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Cities and self rule

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Governance

Mayor of London, Mr Ken Livingstone, made headlines when he visited Mumbai and Delhi recently. Amongst the things he said, here is one that I thought stood out.

"London mayor Ken Livingstone said on Wednesday that ... when it comes to the development of a city like Mumbai, he said he was not sure if his counterpart here can do much to change people’s lives with limited executive powers."

Thats a quote from TOI Mumbai Nov 22 2007. Truth hurts, but Mr Livingstone was almost right when he said that:

"... unfortunately the mayor of Mumbai did not have any power regarding important matters affecting the city. Almost all the powers are with the state government."

Look at how this works for Bangalore. The party city voted for didn't get to rule the state (BJP). The party that shared power for most of last 3 years (JD-S), tried to play up rural-vs-urban card, and got away with some severe anti-Bangalore (rather anti-city) statements and doings. The reality seems to be that local government of our city has had little to do in matters that will have the most effects on its residents. Moreover, the setup is such that when it comes to successes, the state government jumps ahead to share it (inaugurating and announcing city's big projects), but when its time to share the blame, local government is pushed to front (dog bite cases - remember how BBMP was blamed by the health minister).

Mr Livingstone visited Delhi as well. Though I didn't follow the things he said and did at Delhi, I am sure he didn't make any similar statements there. Is it any surprise that most of the far-sighted corrective urban development measures originate at Delhi? Well, Delhi is a city state, its residents have say in electing their 'direct' rulers and Delhi's elected representatives have no such city-vs-rest distractions available as excuse.

Why wouldn't we apply the Delhi (city state) or London (Mayor is responsible for all city matters, period) model to all of our super-large cities as well? Why does Bangalore have to debate with a humble farmer on developmental matters that have nothing to do with agriculture? Why does Bangalore have to be a mute witness when various elected and non-elected bodies pass the buck to each other. The sooner that changes, the better. Because as Mr Livingstone said, our cities:

"... need to have one responsible person to take a call on development matters"

Comments

Naveen's picture

Inefficient Political System & City Administration

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SB - Very Correct. Whilst an outsider visiting any of our cities is able to quickly see the bizzare & weird nature of our governance mechanism where autonomy required for efficient decision making is not extended to any of the local bodies, particularly city administrations, our political & administrative system is unable to correct itself, even after it has overdue for very long now. Any & each decision regarding city matters, police, public sectors, transport corporations, etc. etc. is taken up by state level politicians, & upwards by the centre's politicians whose interests lie with how best to garner votes & make themselves more popular & prepare for winning elections the next time. As a result, interests & progress in any field including efficient planning of cities are casualties since efforts for progress in one field is seen to conflict with all others. As a result, spends on cities is often categorized as neglect of rural interests by opposing parties. Whilst such a control system may have been justified in the years soon after independence due to excessive rural poverty & deprivation, it is high time city administrations turn to corporate methods of governance where cash flows & funds are more efficiently managed without going round about & decision making & execution is left largely to local administrations.
City.Zen's picture

Cities and Self Rule - Inefficient Political System

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SB and Naveen: Now that the disease has been diagnosed by you both so well, what is the next step that we prajas can take? We have very able people representing us from Bangalore in Delhi - HPS and VM. Can we approach them to raise this matter in the highest forum in the country? Can we mobilize all the citizens of the city and plan protest marches, etc.? City Zen
City Zen
silkboard's picture

can we all meet once?

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You know city.zen, thats an important next step that we as a group have to take. To test where we stand today - how big are we, how many of us are driven to spending time on the ground - shall we try a face to face meeting? I am not hoping for big attendance as such. But a group of 10 committed people is big enough to move things, what say!?
City.Zen's picture

