Why should Chief Minister head city’s planning wing?

City think tank points out flaws in city planning bill. Top issues: Planning is not linked to budget; No public consultation in planning.

Following is the text of objections and recommendations by CIVIC.

  1. Rules should be general: They should be applicable to any metropolitan city in Karnataka – not just Bangalore, as many other cities in Karnataka have reached or are fast-approaching the population mark of 10 lakhs and will require MPCs to be set up.

Recommendation: The Rules need to be general, to apply to all cities which cross the 10 lakh population limit.

  1. Public discussion needs to happen: There has been no prior public intimation of the intention of the government to draft the said Rules as per Section 4(1)(c) and (d) of the RTI Act, 2005. Therefore citizens have been given no chance to offer suggestionswhile formulating the draft Rules, which is a violation of Section 4(1)(c) of the RTI Act.

Recommendation:  The time for receiving feedback needs to be extended and the draft and deadline for recommendations need to be publicised through all major Kannada and English newspapers.

  1. Non-adherence to the spirit of the 74th Constitutional Amendment (CA): The current draft bill seems to have only two functions – (i) Comply with the High Court order only to meet minimum requirements rather than develop an MPC that will be autonomous, participatory and accountable to the people, and (ii) maintain status quo on the current situation of state government control over (a) the planning of Bangalore and (b) state government control over the para-statal agencies that are currently doing independent sectoral planning  for Bangalore, especially the BMRDA and BDA.

The opening lines of the ‘Statement of Objects and Reasons’ of the 74th Amendment make it clear that the intent of the Amendment is to empower local urban bodies to function as “Vibrant democratic units of self-government,” and the reason why this has not happened is that there has been undue interference from the State Governments.  These draft rules too fail at this fundamental level for the same reasons.

Recommendation: In order to implement the spirit of the 74th Constitutional Amendment, it is necessary to grant the Metropolitan Planning Committee (MPC) a level of autonomy that will allow the planning of Bengaluru to be implemented by a “vibrant democratic unit of self-government.”

  1. Not defining “metropolitan area”: The very definition of the area that is to be covered by the MPC has not been defined and that it has been stated that the MPC will be non-functional until this area is defined.  But no time-frame has been specified within which this area will be defined to let the MPC start functioning. A time-frame within which the MPC will be constituted is also missing. Is this a means of pulling the wool over the High Court’s eyes as the Rules for the MPC have been drafted as per the Court’s directive but the actual functioning of the MPC can now be kept in limbo by not defining the metropolitan area for an indefinite length of time?

Recommendation: We insist that the ‘metropolitan area’ should be defined while issuing the final Rules in the gazette;  that the metropolitan area should include both Bangalore (Urban) and Bangalore (Rural) districts; and that a time-frame should be set within which the MPC will be set up.

  1. Two-thirds membership to elected representatives: No sub-quota within the urban quota for representatives of municipalities falling within the MPC area other than what the BBMP has been given. Without this the MPC will be dominated by BBMP corporators only.  Deputy Chairpersons cannot be allowed as per provisions of Article 243ZE (2) (b) of the Constitution. In these respects, the draft rules do not conform to the 74th Amendment.

Recommendation: There must be a sub-quota in the urban quota for representatives of municipalities falling within the MPC area other than the BBMP. As far as rural representatives are concerned, only Chairpersons of Panchayats should be allowed and not Deputy Chairpersons.

  1. BBMP Mayor and Commissioner are not members, but CM and UD Minister are!: The Mayor of Bangalore, who represents the largest and most important area of the Bangalore Metropolitan Area, and the BBMP Commissioner are not automatic members of the MPC.  Instead, the Chief Minister and the Minister for Urban Development are included as members of the MPC. The 74th CA says that the plan of the MPC shall be handed over to the government.  So here we have a situation where the CM, as member of MPC, will be handing over the plan to himself! If the BBMP Mayor wants to be on the MPC, he has to stand for election to the MPC along with the others!  But the BBMP Commissioner can have no say at all in the MPC!

