BENGALURU: Bengalureans expect a lot from Mr K.J. George, the newly appointed Bengaluru Minister. Troubled by garbage piles, pothole-filled roads, traffic gridlocks and overflowing drains, people expect him to hit the ground running and find immediate solutions to problems. Deccan Chronicle spoke to urban experts on the tasks before the new minister.
Ashwin Mahesh, urban planning expert:
When a new minister for Bengaluru is going to be governed by the same laws and will be controlled by the same state government, then what’s the need for a special Bengaluru minister? A Bengaluru minister is not a specific designation or a post, and it is only carved out of the roles and responsibilities of Urban Development minister’s portfolio. Now, the city has so many infrastructure woes and the problems in the city are just a reflection of the lack of proper governance structure.
The real issue is we have no proper governance, which is causing solid waste management and other similar problems. There needs to be some basic changes in the system if we have to see real time changes. For instance, we don’t have a directly elected mayor, and the mayor presents a budget at the end of his tenure.
While as soon as a mayor presents the budget, his tenure ends and the same applies to all who come to power after him. The city does not need an exclusive minister but the state government must approve the Restructuring Committee report and implement it. We need comprehensive legislation and the suggestions of the Patil Committee are sufficient enough to set the tone for the city’s development.
Mahalakshmi Parthasarathy, secretary, Citizens Action Forum:
The immediate priority for the minister should be to draw up the Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP) 2035. The city has had enough of haphazard planning and unprecedented growth. A vision to develop our roads, manage our garbage, improve infrastructure is the need of the hour and the CDP must be prepared, taking cognisance of citizens’ views.
Among many things that need immediate attention, the minister should fix financial accountability and ensure that the available green cover and government land is not encroached upon in the city. We have seen the BBMP technically fail in contributing to city’s development. People must be involved to decide how the city must be planned. The CDP should take the socio-economic status of the city into consideration. If Mumbai can have a well prepared CDP, why not Bengaluru?
5 tasks for the minister:
Confidence Building Measures: Normally in the context of Indo-Pak talks we hear CBMs, or Confidence Building Measures. The new Bengaluru Minister needs to give confidence to Bengalureans that we have someone in charge we can depend on to deliver improved quality of life in the city. Bengaluru is the premier city in the state which enriches the state’s coffers, but is in a mess in terms of physical, social infrastructure and service delivery. If we don’t start fixing Bengaluru, the prospects of attracting investors in the Invest Karnataka event next year is in jeopardy.
Integrating for outcomes: Government agencies operate in water tight silos. Government announcements are normally spending proposals in crores. But what is needed by citizens is good outcomes that normally depend on multiple agencies working in sync. The role of the Bengaluru Minister is to ensure tight integration across government agencies.
Address key concerns of the city: The top three concerns of Bengalureans relate to garbage, public health and traffic (including road condition). The solutions to address these issues are well known.
The problem is poor implementation: The minister needs to review the possible solutions suggested and come up with a time-bound plan to execute it effectively.
Bring in accountability: There is a huge trust deficit between citizens and government manifest in lower property tax compliance. If this trust deficit is to go, the government needs to be more accountable. Transparency is important and the minister needs make government agencies less opaque. Government officials have to be held accountable for their inaction.
Improve effectiveness of government agencies: There is scope to improve government agency functioning by structural changes, capacity building and infusion of new talent. The minister needs to be innovative in building the requisite manpower that can deliver to citizens’ expectations. (Writer is civic evangelist)