‘Overpowering presence of government in planning body’
There is disquiet among citizens over the recently notified Bangalore Metropolitan Planning Committee (BMPC) Rules, 2013. Most of them contend that the BMPC, in its current form, deviates from the spirit of the 74th Amendment and doesn’t give room for citizens to participate in the city’s planning.
Even when the draft rules were published, many residents’ welfare associations (RWAs) and civil society members had submitted recommendations to the government, seeking a role for ward committees, citizens, RWAs and non-governmental organisations in the planning process. However, they now point out that none of their suggestions have been considered.
Kathyayini Chamaraj from CIVIC said the whole exercise of notifying the Rules seems to have been undertaken to ensure that the planning function remains under the control of the government. Though BMPC has to look into all aspects of planning, including urban transport and welfare of urban poor, stakeholders of agencies looking into these aspects have not been included, she charged. “According to the 74th Amendment, the chairman of the BMPC should ideally be a member of the local body. In this case, it will be the Mayor. The city Mayor has been excluded and they will have to contest elections to become a member,” she said.‘Flaws’
Urbanist V. Ravichandar, who is executive committee member of Bangalore City Connect Foundation concurred and said the State would have an “overpowering and stifling” presence in the planning committee, which also includes the Chief Minister and Minister for Urban Development among a host of high-ranking officials from the government. If decentralisation of powers was the intent of constituting the BMPC, the structure of the committee should reflect a reduced role for the government, he argued.
The other flaws included not only the absence of Mayor, but also the planning authority being vested with the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) instead of the Bangalore Metropolitan Region Development Authority (BMRDA), whose jurisdiction spreads across the areas under the BMPC.Delayed action
With the State brushing aside most recommendations, Loksatta member Ashwin Mahesh alleged there was “a certain degree of dishonesty” from the beginning. “Though MPC was envisaged in 1992, the government acted only when the Centre threatened to cut off funding. This is a telling commentary on the state of politics.”
He also sought to know how the local planning authority (BDA) and the regional planning authority (BMRDA) have the same jurisdiction. “This is complete eyewash and only goes to show that the government is not committed to a good Bangalore,” he charged.
Rajeev Chandrasekhar, MP, too noted that the BMPC goes against the spirit of citizens’ participation in the planning process and devolution of powers to elected representatives as mandated in the 74th Amendment. Fundamental flaws that were pointed out in the draft have not been addressed. In a letter to the Chief Minister, Mr. Chandrasekhar had pointed out that citizens need representation in the BMPC and should be given a voice in the decision-making body.