The announcement of yet another, and admittedly elite even if not elitist, committee to draw up yet another blueprint for the city’s governance and development has inevitably led to criticism. For one, will the BBAG succeed where earlier ‘vision’ groups have not. For another, while BBAG members are all above reproach, on this issue, Caesar himself is not above suspicion. CM Siddaramaiah heads the Metropolitan Planning Committee, a Constitutionally-mandated body of urban governance, too, and yet it has not met even once since being formed in 2014. So, with BBAG, will Mr. Siddaramiah prove his critics wrong by actually acting on whatever recommendations the panel makes?
Vivek Menon, urban expert and member of BBAG:
Although we have enough para statal agencies, they are not capable of fully meeting people's needs . Civil society needs to get involved to give them a helping hand. Although MPC is a constitutionally mandated body we cannot expect it to deliver everything. If you look at the present trend, civil society has championed several causes like that of the Kaikondarahalli lake, which has been beautifully developed now. If it had been left to the BBMP, BDA or LDA alone, the result would not have been the same. So instead of politicising the issue we should be happy at the way capacity has been boosted. Roping in private bodies adds capacity and increases investments too.
Kalpana Kar, director, Microland and representative of Wake Up Clean Up:
MPC is an umbrella organisation covering multiple agencies. Members of BBAG too will function under the Chief Minister, who is the elected representative and head of the state. The vision group will only come up with a road map or blueprint for the growth of Bengaluru which can be presented to the MPC , also headed by the Chief Minister. We are in a crab-like situation where no one will not let anyone else progress too. Getting people from different walks of life and having them work under the Chief Minister is an excellent idea for the development of the city.
What’s the MPC for?
The MPC was constituted to come up with policies, strategies and priorities for the city besides major projects for a plan period of five years touching poverty alleviation and employment in both formal and informal sectors, development of trade, commerce and industry, rural development, transportation , and integrated infrastructure development covering water, energy, sanitation, education, health, recreation , communication and housing.
Who all are in it
Of the MPC’s 30 members, 18 are corporators, two are elected members of zilla, taluk and gram panchayats in BBMP jurisdiction and 10 other members include the Chief Minister, minister for urban development, principal secretary, urban development, a Member of Parliament, commissioners of BBMP, BDA, BMRDA and BWSSB, director of town planning and the secretary, finance.
‘Politicians want to control city’s planning without transparency’
On the face of it there doesn’t seem to be much wrong with constituting a vision group with prominent citizens from various walks of life on board to give direction to a city growing haphazardly, with serious consequences for its environment and people’s well being. You only have to look at the garbage crisis to realize how badlly managed Bengaluru is and how much help it needs. But is constituting the Bengaluru Blueprint Action Group (BBAG) the answer?
Besides IT honchos like Azim Premji and N.R. Narayanamurthy, BBAG also has on board Kiran Mazumdar Shaw of Biocon as well as prominent academicians and activists, who will be expected to guide the city’s development. And if these movers, shakers and thinkers cannot be trusted to provide the right inputs for its growth, few others can.
So while on the one hand the government has to be applauded for placing trust in such individuals, the fact remains that it could in the process be silently killing the Metropolitan Planning Committee (MPC), a Constitutional body established after much struggle by civic activists and members of Resident Welfare Associations (RWA), who are now up in arms, and charging the government with overriding Constitutional provisions and the Karnataka Municipal Corporation (KMC) Act, 1976 in setting up BBAG.
Instead of giving it wings, it has been crippled before it could even take off, they complain. Rajya Sabha member, Rajeev Chandrasekhar who was instrumental in the formation of the MPC, says establishing a non-Constitutional body like BBAG with a similar agenda is ultra vires and contrary to Constitutional provisions.
“The formation of BBAG shows that politicians want to control Bengaluru planning without transparency and accountability for reasons best known to them. The essence of public participation is lost as there is no direct citizens’ participation in such a body as mandated under the 74th amendment of the Constitution,” he argues, demanding, “Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has to tell us why he is undermining a Constitutional body like the MPC, when he is its chairman. If he is keen on development of the city, why has he not met its members even once in the two years that it has been around to brainstorm strategies?”
While he has no objection to people like N.R. Narayana Murthy and Azim Premji being members of any committee, he believes they could also be inducted as members of MPC and still contribute to the city’s development. Pointing out that when the BATF and ABIDe were formed by former Chief Ministers S. M. Krishna and B. S. Yeddyurappa respectively, the city had no MPC, he contends that establishing an extra constitutional body to do its work now is unacceptable. “This is a glaring error and must be addressed. People are unlikely to tolerate killing of Constitutional provisions and they are aware enough to take legal action,” he warns.
Urban expert, Ashwin Mahesh too regrets that having created the MPC, the government failed to appoint its members or call a meeting to discuss Bengaluru’s problems, which are only growing by the day....