Delimitation exercise ‘outdated on arrival’, say citizens

The draft of the ward delimitation exercise that the State government has recently published has drawn much criticism from several citizens, especially from the outer zones.

The substance of most critique is that the exercise is solely based on the 2011 census data and doesn’t reflect the ground reality and is hence ‘unscientific’, making the new wards ‘outdated on arrival’. Citizens’ groups have also come down heavily on the inaccessibility of the draft document, objections for which can be submitted till March 17.

Bengaluru Navanirmana Party (BNP), a new political outfit launched by citizens’ groups, has argued that apart from the 2011 census, electoral roles and databases of property tax payers, power and water connections should be the basis and area, length of roads, stormwater drains must also be considered while carving out wards.

“The draft lists areas of a particular ward, but doesn't give its map. There are no details of area, length of roads, stormwater drains and other public assets in these proposed wards,” said Srikanth Narasimhan of BNP.

The delimitation exercise mainly seeks to bring parity in the size of wards in the core city and outer zones, as outer zones have seen a explosion of growth, making those wards several times larger than the ones in the core city. Population in the core city grew at 17% during 2001-11 while the outer zones grew at a rate of 116%. This has only aggravated since then.

Data by the BBMP Restructuring Committee 2015 and electoral rolls of 2018 and 2019 show population in some wards in the core areas has actually gone down while wards in outer zones continue to see exponential growth.

But the draft doesn't bring in parity, argue citizens’ groups. For instance, in Mahadevapura, one of the largest zones, the draft increases the number of wards from eight to 10. However, Whitefield Rising, collating electoral roll data of 2019, indicated that contrary to the BBMP's objective to carve out wards of an average population of 42,000, the actual population of the 10 wards will be over 75,000, an increase of 78% to the ideal size fixed by the civic body for delimitation. They have called for a separate Mahadevapura corporation, as per the recommendation of the BBMP Restructuring Committee.

The average size of wards in 2007 (based on 2001 census) when BBMP was formed was kept around 30,000, but that has long been surpassed in most wards. Based on 2011 census data (84 lakh), the delimitation draft fixes the average ward size at 42,000. But by its own estimates, BBMP officially claims that the current population is around 1.30 crore. If the average population of each ward needs to be kept at 42,000, then the city needs to have 315 wards, not 198.

KMC Act limitation

However, the Karnataka Municipal Corporations (KMC) Act, 1976 doesn’t allow for a city corporation to have more than 200 wards.

Meanwhile, the recently presented State Budget has committed to a dedicated Bengaluru Governance Law that will bring the city administration out of the ambit of the KMC Act and the 200-ward limit. Work on the law is in the preliminary stages while the civic polls are scheduled for September 2020.

“The process should have been started much earlier. Now we are stuck in a catch-22-like situation. To do it right means promulgating a new law, increasing the number of wards, but delaying civic elections. If elections are to be held in time, we will be stuck with a delimitation exercise severely outdated on arrival. We suspect that this is only a ploy to delay elections,” said N.S. Mukunda, founder-president of Citizen Action Forum, an umbrella organisation of several RWAs in the city.

Restructuring report

The BBMP Restructuring Report 2015 had proposed five corporations comprising a total of 400 wards for the city.

“There seems to be no enthusiasm for multiple corporations. But ideally, we need to have more wards to take the administration nearer to citizens. We need to carve out wards and zones based on certain criteria like the maximum distance a citizen should go to his ward/zone office,” said V. Ravichandar, a member of the committee.

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Printable version | Jun 25, 2021 7:40:22 PM |

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