What is the role of prominent citizens in planning a city? This is not a straightforward question to answer, because it is not so simple to say who is prominent in the first place!! The elected representatives have primacy in governance, but what about the others?
And as a city gets larger, this question only becomes more complicated. Therefore, when the government selects a set of people to help it plan the future of the city, it is natural that some people feel, "are these the right people to be doing this, in the first place?"
Who's to say? There's bound to be plenty of debate about that, and for all sorts of reasons. People are liked and disliked by others for a wide range of reasons, and in the political arena, the full spectrum of all that can get quite ugly.
Therefore, it's best not to look at individuals, and let the government take a call on whose advice it wants. Instead, we should focus on the process by which such advice is given, and acted upon. That's where there are big problems with the way the Bangalore Blueprint Action Group has been constituted and mandated.
There is an existing law that the city should be planned by a Metropolitan Planning Committee. Which exists on paper, but doesn't do any work. Rather than have a vision group do un-mandated work, and an MPC not do its mandated work, it would be better to have the vision group's members themselves within the MPC, and do mandated work. That way, their expertise can be obtained, and due process can be followed.
We often fall into the trap of trying to judge individuals, but institutions outlast individuals, and therefore the more strength we can build into processes in government, the better. There are plenty of people to give ideas on what the city needs, but very few to give them within the framework of the laws, in a widely representative manner. That is the true deficit that all vision groups will need to bridge.
The writer is an urban expert