400 BBMP wards: Time to redraw boundaries

400 BBMP wards: Time to redraw boundaries

The population of BBMP wards as per the 2011 census. Inner city wards have grown far slower than outer wards in the past seven years.

As Bengaluru's population marches towards the two-crore mark, will the new government consider a proposal to increase the number of BBMP wards to 400, each with an ideal, manageable size of 50,000 citizens?

But this critical reform can happen only through a new legislation, designed to rejig Bengaluru's governance, reiterates the BBMP Restructuring Committee, which had submitted its report to the then chief minister Siddaramaiah three years ago. This panel was the first to recommend a major overhaul of the ward boundaries so that the city's governance can be more representative and robust.

The 2001 census was the basis for dividing the BBMP's area into the existing 198 wards. But Bengaluru grew by a whopping 44.6% between 2001 and 2011, the highest in its comparable class in the world, the committee had noted. 

By 2015, the city's inner core (within the Outer Ring Road) and outer periphery had an equal population of about 50 lakh each. During 2001-11, the inner core grew by about 18% and the outer periphery grew by over 100%. 

The result: grossly mismatched wards. Twenty-one wards had a 2011 population of less than 30,000, while 43 wards had a population of over 50,000. The largest ward, Horamavu,  with 95,368 people in 2011, had its population exceed 1.1 lakh. In the past three years, the numbers have grown beyond an estimated 1.35 lakh. 

How can a semblance of representative governance be maintained when the growth is so unsustainable? Delimitation was the committee's solution. But this has to take into account the inner, old city areas where the population growth is slow (or even losing population) and the outer periphery where the growth is rapid.

Population in the inner city areas, as committee member V Ravichandar explains, will only grow to about 50,000 over the next 10 years. Revisiting the panel's three-year-old report, he suggests that the ward population can be fixed at 50,000. This is expected to strike a balance over the next decade, after which the delimitation could be revisited.

But the ward numbers cannot exceed 200, according to the existing Karnataka Municipal Council (KMC) Act. "Delimitation is possible only through a new law that will enable the governance of Bengaluru as per a three-tier framework," says Ravichander.

The recommended three-tier governance structure for Bengaluru should have a Greater Bengaluru Authority as Tier 1, empowered to integrate all civic activities in the city; five municipal corporations as Tier 2 and empowered ward committees as Tier 3.