Opinion: BBMP Bill offers nothing new, can’t solve Bengaluru’s problems

State government is planning to soon enact the BBMP Bill for Bengaluru's governance. But the city's growing problems cannot be solved with the current governance structure or by merely increasing the number of wards, as envisioned in the Bill.

It is said that doing the same experiment again and again under the same conditions and expecting a different result each time is schizophrenic. Bringing another legislation, the BBMP Bill, to improve the same dysfunctional BBMP is such an example.

Over the past week, the Joint Legislative Committee (JLC) appointed by the state government has been deliberating on the BBMP Bill, a separate Bill for the administration of Bengaluru. This Bill is to replace the KMC (Karnataka Municipal Corporations) Act which is currently the basis for the administration of Bengaluru (and other municipalities in the state).

BBMP Bill proposes increasing the number of wards in the city corporation from 198 to 225. The JLC, in its recent meetings, said the number of zones may be increased from eight to 15 as well. The Bill does not introduce substantive changes in BBMP’s governance structure, nor does it have ways to solve the city’s problems.

Read the full text of the BBMP Bill here

Fundamentally, what is not understood here is, the actual urban area of Bengaluru is much larger than the BBMP area. An area of 3,000 km2 – from the International Airport in Devanahalli on NH 7 to Thalagattapura on NH 948 in the North-South axis, and from Attibele to Nelamangala on NH 48 in the East-West axis – is already fully built up. Whereas the BBMP area is only 712 km2 and the outer BDA area is just 1,306 km2.

BMR growing as fast as the city once did

In 1941, Bengaluru was only the 16th biggest city in India, with a population of just over four lakh. Today it’s the third biggest city, with 1.2 crore people – that is, a fifth of Karnataka’s total population.

Anticipating the expansion of Bengaluru, the Ramakrishna Hegde government had created the Bengaluru Metropolitan Region Development Authority (BMRDA) way back in 1986. BMRDA covered the then-composite district of Bengaluru (which got divided in 2007 into Bengaluru Urban, Bengaluru Rural and Ramanagaram districts).

Nelamangala-Doddaballapura road outside Bengaluru, which has been marked for widening. Areas around the city are developing fast now. Pic: Mahesh Bhat

The BMRDA area of 8,005 km2 with an estimated population of 1.5 crore (as of 2019) is filling up with buildings as fast as the BBMP area once did. By 2030 the Bengaluru Metropolitan Region (BMR) will have a population of 2.2 crore, and by 2040, 3.3 crore. Nothing can stop this except the Malthusian checks of famine, diseases and death.

The bankrupt BBMP (it had to pledge its commercial complexes to pay salaries, and two years of contractors’ bills are pending), if continued in its present form, will destroy the Bengaluru metropolis. What also should be understood is, the cosmopolitan Bengaluru accounts for 40% of the state GDP, 50% of the total urban population of the state, and collects 65% of state’s tax revenue. It is an employment generator for not only Karnataka but also for states as far as those in Northeast India.

BBMP Bill has no solution to Bengaluru’s problems

The proposed BBMP Bill has no solutions for the ‘Four Horses of Bengaluru’s Apocalypse’:

  • Garbage
  • Traffic
  • Water
  • Pollution 
Banashankari residents queuing up for water even during COVID. BBMP hasn’t been able to solve critical problems like water shortage in the city. Pic: Radio Active 90.4MHz/Twitter

These problems can only be solved through serious implementation without leakages, and not by a new Bill that relies upon the existing unholy alliance between BBMP bureaucracy and small-time corporators.

The Bill has no clue as to how, by 2030, the BMR of 2.2 crore people in an area 10 times that of the present BBMP can be managed. It does not propose a central body for planning and implementing vital matters in the BMR.

The 74th Constitutional Amendment of 1992 defined a ‘metropolitan city’ as one with a population of 10 lakhs. But, Bengaluru is now past the size of 11 metropolitan cities combined. So the same administrative pattern applicable to a smaller city with a population of one or even five million is unrealistic here. Hence we need to look at the examples of other large global metropolitan cities such as London.

The Greater London model

London has a population of nine million in an area of 1,579 km2.  It does not have one London Municipal Corporation, but has the Greater London Authority (GLA) created in 2007. Under the GLA are 33 boroughs – of which 13 are ‘inner boroughs’ which are more densely populated, compared to the 20 ‘outer boroughs’. The population of each borough ranges from 1.5-3 lakh, with an average of 2.75 lakh.

The GLA is governed by the London Assembly (LA) that comprises:

  • A Mayor who is directly elected by all voters of Greater London
  • 25 directly elected members: Fourteen of them are elected on first-past-the-post basis (from 14 ‘super-constituencies’ into which Greater London is divided for the election). And the 11 other seats are for nomination by parties, in proportion to the votes they get in the 14 constituencies. (Representatives elected from the 33 boroughs are not part of LA.)

The GLA is responsible for public transport, main roads, traffic management, policing, fire brigade, land-use planning, housing, education and skill development, carbon-neutral energy, and all strategic planning for development. So, while the GLA deals with metropolitan issues, the boroughs deal with local issues.

The boroughs are legally bound to comply with the decisions of the LA. The LA is mostly funded by direct government grant along with some money collected as local Council Tax. The LA has also replaced many Government Boards and quasi-government organisations. The Mayor has enormous powers but his budget proposals are scrutinised by the LA. The Mayor, LA and the 33 borough system of Greater London works satisfactorily. 

Other metropolitan regions such as Greater Jakarta (Ja-Bo-De-Ta-Bek, with an area of 11,000 km2 and 3.2 cr population), Seoul-Gyeonggi (11,700 km2 and 2.5 cr popn) and Greater Tokyo-Yokohama (14,000 km2 and 3.8 cr popn) have similar governance structure, of a central metropolitan government dealing with major issues and many municipalities or “cities” under it dealing with local matters.  For instance, Seoul-Gyeonggi has 25 ‘Gus’ or towns.

Can this governance structure be replicated in Bengaluru? We explore this in Part 2 of the series.

[Disclaimer: This article is a citizen contribution. The views expressed here are those of the individual writer(s) and do not reflect the position of Citizen Matters.]

Also Read:
* Can the new BBMP Bill improve governance in Bengaluru?
* Are ward committee meetings improving governance in Bengaluru?

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