This clearly indicates that the intention is not to devolve planning powers to the representatives of the local bodies but to retain them with the State government. If we are to facilitate the autonomy of local government as intended by the 74th Amendment, it goes against its spirit to include two of the most powerful members of the State Government within the MPC and exclude the two most important members of the local bodies in the metropolitan area.

Recommendation: We insist that the BBMP Mayor and Commissioner should automatically become members of the MPC and the CM and UD minister should not be members.

  1. Chairperson not specified: It is also strange that the post of Chairperson of the MPC has been left to the committee to decide.  In a committee which has the CM as the member, will anyone else dare to get the other members to vote for him and don the role of chairperson? It appears that this has been deliberately left undecided to mask the fact that the state government is being given the handles of power in the Committee.

Recommendation: A chairperson, other than the CM, should be specified at the time of finalising the Rules to avoid confusion and conflicts later.  The Zilla Panchayat presidents of Bangalore (Urban) and Bangalore (Rural) districts could be co-chairpersons.

  1. MLAs and MLCs as members with voting powers: The 74th CA does not say that there can be Permanent Invitees to the MPC, or that MLAs and MLCs should be members of the MPC. That MLAs and MLCs have been accommodated in the MPC is an arrangement chosen by the Karnataka government in its conformity legislation to the 74th CA (KMC Amdt. Act).  This arrangement actually allows the state government to have a role in the affairs of local self-governments which is against the spirit of the 74th CA.

It should also be considered that members of local bodies will be overawed in the presence of MLAs and MLCs and be unable to voice their real feelings and opinions in their presence. It is undesirable that MLAs and MLCs should be given the status of permanent invitees. It will make the meetings of the body unwieldy. There are more than 35 legislators, both MLAs and MLCs, who are going to be made permanent invitees. In fact, the number of permanent invitees will exceed the numbers of formal members. True, legislators do not have a legitimate voice in the development and planning process in Bangalore. However, for all of them to be represented in their individual capacities would be a travesty of the constitutional provisions.

We wish it to be clearly stated in the Rules that, if the MLAs and MLCs are continued as ‘permanent invitees’, they should not be given voting rights. If given the right to vote, they can out-vote the 20 elected representatives of the local bodies who are formal members on the MPC.

Recommendation: We recommend that an amendment be brought to the KMC Act to remove the presence of all MLAs and MLCs on the MPC. Instead, two positions can be provided in the formal membership of the MPC  for one representative of the MLAs and one for the MLCs, by allowing the MLAs and MLCs to choose one from among themselves who will represent their collective interest as legislators in the MPC.

  1. No representation to civil society: The MPC has elected representatives and officials and just two non-official experts in town planning as special invitees. There is no representation to the real stakeholders of the metropolitan area, the citizens and their associations. The BMRDA, for instance, has four members appointed by the Government representing labour, women and Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. The BDA too has similar representation on its Board for SC/ST, etc.

Recommendation: Rather than individuals representing the disadvantaged, as in BMRDA and BDA, the associations of farmers, trade unions and traders’ unions, small-scale industries, unorganised workers’ unions, slum-dwellers’ federations, federations of RWAs, federations of women’s SHGs, federations of NGOs, children’s rights groups, SC/ST associations and other stakeholders in the metropolitan area, ideally, need to be represented on the MPC and given a voice in the decision-making body, by increasing the number of members if need be.

  1. Consultations while preparing draft plan: There is only a fleeting reference to “consult NGOs and other professional bodies” in preparing the draft development plan.  It is not mentioned which are the stakeholders to be consulted, except for the Chamber of Commerce and Town planners, showing a bias towards experts and the elite in society.

Recommendation:  Broad-based mandatory consultations to allow greater people’s participation should be held by the MPC with various interest groups  at the time of drafting the sectoral plans. The rules should specify the following groups with which mandatory consultations should be held in order to make the plan truly ‘inclusive’ as these are the groups who are under-represented in the corridors of power and whose interests are the ones that need to be planned for in the development plan if it is to be truly ‘inclusive’.  If left to the whims of the MPC, they may never consult these  groups:   farmers, trade unions, vendors, small traders, small-scale industries, unorganised workers, slum-dwellers, RWAs, women, NGOs, children’s rights groups, SC/STs, environmentalists, etc.

