Unqualified officials planning your city

Much coffee-table talk in Bengaluru is about how the city has such poor planning. This Citizen Matters investigation exposes how unqualified BBMP and PWD engineers get into plum sanctioning positions.

The BBMP has been promoting its own engineers to higher positions in the town planning department, violating a government order that says all town planning posts in the city have to be filled by qualified officials from the state government’s Department of Town and Country Planning (DTCP).

The state government’s Department of Town and Country Planning controls appointments to BBMP town planning functions. Pic: Vaishnavi Vittal.

Take the case of Ravindranath, Joint Director of Town Planning at the BBMP. As per a state government order, Ravindranath has been transferred to the town planning department in Magadi (under the jurisdiction of BMRDA). In his place, the BBMP has appointed T Nataraj, who is an ‘in-charge Superintendent Engineer’ in the BBMP. Only a Deputy Director of Town Planning who has served for at least five years can be promoted to the post of Joint Director.

What Ravindranath did

For his part Ravindranath questioned the BBMP and took the case to the Karnataka Administrative Tribunal (KAT) in January this year. The KAT ordered the government to state the reasons for his transfer within four weeks. There has been no response from the government until now.

In Karnataka, the state government maintains control over town planning postings in city municipalities including Bengaluru, and the DTCP handles this. It is the DTCP that is supposed to ensure qualified people enter town planning positions in municipal bodies.  The DTCP is headed by a Director of Town and Country Planning.

DTCP’s current Director H B Mukunda says that as a member of the Cadre Management Committee of the department, which is in-charge of all transfers of town planning officials, he is required to sign Ravindranath’s transfer. He never did. The Principal Secretary of the Urban Development department (UDD) is the Chairman of this committee. Mukunda says signatures of all members of the committee are required to approve transfers.

On January 23rd 2010, Mukunda wrote to the Principal Secretary of the UDD citing Ravindranath’s case. A copy of this letter is with Citizen Matters. He asked the Principal Secretary to issue a directive to the BBMP to stop making such appointments on its own. Mukunda stated in his letter that the BBMP has been appointing its own engineers and officials from the state government’s Public Works Department (PWD), filling up vacant posts in the town planning department.

Why this matters to you

The town planning department of the BBMP deals with plan sanctions and issuing work commencement and occupancy certificates. The department prepares building bye-laws. It also has powers to take action against building violations and other town planning issues. This is real power to regulate city development.

Look at it this way: all the malls, high-rises, apartments, massive office complexes, the ‘UB’ cities you visit were at sometime or other awaiting plan sanction. They got approvals from town planning officials.

Read this BBMP document for more details.

Hiring their own officials and PWD officers into planning

Several senior positions in BBMP town planning that are required by law to be filled by qualified officials from the state government’s Department of Town Planning are currently occupied by engineers from within the BBMP and from the PWD, as Mukunda points out.

These BBMP town planning officials are on deputation from other departments such as the PWD. Some are even BBMP engineers who have been promoted. All this is in violation of a government order that says only DTCP officials can be appointed.

The BBMP’s actions are in violation of a state government (UDD) order (July 1997) requiring that all positions in town planning departments of local bodies in the state be made from the DTCP. The order, a copy of which is with Citizen Matters, clearly says that no appointments can be made without the approval of the DTCP. The table above shows officials that the BBMP has posted on it owns as its ‘direct recruits’ at these levels are not even qualified.

Furthermore, the Karnataka Town Planning Department Services (Recruitment) Rules, 1996 specifies the method to be used by the department to recruit officials and the minimum qualifications required. Some positions can be filled only through promotion while others are through direct recruitment. These rules state that for the posts of Assistant Director, Deputy Director, Joint Director and Director, a candidate must have a post graduate degree or diploma in town and country planning.

Mukunda gives the example of one official on deputation from the DTCP, Hanumantha Reddy. Reddy is currently the Assistant Director (Town Planning – South) in BBMP. He has a degree in civil engineering but he reached the post of assistant director through promotion (i.e. he was not a direct recruit). Even though rules for promotion to the post of Assistant Director do not require him to hold a post graduate degree, Mukunda says that Reddy is now being sponsored to do a post graduate course in town and country planning. "We ensure that we have qualified people in our department. That’s why we are sending him for higher studies", he says.

