The BBMP Restructuring exercise is about Reimagining Bengaluru’s Governance and Administration – across the Municipal Corporation and the mutliple ‘para-statals’ thate xist currently. BBMP (Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagar Palike) is not representative of Bengaluru and neither is Bengaluru just BBMP – headlines saying the Committee’s recommendation is splitting the city is plain wrong and misses the many nuances made out in the Committee’s recommendations. Yes, BBMP is the third tier of elected government and a very important part of the overall solution. In its current form, it is dysfunctional for a variety of reasons (detailed out in the initial committee report) and unable to do its part in addressing civic issues. And to fix Bengaluru, we need to reform BBMP and the myriad other agencies tasked with planning, transport, water, sewerage, lakes, traffic, safety, roads, power, etc.
The focus of the Expert Committee on BBMP Restructuring (BBMPr) – improve quality of life and work for all citizens and strengthen brand Bengaluru.
Key highlights of BBMPr Expert Committee’s work:
The spirit of the 74th Constitutional Amendment Act (CAA) has guided the Committee’s recommendations. A 3-tier framework for Bengaluru governance and administration is suggested for an area covering the Bengaluru Development Authority (BDA) area. The BBMPr Expert Committee recommendations through 10 reports (starting with an inital report and ending with a draft bill for Bengaluru) are reasonably exhaustive about the way forward. The mandate was setting out the ‘scaffolding’ needed for building the Bengaluru of the future. Done right, it will address the woes of traffic, garbage, water, lakes, pollution, roads, flooding, safety, health and education, and grow the work economy in an inclusive manner.
The future lies in a city-region framework across the entire State. Each region should ideally have an anchor city and three to four nodal towns with high connectivity, which function as ‘live and work’ economies. To make Bengaluru (712 sq km) work, the 8,000 sq km Bengaluru Metropolitan Region is suggested as the Metropolitan Planning Committee (MPC) as mandated by the 74th CAA.
At Bengaluru city level, a three-tier framework is suggested. At the apex level, it has the Greater Bengaluru Authority (GBA) which is the integrator across the City Corporation and the multiple civic agencies. They would be tasked with planning for the city and coordinating actions across agencies for desired outcomes. City scale activities such as transport would be anchored here. A directly elected mayor (five-year term limit) would head the GBA in due course with the Chief Minister being in charge initially. The CM as head was suggested initially since there are a host of legacy challenges created through setting up ‘para-statal’ agencies in the city as State instruments, which need to be resolved in terms of respecting the GBA as the ultimate city authority. Once done, a directly elected mayor will have the necessary authority to run the GBA and can be held accountable.
The draft bill has suggested that the ‘para-statal’ government departments like BDA, BWSSB recognise the GBA as the authority of city’s interests and Corporation entities like BMRCL, BMTC, BESCOM, etc. make relevant changes to their Articles of Association to take their cues from the GBA. And all State government money flow to these agencies through the GBA. This would include the proposed Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority (UMTA) to integrate all transport agencies.
At the mid-tier, five corporations, with two administrative zones each, is suggested as part of the decentralisation thrust. This is part of the political and administrative decentralisation needed. The current BBMP is too large and unwieldy to be managed as a single entity. With multiple corporations, Corporators will be closer to their constituents and local issues can be raised and resolved in smaller units. The Mayor in Council would head these corporations and be supported by a Commissioner as chief executive. This is distinctly different from the current system which is effectively run by a single commissioner.
At the third tier lies ward governance reforms for deep decentralisation and citizen participation. An innovative 20-member ward committee structure has been set out – 10 political representatives through proportional representation (every 10 per cent vote share in the corporation ward election gets a representative seat) and 10 from resident welfare associations (RWAs), vulnerable groups and non-governmental organisations with applicable quota rules. The current system of veto power with the Corporator needs to go. Wards will get to keep a proportion of the taxes collected for local area improvement. There is a provision in the draft bill for Citizen groups involved in improving commons like lakes, waste management, etc. to engage formally with BBMP.
A City Finance Commission would ensure parity among the different corporations based on their own resources and development needs – the mechanism to do this will be the State government grants to the Corporations being allocated appropriately between the multiple Corporations. A City Services Ombudsman would address citizen grievances by way of directing the respective civic agencies. Currently, Bengaluru is governed by Karnataka Municipal Act, which is also applicable for a three-lakh city such as Tumakuru. We need a separate act for a mega city like Bengaluru and a detailed draft bill based on the above framework is ready for consideration. The committee also put out recommendations for updated cadre and recruitment rules for BBMP, a strategic planning framework to replace the current Master Plan approach, a municipalisation committee for proactive fixing of urban villages on the outskirts, setting up a spatial information centre and methods for innovative land procurement for public purposes on a win-win basis.
The BBMPr Expert Committee has suggested around 400 wards in place of the current 198. To enable this, the Committee digitised over 16,000 census blocks and came out with a rationale to fix the ward sizes scientifically based on likely future growth. This can be used as a guide by the State Election Commission ahead of the next BBMP elections. However, to do 400 wards, the Legislature will need to pass a separate Act or amend the Karnataka Municipal Corporation (KMC) Act which freezes the current maximum wards at 200.
The Committee also undertook a pilot property tax in 3 wards that established that there is scope to double the property tax collection. One important reform to achieve this will be to separate the department in BBMP that assesses and tax potential and the department tasked with property tax collections. The Activity mapping exercise undertaken in the first committee report as well bringing 104 GIS layers onto a single base map for Bengaluru are useful tools for the government in understanding what needs to be done to make Bengaluru a better live and work place.
The 3 member Committee has evolved these recommendations on the basis of expert inputs, study of best practices, meeting over 1000 citizens and over hundreds of web based feedback over a four year period. One hopes this forms the basis for an informed public debate on the choices for the city to transform its governance and administration.