Bengaluru: Less than a day after the state government announced its decision to set up the Bengaluru Blueprint Action Group, the vision group has run into rough weather.
Voices of dissent are growing, with civic activists and citizen welfare action groups demanding the government constitute a Metropolitan Planning Committee, sanctioned under the Karnataka Municipal Act, that would function as a statutory body instead of yet another talking shop.
MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar, who actively worked for Vision Bengaluru 2020 under Agenda for Bengaluru Infrastructure Development (ABIDE) said, "The focus of the government must be on fixing broken governance and rampant corruption in Bengaluru. The first 'vision' must be to operationalise the Metro Planning Committee ( MPC) which is mandated by the law. The Chief Minister must not make this a photo-opportunity, and instead make this group a part of the MPC and therefore, accountable."
Forums like Citizen Action Group and urban expert Ashwin Mahesh too have demanded that a MPC be set up. The question is - can the BBAG rise above all opposition to deliver what Bengaluru needs?
The city is not new to vision committees and has seen the likes of the Bengaluru Agenda Task Force (BATF) and Agenda for Bengaluru Infrastructure Development (ABIDe) attempt to give it direction in the past. Now the Siddaramaiah government has come up with a vision panel of its own .
The Bengaluru Blueprint Action Group (BBAG) will be an elite panel of 25 and include hi- tech giants like Infosys co-founder , N.R.Narayana Murthy and Wipro honcho, Azim Premji. Its task ? To act as an additional planning body for the city.
Former members of BATF and ABIDe like Bicon CMD, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, academician Mohandas Pai, architect, Ramesh Ramanathan, solid waste management expert, Kalpana Kar and R.K Misra find place on BBAG too.
But the state government’s decision to form BBAG when the demand for a Metropolitan Planning Committee is growing, has surprised some civic activists, who are also sceptical about the inclusion of Flipkart co-founder, Sachin Bhansal in the new committee.
But Mr Misra asserts that every member will have a role to play. “While not everyone may know everything, someone may know something, . Bengaluru is an industrial hub and it’s meaningful to have businessmen on board,” he argues.
“We cannot expect Mr Azim Premji to walk on the road and give instructions to government officials. But some of us are willing to get our hands dirty and as we know our way around these officials, we will ensure that the ideas are carried out.. The committee will be focused with a schedule and an action plan in place,” he adds.
The fact that the end of Yeddyurappa and S.M Krishna governments also spelt the end of ABIDe and BATF, raises concern about the future of BBAG too. But Mr Mohandas Pai hopes that any government that succeeds the present will also see the need for such a committee and respond to the needs of Bengalureans.
“Fund allocations for Bengaluru have been the highest over the last three years and the government looks determined to channeling the city’s development in the right path,” he says .
ABIDE: Big 10 its big achievement
The Agenda for Bengaluru Infrastructure Development (ABIDe) focused on the city's heritage, roads, traffic management and transportation, besides governance.
To its credit, the committee was responsible for the BIG-10 buses, promoted the idea of a ward having its own office offering all BBMP services and suggested dual piping for BDA layouts.
Under its direction roads in BDA layouts are now built in such a way that footpaths are adjacent to properties and the storm water drains lie between them and the road. Earlier the storm water drain was between properties.
MPC better idea any day: Ashwin
Excerpts from urban expert, Ashwin Mahesh’s open letter to BBAG members
There is one glaring oversight in the appointment of members to the Action Group.
The law requires planning of the city to be carried out by a Metropolitan Planning Committee, duly constituted in accordance with the 74th Amendment Act. So it is not right to have the functions of the MPC carried out by other entities.
In the past, many of you (members) have been strong supporters of the MPC and have mentioned it in your own recommendations to the government and reforms commissions. Many of you have served in positions explicitly designed to bring about Constitutional and administrative reforms. So it would be improper for you to be part of this Action Group now.
At the same time, as I said earlier, I value the inputs that many of you can bring to the government. The way to achieve this is for you to be members of the MPC itself, and bring about the needed changes through legal institutions of governance.
Please also recall that extra-Constitutional bodies tend to be limited to the life of the governments that appoint them. Both ABIDe and BATF died with the governments that set them up. Whereas what the city needs is PERMANENT intervention for improvement through the MPC. I urge you to advise the government to nominate you to the MPC instead, and disband the Action Group.
BATF: the forerunner of BBAG
Set up in 1999 under then Chief Minister S.M Krishna, the Bengaluru Agenda Task Force (BATF) was a partnership between citizens, corporates and the administrative agencies like the BBMP, BDA, BMTC,BWSSB, BESCOM, BSNL, and the police. It tried to bring together the key players under a ‘Private Public Partnership’ (PPP) to enable synergy of effort and visibility of result. The team was headed by IT whiz, Nandan Nilekani, and had activists like Kalpana Kar, Ramesh Ramanathan, Ravichander, Suresh Heblikar on board. Nirmala toilets, beautification of parks, installation of signages to give an international look to city were its priorities.
MPC has not met once!
While the Metropolitan Planning Committee (MPC) headed by the Chief Minister himself has not met even once the state government has constituted yet another body, the Bengaluru Blueprint Action Group (BBAG) to prepare a blueprint for the city. Its recommendations are supposed to find their way into the upcoming Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP).
Although the group constitutes eminent people, I take serious exception to Mr Mohandas Pai,cChairman of Manipal Global Education being appointed on it as he figures in a zoning violation controversy involving an eatery in which his son was a partner.
—Nitin Sheshadri, member of Koramangala Residents Welfare Association (RWA)