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If I were to be the Mayor of Bengaluru

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Governance
Citizen Matters recently invited essays from citizens on how they would go about things if they were to become the "Mayor of Bengaluru". The following is what I submitted. 
 
The 74th amendment to the Constitution, passed decades back, envisaged a powerful Mayor and Council, equivalent to the city, as the Chief Minister and the Cabinet are to the state. Unfortunately, with the state governments (whichever the ruling dispensation) and legislature holding onto the powers, the Mayor and the Council have largely been rendered powerless, even as the complexities of the city's governance have multiplied with its exponential expansion, leading to the total chaos and decay we see all around. So, first and foremost, as the Mayor, I'd move heaven and earth to empower the local administration to enable it to manage the challenge.
 
Currently, there are some 18 functions that are under the Municipal Council, the major ones among them being roads, foot-paths, storm-water drains, street-lighting, Solid Waste Management, Primary Healthcare, Municipal schools, Crematoriums, etc. Unfortunately, the BBMP has not been able to build up capacity to manage even these effectively. The lack of ownership by the MLA's (who wield the actual control, and most of whom are outsiders as far as the city is concerned) apart, the lack of adequate financial resources is also a major factor. For a city that generates almost three-fourths of the state's revenue, its municipality (BBMP) gets allotted just a pittance. Further, the levy and collection of property tax, which is the biggest direct source of the city's revenue, is gone about so unprofessionally, perhaps deliberately so, that the total collection ends up a fraction of the full potential estimated by citizen experts. 
 
As a Mayor, I'd straightaway outsource the entire property tax assessment, levy and collection job to a professional agency, quite like Income Tax, Passport and such departments have already done for their back-end work. Leading from this, I will also have the city digitally mapped making available all information, whether on ward offices, SWM handling centres, utility lines/ offices, police stations, etc etc, readily on the net.
 
Now, the 74th amendment has envisaged answerability of all utilities too to the municipality. As comapred to that, in Bengaluru, the parastatals (BESCOM, BMTC, BWSSB, etc) that manage the key infrastructure areas are answerable only to the state legislature, which is as good or bad as not being answerable at all. This is a matter that calls for immediate correction. 
 
But, with each of these being very specialised fields, it will be well nigh impossible for a municipal body to effectively manage these directly, and as such, I'd again outsource them to professional agencies. In this regard, you already have Tata's, Reliance, Torrent, etc doing a fairly good job of managing power supply (near 100% reliability) in Mumbai, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Surat, etc, as compared to the large gen-set dependency in Bengaluru, poorly served as it is currently by government-owned BESCOM. In the case of bus services, you have ZipGo, CityFlo, Ola, Uber, VRL and perhaps even TVS (who were in the field long ago) ready to grab the huge business opportunity, if their entry is facilitated properly, and the citizens too are waiting impatiently for efficient services, fed up largely as they are of the BMTC monopoly in the field. 
 
In the area of water supply (as also sewerage management) too, many cities in the UK have privatised/ outsourced the jobs to professional players, and are better of for it all. Their rivers and lakes are now back to nurturing bountiful flora and fauna, as compared to what they were earlier, not too different from what it is like in Bengaluru today, mis-handled as the job is by the fully government controlled BWSSB. The tragedy of it all is that 1450 MLD of water is pumped from Cauvery, up some 500M and a distance of close to 100 KM, at a tremendous cost, of which over 45% become "unaccounted for" after reaching Bengaluru. Plainly, there is very little accountability when these jobs are handled totally by the parastatal, BWSSB. Within the country too, cities like Nagpur, and a few in Karnataka itself, are experimenting with models involving professional players. I would engage with an expert team to recommend the best of options to bring in more professionalism and thereby accountability into this most critical area.
 
Even in the 18 odd functions being carried out by the municipality currently, there is huge scope for greater efficiency and customer orientation, and as such, most functions are best outsourced to professional players. Ultimately, the government's (ULB's) job needs to be just governance - meaning faciltation, regulation, and control (where essential) of the functioning of the professional agencies to whom the jobs have been outsourced, therewith being accountable to the people who have elected them. 
 
Actually, it is the poor who are the biggest sufferers of the inefficiency of the utilities, since the rich can always find alternatives, however costly they may be. And, where the question of affordability may arise, subsidies may be offered via DBS (direct benefit scheme) into the bank accounts of the identified beneficiaries, quite like it is already happening in the case of gas supplies.
 
And, as for overall city governance, as the Mayor, I would adopt the "Sri B S Patil committee" recommendations for decentralised governance of the now overly grown and exponentially expanding city. I would also use my position to vitalise the Bengaluru Metropolitan Planning Committee and steer it to ensure development of the city in an environmentally and economically sustainable way. 
 
Implementing all of these will automatically turn Bengaluru into a "smart city" with much improved citizen's life quality. 
 
Muralidhar Rao

 

Comments

murali772's picture

problem with the P-word?

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Those having a problem with the idea of "privatisation", may want to check here as to where they fit in.

Or, possibly, as "gen-set" manufacturers/ agents (all in private sector, of course), they have a vested in perpetuating the status quo. Likewise in other areas too. 

Muralidhar Rao

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