Mukunda says that not even one of his (DTCP’s) officials are in the zonal town planning offices of BBMP while there are only seven of his officials in the head office.

DTCP pleas not being heard

But the DTCP’s requests seem to be falling on deaf ears. Mukunda had written to the then Principal Secretary of the UDD, D Thangaraj last year as well, taking issue with the BBMP filling up its own town planning posts.

In this July 3rd 2009 letter, a copy of which is with Citizen Matters, Mukunda says that when B M Tirunkanagoudar was promoted from the post of Joint Director of Town Planning to Additional Director in BBMP, the post of Joint Director became vacant.  As per the rules, this post should have been filled up by DTCP who appointed one M N Ashok, a Deputy Director in their department.

But the BBMP went ahead and made its own appointment, T Nataraj. This is the same ‘in-charge’ Superintendent Engineer whose name surfaced when Ravindranath was ‘transferred’. Mukunda says that Nataraj has been vying for this position for quite sometime now. There has no response from the UDD on these matters, adds Mukunda.

Coming back to the Ravindranath case, Mukunda says Ravindranath himself is yet to be relieved by the BBMP Commissioner and that he will be sent to Magadi anytime. Citizen Matters spoke to BBMP’s Additional Director of Town Planning Tirukanagoudar (who has been posted there from the state government’s Department of Town and Country Planning). "Today I got some information that Ravindranath has been transferred and some Nataraj has replaced him. I don’t know who he is. I just got the information", says Tirukanagoudar. The whole issue seems shrouded.

Principal Secretary of UDD Thangaraj has since retired and could not be reached for his comments.


  1. M Chandra shekar says:

    Dear Ms.Vaishnavi,

    Good article. BBMP is a heaven for journalists, who wish to investigate and expose this kind of activities.
    I expect more, which will benefit the citizen community, online.


  2. Srikanth Parthasarathy says:

    Excellent Investigation! I think this issue is redundant in most of the Govt Departments. Your investigation can be replicated in those departments as well to bring out the truth to public.

  3. Narasim Katary says:

    Bravo! Solid investigative reporting.

    CM and Ms Vaishnavi are doing yeoman public service by exposing egregious violations of established State of Karnataka policies.

    Public-at-large would have no way of knowing these infractions of policy without sustained effort by enlightened journalists.

    When the State does not respond to a simple request by an Administrative Tribunal it brings about disrespect for rule of law, one of the very foundations of a liberal democratic society. It is my hope the story will encourage the State to act responsibly and do the right thing.

    Investigative stories can have a salutary effect in encouraging authorities to do what is correct. Good for CM and Ms Vaishnavi.

  4. Sri Guru says:

    Why don’t you guys ask others to investigate the “other” party and its completely corrupt states? Fear that their personal lives will be hurt?

  5. Vishwas says:

    This is a wider problem in India’s civil services both at the IAS level as well as the state administrative services. We need public utilities and municipalities/corporations to recruit from experts in specific technical field rather than from a general cadre of civil servants. As a recent Economist special report pointed out most of these officers are good administrators, but are not specialists in the field that they are administering.
    So we need reform of India’s administrative services.
    – To place officers according to their technical or domain skills.
    – There should be a pathway for experts from private sector to enter public service – without age limits etc that exist now in the standard IAS route.
    – And as with anything, public disclosure and scrutiny – a tracking mechanism for officials, their background and their actions.

  6. S Srinivasan says:

    Another well written article by M/s.Vaishnavi Vittal on the standards ( Skeletons) from BBMP Cupboards. What else we can expect on their Planning wonderful Road Widening Projects by people who have no experience or expertise to brag about. But they have powers to dictate and eat the public money. PWD is known for ages as Public Waste Dept and is a big burden on then Tax Paying Public. These departments like Municipal Corporations are corrupt to the core. Even God cannot save our country . Indian democracy is nothing but demonacracy .

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