Meet We Must.... but before that, another option

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Birds of the long-distance flying kind always fly in large groups and in the most effective formations. Instead of reinventing the wheel, would it make abundant sense for the Bangalore prajas to join hands with Janaagraha who seem to have established themselves well, have already mobilized a sizable group as well as resources, etc.? Would we want to meet together at one of their review meetings and explore the mighty possibilities? More the merrier and MIGHTIER? Here is what my young friend Ms. Aparna wrote to me a few days back. APARNA: "I met the Mr. and Mrs. Ramanathans yesterday; Mondays, they have their weekly reviews. I was simply blown away by the amount of work Janaagraha is doing. They're involved in practically every single aspect of governance and are working shoulder to shoulder with the government. It's simply overwhelming, the scale of their projects. Yesterday, there were about 30 to 40 people in that review. Apparently, all the heads of the project sit in on Monday to share what progress has been made over the week and what they hope to accomplish in the week ahead. They're so professional, so committed, and so goal-oriented, it's very very impressive. They have projects for traffic management, road signs, junctions, signals, drains, solid waste management, garbage disposal, pot holes, drinking water, sanitation, street lights, civic education in schools/colleges - practically everything under the sun. It was a great pleasure to hear Ramesh Ramanathan speak at such close quarters. I don't know if you read his column called Mobius Strip in the MINT. I get it in my mailbox every month since I've registered with Janaagraha on their website. After President Kalam, I haven't heard or read another orator/writer in recent times who can be so inspiring with his language. I will forward his columns to you when I get them. You can also register at Janaagraha.org; you don't have to volunteer for anything if you don't want to; if you just register on their website, they'll send you all the communication; it is worth knowing - in fact, I think it's manadatory if you're a Bangalorean - how much people are doing for their city, their state, even if in some cases it's their adopted home; one curious thing I noticed about the group there, I don't think apart from me, there was a single other Kannadiga - I know after having sat in something so big and so above such petty boundaries, I should not think like that, but it really made me ashamed that there are so many people from outside the state who love this city and the state (they're working in many states outside Karnataka also, like Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, and Kerala which I heard them mention) enough to want to devote their time, energy, and resources to better things here while we ourselves are so reluctant to do something for our homeland which has given us so much. But, that's a small thing; the important issue is that things are happening and Ramesh Ramanathan has demonstrated very well that if you want to make a difference, you can." - City Zen -- City Zen
City Zen
tsubba's picture

cities & reforms

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73 users have liked.
folks, lets say, you spend 5-10 years in generating opinion, political consensus and moving the machinary to get this done. but by carving out blr, you have solved the problem of one city to a limited extent. but the problem persists in rest of the country. and we have also seen that these problems cannot be solved in isolation. lets say, you spend the same 5-10 years in generating opinion, political consensus and moving the machinery to get fundamental changes in cities/towns adminstration, finances and planning & execution right, you have solved the problem for multiple cities/towns. much more meaningful too and less contentious politically. how do cities like NYC, Atlanta, Chicago work? The same way towns like Albany, Austin and Louisville work or for that villages. we are a country of a billion people, why should all expertise and control be with a few in dilli/blr? what power or tenure does a mayor have? how many traffic engineers does BLR or even KA have? how many planners are there? not draftsmen but real planners. this will not all come automatically by making a separate state. you will get a lot of money, but nothing more. urban rural thingie is just political slogan, it will be hard to show that it has really meant any actual neglect. lots of rhetoric, but no actual neglect. rupee to rupee HDK spent as much on BLR as did SMK in a comparable time. because that is how they make money by spending. not much moolah in making roads to villages or even road to mangalore. how much can you milk off 50 crores for a road to mangalore?
tsubba's picture

thanks

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city zen thanks for posting that. and imo it is a good idea to fly in flocks.
City.Zen's picture

Cities, Reforms, Corruption, etc.

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73 users have liked.
Reply to Tarle's Cities, Reforms.... Nazeer Sab under Ramakrishna Hegde introduced revolutionary changes in Panchayat Raj which was a model for the rest of the States in the country. Why did this not spread to other States too? Instead, the Karnataka MLAs in recent years manipulated to ruin this system so that they could have control and their share of the booty. Corruption in the country can be curtailed, and hopefully even eliminated almost, if we can introduce the code of Hammurabi and islamic justice - swift, cruel, and effective. Inshallah, Let the corrupt be stoned and sent to rot in hell! Aameen! City Zen
City Zen
silkboard's picture

lets meet once first

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City.zen, and other active members, Let us met first and explore what we can and can't do. Praja.in was started with them aim of building an Internet based platform to help concerned citizens know and do more. The focus for first few months has been community building. That should, and has to change to doing more than online discussions, but when, and how? Let us meet once, and see what makes sense to the memebers. If offering the site to be integrated with Janaagraha is what we think most sense, then that is what we will do. Or it may be that an Internet based feature-rich ideas-sharing and networking platform has its place, then we will take that course.
City.Zen's picture

