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Scrap the BDA!

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Urban Development

Apparently, Dr Ashwin Mahesh had posted an article titled "Scrap the BDA" on 'facebook', which a certain Mr Vishy Kuruganti chose to publish on his blog 'techsangam' (accessible here). A link to the same was posted by a member in the 'SaveKoramangala y-group', leading to following debate amongst the members, which I thought would interest the larger PRAJA community. So, here goes - - - (And, perhaps even Ashwin Mahesh and the others could further the debate here).

Incidentally, I had gone onto facebook to look for the original post to see if there were any worthwhile responses that I could pick up and post here. But, I couldn't find it readily.

Good out of box original thinking.

As usual, Ashwin makes some telling points and points to the failures of the BDA (and BBMP and....). Finding faults is the easiest thing to do. When it comes to any government institution, it is even easier since they ALL mostly don't work. So what's new?

As usual, again, this scathing attack offers no solutions. Not even half an outline.

Destroying institutions claiming they have done nothing at all is civic terrorism. If you disband BDA and say the BBMP doesn't do its existing job well, then why is going to do the very things needed but not delivered by the BDA?

It’s become a fashion to attack every institution - a state of affairs that civic activists think is their sole purpose.

Somehow i saw more than just an outline to the alternative of scraping the BDA in its current avatar , in ashwin's article namely as below.

(a) Close BDA in its current form, and convert it into Bangalore Infrastructure Works Authority, an agency to implement large infra projects (in all sectors – roads, drains, pipes, anything).
(b) Pass the MPC Bill mooted by BMRDA itself, or the more comprehensive BMRG Bill proposed by ABIDe, to make this new planning arrangement compliant with the constitution, and of permanent value to the region.
(c) Establish BMRDA as the Secretariat of the MPC, the only planning agency for the entire Bangalore region, and task it with planning all aspects of development – economic, social, cultural, developmental.

Those civic "terrorists" who have followed and probably lobbied for the 74th amendment implementation and the MPC bill will understand the context , rationale and depth of solutions offered by ashwin.

The other kind of activist , the armchair kind , might not.

Simply put ,the BDA is a parastatal, which has no reporting or accountability structure to normal citizens and given the fact that it is a moneyed organisation ,in the business of real estate , becomes a law unto themselves and an opaque conduit for the netas whims and fancies.

No one will say that the MPC , which gives the planning function to the municipality ( read elected reps), will solve the problems .It could  in fact , lead to another set of problems  .

But you have got to put your beliefs somewhere ,and if we believe in democracy ,our constitution , the method of electing reps and that these reps are ultimately answerable to citizens, then municipality planning is the way to go.

Neither the babu or the neta wants this to happen,

The neta because , the 74th amendment is after all a devolution of powers to the third tier of governance and therefore closer to normal citizens .

And the neta would like to keep the outdated and bloated  "steel frame" of the burecracy as the puller of strings.

anyway this is a big topic , with probably no absolute right way of doing things , but would love if this group does ponder over this and express their opinions .

If accountability was the sole concern and solution, renaming or rehashing the structure would hardly make any difference.

Take the case of the threatened BBMP Employees’ strike which is allegedly about BMTF policing the BBMP and the demand being BMTF should be brought under BBMP instead of reporting to the Urban Development Dept/Minister.

Ironically, BBMP (theoretically!) reports to the City Council/Mayor etc and is commonly accepted as functioning unsatisfactorily. The Corporator is the “closest” in proximity to the constituency and ostensibly accountability should be the “best” performing under the circumstances. Yet the BBMP fares poorly.

The BMTF reporting to the UDD/Minister is much “further removed” from the common citizen as the accountability via an MLA (Minister) covers many wards at the very least. Yet the BMTF seems to be doing its job, causing discomfiture to the BBMP officials who are “closer” to their wards and liable for greater accountability.

Ironically and ultimately, in the existing dispensation, all these institutions are “supervised” by or “dependent” on the UDD Minister.