  1. Matters the MPC is to have regard to when formulating plans: There has been a tendency in Indian cities to formulate plans that are directed primarily at the interests of elite minorities of the city, and the needs of the less privileged segments of the population are not considered. To counter this, in defining what the MPC should have regard to when formulating plans, it should be stipulated that the plan should seek to be as inclusive as possible, and attempt to consider the population of the entire city, especially the marginalised.

Planning by the MPC should not be not just spatial but also developmental and sectoral, as the main function spelt out in the 73rd and 74th CA for the third tiers of government is that they should ‘plan for economic development and social justice’. The Twelfth Schedule of the 74th Amendment has listed 18 functions for urban local bodies.  The MPC needs to prepare plans for all these sectors.   These include, among others, safeguarding the interests of the weaker sections, slum improvement and upgradation, urban poverty alleviation, etc.

Recommendation: The plan prepared by the MPC should be a ‘plan  for economic development and social justice’, which is the main function envisaged for local bodies under the 74th CA, and not just a spatial, zoning or ‘engineering’ plan.  It needs to spell out what the MPC is going to do in terms of performance targets and outcomes for all the 18 functions listed in the 12th Schedule of the 74th CA, how it is going to do it, the cost for implementing the plans, how the resources will be raised and what is the monitoring and evaluation system.

  1. Predominant role of para-statal agencies: The rules accept the status quo of the continued existence of para-statal agencies, namely, Bangalore Development Authority, Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board, and Bangalore Electricity Supply Company, etc. Officers drawn from the state administrative service run these organisations, report to the state government, state government controls the funding of these organisations, and they are outside the control of local government. Without effective local control over these organisations the MPC is reduced to a figurehead.

Recommendation: Parastatal agencies should be brought either under the control of the MPC or local bodies, depending on their jurisdictions and made accountable to them. They should act as the technical wings supporting the MPC and local bodies, rather than being independent planning authorities. Their planning functions should be transferred to the MPC and/or local bodies as explained below.

  1. Municipalities and panchayats left out: Article 243ZE (3) (i) of the 74th CA speaks of plans prepared by municipalities and panchayats in the metropolitan areas. However, Rule 9(2) (a) (i) and (ii) makes no reference to municipalities and panchayats, but refers to ‘Local Authorities’. This is a huge deviation from the constitutional intent, its implications are far reaching and, with this, the entire constitutional spirit and purpose of the MPC is totally lost.

The constitution envisages through the 73rd and 74th amendments that municipalities and panchayats will prepare plans for economic and social development for their areas. (Article 243W (a) (i) for Municipalities and Article 243G (a) for Panchayats). In Karnataka, while there has been devolution of powers to prepare economic and social development plans to the Panchayats, no such planning powers have yet been devolved to municipalities.

It is this failing of Karnataka that finds reflection in the draft MPC rules also. The implications of this glaring inconsistency, is that the MPC’s purpose is diverted from considering panchayat and municipality plans and focused on examination of para-statal plans. We will thus have a body with 2/3rds of the representation comprising of the elected representatives of the municipalities and panchayats, but they will not be discussing the integration of their plans into the draft development plan. Instead, they will be deliberating upon the spatial plans prepared by the BDA and the BMRDA, the authorities in which they have no say.

So the question is: who will prepare plans for economic and social development? On the one hand, the BDA and BMRDA do not have the authority to do so. On the other, the panchayat and municipality prepared plans can be marginalised because the reference is to local authorities and not to panchayats and municipalities, in the rules.

Recommendation: Given the above glaring inconsistencies, the language in Draft rule 9(2)(a) should strictly follow word by word, the provisions of Article 243ZE(3) (a) (i), (ii), (iii) and (iv) of the Constitution and call for preparation of plans by municipalities and panchayats and not ‘Local authorities’.

