New Action Group has bigwigs, but lacks heft

Critics ask how it will function effectively without inputs from mayor and representatives from parastatals

May 10, 2016 08:14 am | Updated 08:14 am IST - Bengaluru:

The absense of mayor is being attributed to political reasons.

The absense of mayor is being attributed to political reasons.

The Bengaluru Blue Print Action Group (BBPAG) has a wide representation from industry and bureaucracy, but a significant omission is of the mayor and representatives from police, fire services, BWSSB, public transport and power utilities. Experts fear that this will pose a hurdle to a pan-city look at the various issues plaguing Bengaluru.

The absence of the mayor is being attributed to fears in the ruling Congress of a possible realignment in the BBMP later this year with the BJP allegedly moving closer to the Janata Dal (Secular), sources aware of the development claimed.

Notably, commissioners of BBMP, BDA and BMRDA are permanent invitees to meetings of the Action Group. The exclusion of traffic police is also likely to prove a handicap.

The mayor’s absence will only lead to interference and encroachment of the legislature into local self-governance, says civic activist Kathyayini Chamaraj.

However, the group has wide representation from the BBMP restructuring Committee (all 3 members), BBMP Expert Committee on Solid Waste Management (2 members) and non-governmental agencies — Bangalore Political Action Committee (B.PAC) will have four members and Janaagraha Centre for Citizenship and Democracy will have two.

BBPAG likely to face legal hurdles

Even before it can take off, the Bengaluru Blue Print Action Group (BBPAG) is likely to face obstacles and legal hurdles.

The pre-cursor to BBPAG, Bengaluru Vision Group (BVG) formed by the State government with Ramesh Ramanathan of Janaagraha Centre for Citizenship and Democracy in March 2014, proved to be a non-starter as the Karnataka High Court gave an interim stay while hearing a PIL.

The high court later disposed the petition, clearing the decks for the vision group. In fact, the Government Order (GO) forming the BBPAG quotes a legal opinion by the Additional Advocate General that the interim stay is no longer in force.

N.S. Mukunda, founder of Citizen Action Forum (CAF), an umbrella organisation for over 110 RWAs, said that they would legally challenge the constitution of the Action Group for side stepping the Metropolitan Planning Committee. “This is encroachment of the legislature and extra-constitutional members on the constitutionally mandated MPC that should plan for the city. This cannot be allowed to continue. We will consult our legal experts and file a writ soon,” he said.

MPC, whose constitution was notified in January 2014, has had 18 members elected to the body twice in the last two years. However, the chief minister-led committee is yet to meet.

C.N. Kumar, the petitioner in the earlier case, said that he would examine the constitution and functioning of the new group and see how the government handles the upcoming Master Plan before deciding on the next course of action.

Kathyayini Chamaraj of CIVIC said that the group has been given the executive function of monitoring infrastructure projects and co-ordinating with various parastatals, which would allow industry bigwigs to dictate terms to the city administration, which is unacceptable. “This has to be legally challenged and we will work to that end,” she added.

Action Group to prepare a ‘Bengaluru Blue Print’

The genesis of the Bengaluru Blue Print Action Group was the Bengaluru Blue Print project of Janaagraha Centre for Citizenship and Democracy, championed by Infosys co-founder N.R. Narayana Murthy.

As part of the project, Janaagraha compiled inputs from various civic agencies, retired bureaucrats, industry leaders and common citizens on what they wanted for the city. It was submitted to the government in December 2015 for larger consultations and implementation.

The BBPAG now formed has a larger mandate than just preparing the blueprint, which is also part of its mandate. According to the GO forming the BBPAG, the Action Group will finalise a Bengaluru Blue Print and strive for its implementation.

Sources said that BBPAG will form various sub-committees to work on specific areas like solid waste management, traffic, roads and other such verticals. “These sub-committees will work with the agencies concerned and come out with quarterly reports on the progress made,” a member of BBPAG said.

‘May have elitist vision’

The blueprint exercise has come under severe criticism from various civic activists.

Nitin Sheshadri of Koramangala RWA said that while the committee had well-meaning citizens, it is exclusively elitist and their vision for the city is also likely to be limited, which he said could never be a democratic blueprint for the city.

Another activist Kathyayini Chamaraj pointed out that the group does not have a single representative from either RWAs or those working for the urban poor; and it is hard to see how the blueprint would be representative.

N.S. Mukunda of CAF cautioned that the blueprint should not turn into a tool to circumvent the Master Plan and drive ‘an agenda’ in the city.

Did Nandan Nilekani opt out?

Nandan Nilekani, who earlier led the Bangalore Agenda Task Force, is conspicuous by his absence in the BBPAG. Highly placed sources told The Hindu that though his name was included, he opted out for personal reasons.

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