CM’s advisor recommends breaking up BBMP

A seminar deliberates on why and how Bengaluru’s city corporation can be split, and how BBMP‘s governance issues can be tackled.

"BBMP wards are becoming unmanageable with a single commissioner and resources thinly divided," said Dr A Ravindra, Former Chief Secretary and Urban Affairs Advisor to the Chief Minister, Karnataka. He was delivering the key-note address at a seminar on ‘Reorganizing Bangalore into two or more Municipal Corporations’.

The panelists at the seminar. Pic: Shamala Kittane

The seminar was organised by the Indian Institute of Public Administration, Bangalore on January 19th and was attended by Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar, K. Dharmarajan (Chairman of Committee of Experts constituted by Govt. of Delhi to draft a new Delhi Municipal Corporation Law), D Venkatesh Murthy (Mayor, Bangalore), elected representatives, civil society organisations and RWAs.

Ravindra analysed the need for reorganising BBMP into smaller corporations to cater to the demands of 198 wards. "Planning and coordination with parastatals are becoming a overhead and there is lack of manpower to carry out all the functions of the BBMP." he said. He recommended reorganisation should consider population, existing contiguity of wards, zones, assembly constituencies, ring road and arterial roads.

Ravindra suggested four options for splitting:

  • 2 separate corporations – Bangalore East and Bangalore west
  • 3 separate corporations – Bangalore East, West and South
  • 3 separate corporations – Bangalore East, West and Central
  • 4 separate corporations – Bangalore East, West, Central and South

K Dharmarajan shared his experience in the formation of three New Delhi municipal corporations (North, South and East Delhi Municipal Corporations) moving away from a single municipal authority. He also shared the teething problems they faced in the restructuring:

  • Ward areas not properly distributed — varying population density and resource demands making it difficult for budgetary allocations
  • No designated officers responsible for the seamless functioning of the ward and the government during the split. There was serious shortage of staff under the new commissioners of each of the corporations formed and confusion over asset distribution.

Dharmarajan said, "The splitting however did not have the desired effect of increasing representation" and therefore stressed on the importance of decentralisation of power and defining of functions and responsibilities while a corporation is considered for restructuring.

Prof. Narendar Pani and N S Nalini of National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore traced the evolution of the city, their points based on satellite imageries of the growth of Bangalore in the years 1973-1992 that included growth of Cantonment, public sector outgrowths, small scale industry boom, growth of garment industry, growth of unorganised sector. "This growth itself was well managed and also geographically well planned and organised; Governance of Bangalore wasn’t an issue, until the early ‘90s."

Objective of formation of Greater Bangalore, 2007

As per the Notification issued, the formation of Greater Bangalore under BBMP is being done in order to:

(a) Improve and co-ordinate infrastructure development for road and transportation network, water supply and UGD, Solid Waste Management.

(b) Upgrade quality of urban civic services.

(c) Strengthen administrative capacity to ensure better enforcement of various rules/regulations as also better co-ordination in service delivery.

(d) Optimise expenditure on establishment.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greater_Bangalore

Between 1992-2008, Bangalore saw an unprecedented growth with liberalization and IT boom leading to increased commute between office and home and therefore the sudden need for large infrastructure projects. The asymmetrical growth gave rise to challenges like inability to predict growth, increased densities in newly formed areas and therefore lack of the planning. Basic living conditions and amenities then took a beating.

The NIAS professors urged the need to recognise the difference between development and service delivery. BBMP cannot put up infrastructure and not be able to provide for healthy living conditions. A regulatory body needs to be in place to keep a check on the development authority. They also reiterated the need for ‘decentralisation’ to ensure a well planned growth.

Dr. Ashwin Mahesh (Urban expert and member, Loksatta party) began his talk sharing the skepticism about the integration of BMP and the municipal corporations, he had first articulated seven years ago. (See: "The sum of broken parts"). He talked about the unequal focus on the core areas of Bangalore and peripheral areas, adding, "This is also applicable the state in general where 90% of the budgetary allocation from the state goes to Bangalore, Dharwad and Hubli which is unconstitutional and something that also needs to be questioned."

Mahesh said there is a need for a consistent ‘logic’ of municipalisation that can be applied each time, as the built form of the region changes. He added that in any case the city elections should not be delayed or postponed at any cost.

Sudhir Krishnaswamy, a professor at Azim Premji University, said, "Neither does the constitution nor the state law define the size that is optimal for successful governance." He was part of the Kasturirangan Committee on Bangalore’s Governance. He quipped, "Line drawing is a bureaucratic and political impulse".

Krishnaswamy said it is critical to integrate political authority and responsibility, as well as citizen participation and responsibility. He stressed on the need for a council that is democratically elected, a general assembly (Area Sabhas) and a participatory assembly (Ward Committees).

Although the seminar started with Dr Ravindra taking a clear stand on the need for smaller corporations, the rest of the discussion focused on governance and related issues.

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