  1. Absence of  necessary officials: Though the Draft Rules include most of the 18  subjects in the 12th Schedule among the functions of the MPC, the concerned officials dealing with these subjects are not members of the MPC. Only officials heading BWSSB and BESCOM are represented on the MPC, while there are no officials representing the housing department, slum board, women and children, welfare, labour, employment, transport, environment, etc. who are necessary if an inclusive plan for ‘economic development and social justice’ is to be prepared. Many of these officials are however members of the BMRDA.  And while the Mayor of Bangalore finds no place on the MPC, he is a member of the BMRDA!

Recommendation: As the plan should not just be a spatial, zoning and engineering plan, all officials necessary for planning for the expanded role of local bodies to bring about inclusive economic development and social justice should be ex-officio members of the MPC for providing technical support. Or they could be merely part of the sectoral sub-committees to be set up (as explained below).

  1. Constitution of Sub-Committees (Rule 8): The Rule 8 is vague and does not specify on what subjects sub-committees may be formed and who may sit on the sub-committees.  The Kolkata MPC has five specified sub-committees for sectoral issues.  But the kind of broad freedom foreseen in the current Draft Rules to constitute sub-committees which may not even include members of the MPC,  is tantamount to handing over control of key functions to friends or influential persons belonging to elite sections of society.

Such tendency has been amply demonstrated earlier by the setting up of such elite committees which are not accountable to anybody. To ensure the sub-committees’ proper relationship to the MPC, it should be made necessary that more than half the members of the sub-committee should be members of the MPC, and the non-members (persons or organizations) to be  nominated should be those with a demonstrated track record of expertise that is relevant to the purpose of the sub-committee.

Recommendation: In order to ensure that the expanded roles of the third tier of governance as spelt out in the 12th Schedule of the 74th CA are taken into account, the following Sectoral Committees need to be specified in the Rules to draw up sectoral plans.  The sub-committees can be carved out of the main MPC:

  • Land-use planning
  • Water, sewerage and sanitation
  • Health, education and Early Childhood Care & Development (ECCD)
  • Urban poverty alleviation & housing (inclusive of SC/ST and other issues)
  • Economic development, livelihood, skill training and social security
  • Power, roads and transport, railways
  • Environment, wetlands, parks and playgrounds

Sectoral experts and the above-mentioned federations of interest groups, having expertise and experience in the individual sectors,  also need to be made part of the sectoral committees, on the lines of working groups, and their sectoral plans  should be incorporated in the overall plan through suitable convergence with other sectoral plans.

Relevant departments/parastatals could act as the technical support wings to assist the sectoral committees,  such as DULT/BMLTA for transport, BWSSB for water and sewerage; Urban Poverty Alleviation & Slum Redevelopment Authority under RAY for urban poverty alleviation and housing, BESCOM for power, etc.

Each technical wing of MPC [such as BWSSB, BESCOM, Urban Poverty Alleviation & Slum- Redevelopment Authority, etc., and the others to be created for each sectoral committee] could have a BBMP wing and be answerable to BBMP.

  1. Bottom-up planning: For effective local governance, decentralisation at multiple levels is needed.  The 74th Amendment recognises the levels of Metropolitan Planning Committee, Municipality, and Ward Committee. Since then, recognition has been granted to a further level of decentralisation – the Area Sabha.  If the relationship between these levels is not articulated, then the intent of the 74th Amendment will not be served.

Recommendation: The rules should require that the plans formulated by the MPC should be based on maximizing the extent of possible decentralisation, and all levels below the MPC should be empowered to the maximum extent possible. The rules should also stipulate the way in which the different levels communicate with each other, and are required to give consideration to any submissions of lower and higher levels.

  1. Approval of the plan: The 74th CA does say that the MPC should prepare a draft plan and submit it to the government. The implication is that the state government will finalise the Plan, meaning it can either approve it and provide sanction or reject the Plan, though it is not specifically stated so in the 74th CA. This is a weak point in the 74th CA.  If it is for approval and sanction, then what of the autonomy of the MPC to make its own plans for the local self-governments in the MPC area? Strictly, the plans made by the MPC should not be changed by the higher level of government unless they are violative of the larger policies, priorities and framework set by the State government.