Praja + Janaagraha can co-exist

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77 users have liked.
SB: First, let me express my grateful thanks to you and others with you for running this website. It was only because of this that I got myself interested in civics. You guys are all doing wonderful work. Let it continue with increased vigour, more citizens' support and participation, and God's Grace. When I referred to meeting at Janaagraha, I was referring to the action part. Knowledge, ideas, and progress report of various topics can still continue here. We can still continue our independent identity, etc., while simultaneously supporting and participating in Janaagraha. "It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit." -- Harry Truman Twin-track approach to solve traffic and transport woes http://epaper.timesofindi... sorry, i am yet to learn how to insert links here. Let us certainly meet - Anywhere, anytime suits me. Regards - City Zen
City Zen
City.Zen's picture

Janaagraha and Praja

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Ms. Aparna writes again as follows:- "I was at Janaagraha today and they're quite keen on having their own forum - I in fact opened the Praja site and showed it to the person who's reviving the Janaagraha blog - she was extremely excited to see it and wondered if Praja members will associate themselves more closely with Janaagraha. Where and when does this meeting happen?" ( Meeting of Prajaas as proposed by S.B. -- City Zen) City Zen
City Zen
s_yajaman's picture

Face to face meeting

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SB, City Zen, others When can we meet? Long overdue. Probably goes to show why such things are difficult. We ought to come out with an action plan on what we can do on the ground. Maybe each of us can share an idea that he/she thinks makes sense and then shortlist 2-3 and work to achieving them. Once we can show some success, then we enter into a "virtuous cycle" and can gain more support. I personally think we should keep an open mind on Jaanagraha. Srivathsa

Drive safe.  It is not just the car maker which can recall its product.

tsubba's picture

Janaagraha and Praja

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thanks a lot citizen. and please convey my thanks to your friend. tarlesubba
silkboard's picture

will organize a meeting

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City.zen - certainly not worrying about credit, as would be evident from our "about us" page. Just that there is a place for something that would attract more concerned citizens. Internet has got to be the platform. Linking that with field work is what we need to figure better. Sri - yes, certainly an open mind on Janaagraha. I will shortly post a note (with agenda and venue) for our meeting. I am hoping that the active members (about 10-15 of us) would attend.
s_yajaman's picture

Website statistics

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68 users have liked.
Pranav, Tarle, others I observed that most of our blogs seem to have a hit rate of about 275, give and take. Do you have any data on how the visits to the site have been progressing? Have we hit a sort of plateau? Is it possible to know how many distinct persons are reading our blogs? That way we could get an idea on whether the community is growing. I plan to put my website as bangalore.praja.in whenever I visit other blogs and leave comments. Hopefully that will generate some return visits. Your thoughts? Srivathsa

Drive safe.  It is not just the car maker which can recall its product.

City.Zen's picture

Bangalore.praja.in is my website...

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Thanks Srivathsa, I shall also follow you and mention bangalore.praja.in while bloglurking. - City Zen
City Zen
silkboard's picture

stats

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Visitor numbers tend to plateau for a while, then kick up, then plateau again. Perhaps that happens because folks come to know of site in 'groups'. We have been live for 5 months now with what we regard as a still-beta site. Readership growth has been okay. What has been equally encouraging is - interesting people contacting us via the 'contact' form. It wont be prudent to mention the numbers here, as that would make casual visitors label us as successful or not successful depending the number benchmarks they would have. It is early days, and we don't want to get labeled yet. But I will bring the stats etc in our upcoming meeting. We have been collecting those using google analytics.
blrsri's picture

what does Janagraha do?

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fine, its understood that they do a lot..but can someone post some very visible projects done by them which has changed things? If they are indeed capable of doing a lot then we can use them as a vehicle for our cause and vice versa. They have the contacts, we have some ideas. We can first meet together and then maybe come up with some ideas that we would want to take further and then get across to them and check if we can do anything with the idea! They meet once a week? Praja will be a daily meeting place..which they can use too!

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