The rehashing of names and reporting structures will only be old wine in new bottles. Disbanding the BDA is therefore hardly a solution.

It is much like the IAC (initially) wanting one super power body (Lokpal) that will cover anything and everything all over the country. Absolute power will corrupt absolutely. Instead of decentralisation, it would centralise even more than it is now. Evidence elsewhere is that decentralisation is the answer to curbing corruption.

A cursory study of the functioning of government departments shows a correlation between the person/s who head a dept or group or institution and their being directly accountable.

So why not simply change one thing, the status of the BDA Commissioner and BDA Board, BBMP Commissioner, Police Commissioner, etc be directly elected? This model has worked in many parts of the world – and only needs a change in their respective Acts – all within the reach of any Government in power. The consequent restructuring (if any required) of their arms will follow out of sheer need. The institutions will also become truly autonomous and stress their independence – like the States have been doing w.r.t the GOI in more recent history.

A new structure of governance itself bringing heads of line functions directly accountable to those they serve is needed.

All that’s lacking is political will and activist alignment on proven solutions without dismantling institutions.

Muralidhar Rao


idontspam's picture

TInkering is useless

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All this patchwork will not work, there is too much crap in the system. Completely restructure & rebuild. Disband BDA & let BMRDA do planning for 8K sqkm. Disband BBMP, BESCOM, BWSSB & create 5 or 7 or howmanyever smaller municipal corporations with directly elected mayor having all the infrastructure functions rolled up to him.

sanjayv's picture

Reg:Completely restructure & rebuild

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The problem is more complicated, me thinks.  We are suffering from mutiple issues.  Even if you scrap and rebuild, we need to (a)  truly devolve power and budgets to local level- so suitable legislation, rules and tax functions are required.  (b) Capacity building - Many of our agencies just do not have sufficient competence or imagination to be able to run the show (c) Citizen participation.  People have to get involved at the grass root level and elections should not be winnable by money.


Then, we have some hope...

murali772's picture

the dialogue continues

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Meanwhile, the e-mail dialogue between Js & VM continues. And, since it has brought up some interesting points, I thought I'll post them too.

The mpc is part of the larger bangalore metropolitan governance bill.amongst other things in the bill  are the directly elected mayor, or at least a 5 year term for mayor,the Ward sabha concept of an empowered citizen participation model,as also of course the disbanding of bda in its current avatar and the formation of the mpc.

Is, it suprising that this bill has still not been tabled.

The real issue is how do we make such things happen,given the state of the neta and babu.

It is in this context that utterances of activists and more importantly their actions should be viewed.

Ah: “how do we make such things happen, given the state of the neta and babu.”

That brings me to the point I’ve made in many fora with no success: Activism has to focus on the citizen and get much larger numbers to engage in causes – whether segregation of garbage at source or stray dogs or law making or elections or any civic/community issue (roads, footpaths, etc).

Today (almost) all activism is focused on attacking the government & institution/s. None will even talk to a “non-performing” neighbour who throws garbage in the “vacant” plot or at the corner of the road, for fear of losing popularity. ONLY peer pressure can bring change within the population – and with speed that can bewilder, if it becomes a wave. The necessary outcomes to changing the babu and neta will follow naturally.

Instead we have the opposite happening.

Anyone who challenges an idea put forth by a peer is taken as rude or an affront to the person/s. This is a recipe for free-for-all and that’s what we see day in and day out. I can quote examples of this right here in our group, but that is beside the point.

Making line functionaries accountable through elections alone will NOT solve the problem as long as we essentially remain ungovernable. Everything in between that and status quo is rehashing, tinkering and white washing.

I have studied the electoral rolls of my block – 4th Block and was not surprised to find it had a much larger share of senior and super-senior citizens compared to other blocks. No wonder the 4th Block RWA finds it difficult to raise hands to assist in do block level work. Then add on the usual limitations and biases, and you are left with a handful who try their best and leave the rest.

