

Most residential properties then rely on water supplied through tankers, that have emerged as one of the most powerful lobbies in Bangalore. It is such a booming business, that there have been instances of the water tanker mafia using force to prevent residential societies from digging borewells to reduce their expenditure on water supplied by them.

While the last sentence may be a bit of an exaggeration - the point is that each of those so called high end zones where property prices have 'jumped' are on the outskirts of the erstwhile city and have no amenities whatsoever provided by the BBMP/BWSSB. The water supply is by water tankers - most apartments have no Kaveri connection.

(Now, don't get me wrong - I don't mean that we need to get precious Kaveri water from pristine parts of rural Karnataka so that Bangaloreans can flush it down their drains - but where is the plan for the city my dear government when you area collecting so many crores?)

So, water is in bad state.

What about sewage? Again from the earlier link: 

"The 850 km of storm water drains meant to carry surplus water from higher elevation lakes to lower levels in a cascading system of natural rainwater harvesting, now instead carry the city's sewage into these existing so-called lakes," said Balasubramanian.
"Only 30 per cent of the sewage is treated by the sewage treatment plants and the rest flows into the existing lakes," he said.
If this is not enough - given any few days there will be a sewage pipe leak in some part of these 'posh' localities. And it takes ages to clear those. 
Every single IT complex or kindergarten has its own generator in these posh areas. No, apartment buildings in Singapore or Mumbai do not have those. Because the state (or electricity company) supplies electricity. But no, not KSEB. 

Despite the country generating more electricity in the last two years, Karnataka is not interested in supplying it to its denizens.  This article is from September, but I can assure you it is not radically different now. 

That leave us with traffic, roads and suchlike. Most main roads in Bangalore are paved, but that about it. I have seen service roads laid in way that it forms asphalt waves, craters. I have seen roads cave in first and then vehicles cave into that. There are many other dust paths that also qualify as roads. 

What about traffic? Most of Bangalore gets up each day and simply stands in queue in a traffic jam. Here is one story about Whitefield (one those posh localities - hey, it even has a posh name), but no there is no white not field - there is just one massive traffic jam. 

What are the plans? Nobody knows. What is the mitigation to this situation? Nobody knows. The government is hardly interested except in collecting high property taxes. Lakes are dying. There is no water. There is barely any electricity. Untreated sewage goes into lakes on a good day - on a bad day it just accumulates on roads. The road themselves are another story. 

So, why are we paying such high taxes Mr. Chief Minister?

(Some stupid formatting issue - can't figure out what is the issue here)

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