The current Draft Rules say that the MPC will send its Draft Plan to the Director, Town Planning, BMRDA, and the government for approval. The CM is the Chairperson of the BMRDA. So while playing his role as chairperson of BMRDA and head of government, will he ‘disapprove’ the plans made by himself  as the member or  chairperson of the MPC? 

There is a conflict of interest here. Hence the CM cannot be a member of the MPC which makes the plans, and also the head of government which approves or rejects it. This is against the principle that you cannot be a judge in your own cause.

Recommendation: The reasons on what basis the plans of the MPC may be modified or rejected by the government may be broadly specified so that the plans are not changed merely to suit the convenience of the state government or to satisfy its whims.  The CM should not be a member of the MPC as he is the final approving authority of the MPC’s plan in the state government.

  1. Finances: There needs to be an MPC fund into which all the Central and State government allocations are deposited as existing for the BMRDA. Merely planning without an assurance of the fund availability will lead to castles being built in the air.  Planning without assured finances has resulted in the plans remaining on paper in the Kolkata MPC. The MPC should also know the extent of finances available with the service and development agencies for which it is planning.

Recommendation: Planning has to be realistic, based on the actual availability of assured funds to avoid plans remaining on paper.

  1. Role of BMRDA: The BMRDA was supposed to be abolished once the MPC was set up as per the KMC (Amdt.) Act. But an amendment has been made to the KMC Act continuing the existence of BMRDA. The Kasturirangan Committee on Bangalore Region Governance had recommended that the area comprising Bangalore (Urban), Bangalore (Rural) and Ramanagaram districts should come under the MPC and the BMRDA should be the secretariat of the MPC. Since the government has decided to make the BDA the secretariat of the MPC, we assume that it is feeling that the BMRDA region comprising three districts is too unwieldy and that the Metropolitan Area to be covered by the MPC should be smaller, which we also find desirable.

Recommendation: Either BMRDA should be abolished or converted into the secretariat for the MPC. Its jurisdiction should be the same as the Metropolitan Area defined for the MPC.  In that case, the BDA should become the technical wing of BBMP.

  1. Transparency requirements: The transparency requirement stipulated is that a notice only needs to be displayed in one local newspaper, and there is no stipulation on how prominent this notice should be, so it is possible to publish a notice that can get lost in the fine print. Given that the goal should be to attract the attention of the public, the stipulation on any announcement on plans should include:

  1. Display of notice in all major newspapers in both local and English language and the notice should be such that it is visually prominent to anyone reading the newspaper.
  2. Display of notice at all Bangalore One centres.
  3. Display on the home page of the MPC and all urban local body websites.
  4. Display on the notice board of all Ward Committee offices

In addition to this, the draft development plans plus the record of all deliberations of the MPC should be accessible on the MPC website, and should be available in both Kannada and English.

The plans for the Planning Districts should be displayed at the ward offices situated within the concerned planning districts to elicit suggestions from the local community and should also be made available for discussion to the ward committees and the Area Sabhas.

Final conclusion

In its current form of composition and functions, the MPC is not designed to perform its constitutional function as an integral part of a democratic decentralised structure of multi-level government. Instead, it seems to be nothing more than another layer of centralised control, which is evident in its proposed composition with predominance of State entities represented.

These distortions in the MPC rules appear to be the result of Karnataka’s weak urban decentralisation structure. The resistance of Karnataka to implement the provisions of the Constitution with respect to the devolution of planning powers to municipalities, has meant that planning responsibilities have been centralised in the hands of para-statals, the BDA and the BMRDA which were created prior to the 74th amendment. The Town and Country Planning Act too is derived from a pre-independence pattern of spatial planning. There has been no attempt to re-align the pre-constitutional amendment system in Karnataka with the new requirements after the constitutional amendment.

This means that we are living in a system with huge contradictions, where planning powers vest in para-statal agencies. Therefore, the current MPC rules are symptomatic of a much deeper dysfunctionality. There is need for larger process of harmonisation of the law with the constitutional intent. The above suggestions are made in this regard.

The above response has been provided by Kathyayini Chamraj, Executive Trustee, CIVIC, Bangalore, and published with a bit of editing.

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