Why do I bring this up?

Because without critical mass, the fight is up a vertical wall.

Yet, the turf has been divided, unfortunately to the exclusion of others who can and could engage. Similarly, one NGO will not “tread” on another’s turf. Result? Successfully divided and ruled.

Having smaller cells for operational purposes is fine, but not as when it does affect all of us (in Koramangala). That’s like saying what happens in Pakistan or Bangladesh won’t affect us in India. We’ve seen that it’s not so. It’s the turf war within that is our BIGGEST barrier to (starting with) transforming Koramangala.

Movements need “appropriate” organisation: a mix of skill/competence + popularity. One without the other is toothless and inefficient.

Moreover, dissent is taken a affront. Sad.

Of course one of the problems is a aphethetic and non involving shows at all levels including at rwas,where most work is done by a few people.

So sure, there should be civic sense driving initiatives directed towards society in general.

But that in essence is a human condition and in no way is an alternative to activism which asks for a transparent,accountable and participatory governance.

Two seperate areas,not one in place of another.

Muralidhar Rao
psaram42's picture

Civic terrorism!!!

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Civic is belonging to a city, a citizen, or citizenship; municipal or civil. Civic terrorism does not make any sense because terrorism does not belong to a civil society. Ashwin is definitely a beloved eminent citizen of Bangalore. So let JS, whoever he is, not go overboard.   

I don’t know who JS is; I am feeling a bit diffident.  However, JS feels very strongly about Ashwin Mahesh’s statement about dismantling BDA, for sure. Any body would. Knowing Ashwin I feel what he means is that BDA town planning is not up to the mark.

Perhaps all pervasive state corruption is limiting BDA’s achievements to some extent.  However BDA has done fairly good work in developing Bangalore. BDA’s Bangalore cannot be compared to Singapore. Let us give BDA what is its due.

I am yet to go through further than the first two comments viz those of V and JS, whoever they are.  It would have been but fair to give their full names and designations, Murali sir. 

murali772's picture

further postings on SK Y-group

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The Fallacy that Democracy = A better life (linked here)

Democracy no doubt has its problems. But as far as the conclusions stated go, am not in agreement.
In the first place, "Democracy = A better life" is meaningless without a simple question -- better than What ?
Here is something which is undeniable. Democracy + Poverty is one heck of a better life than Dictatorship + Poverty (Just ask any of the African Countries that have experienced this).
Whether democracy leads to a poorer standard of living than dictatorial systems is highly debatable. It depends of course on who the dictator is. Yes, quality of life could conceivably be improved if the dictator were in the mould of an Attaturk for

example. But you could just as easily end up with a Bokassa or an Idi Amin. So this argument does not get us very far.

India is different from Egypt only in Freedom of speech ??? Please !!  We actually have elections in which governments change. Have always had. We have by and large as a result a government that reflects the ethos of the populace. Egypt had

a "secular" Nasser, Sadat and Mubarak suppressing the Islamist impulses of a huge section of their citizens. The result is there for all to see.
Maslow's heirarchy of needs has as its apex "Need for self-actualization" -- Democracy is one aspect of this.

The people who complain loudest about democracy tend to be those who have reaped all its fruits.

Muralidhar Rao
psaram42's picture

web literature a plenty

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There is enough literature on democracy, corruption prevention and any other topic you name it, on the web, Murali sir.

From small time clerks to the high profile politicians, commissioners, police inspectors, traffic police, stock exchange brokers, military establishments, recruiters, sportsmen, judiciary and most of the government employees, corruption is seen and felt in every transaction from bottom of the chain till the top. [1] This one is from Jagore group.

A large proportion of Australians think they should have a say on how the country is run, but other Australians shouldn't. “Democracy for me, but not for thee” [2]

One of my major concerns for many years has been how people could prevent and destroy dictatorships. [3]. A PDF Document from the Albert Einstein Institution.

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