Two bills in limbo

Two bills in limbo

Two bills in limbo

The setting up of the joint committee of citizens’ representatives and officials to rework the Bangalore Development Authority’s (BDA) controversial plan to build a signal-free corridor between Sirsi Circle and Agara lake has been a rare chance for people to have their say in the City’s development. But to maintain a long-lasting, transparent and bribe-free system while implementing infrastructure projects in the City, a strong piece of legislation is a must. Two bills, whose enactment would go a long way in addressing these issues, have been in limbo for a long time.

The State government, during a legislative session in January last year, had passed the Karnataka Municipal Corporations (Amendment) Bill, 1976, (better known as the Community Participation Bill), which ensures citizens’ participation through ward committees and area sabhas in monitoring ward-level activities and project works.
Thereafter, it took almost a year for the government to come up with the draft Karnataka Municipal Corporations (Ward Committee and Area Sabha) Rules, 2011, necessary to enforce the Bill as a law. But till date, the government has been keeping the rules in cold storage with no elected representative ready to raise his/her voice to finalise and notify the rules.

The same is the fate of the Bangalore Metropolitan Regional Governance Act (BMRGA) Bill, formulated by the Agenda for Bengaluru Infrastructure and Development (ABIDe) for the holistic development of the City through larger citizen participation. Besides streamlining the administration and co-ordination between various civic agencies, the Bill proposes the formation of a Metropolitan Planning Council. The Council is proposed to replace the Bangalore Metropolitan Region Development Authority (BMRDA) to ensure a comprehensive planning of development of different zones as well as a master plan for the City. Even though the Bill was scheduled to come up for discussion before the State legislature, many a time, vested interests have played spoilsport.

So, why this fear or hesitation among the men in power and power brokers in bringing a strong legislation to ensure citizen participation in the City development? Why are the elected representatives like MLAs scared of public involvement in decision-making? Deccan Herald spoke to civic experts and representatives of Resident Welfare Associations to delve into the critical issue.

According to Kathyayini Chamaraj, Executive Trustee of CIVIC, an non-governmental organisation, a power game is being played systematically to stymie citizen participation. “The rules framed by the State government under the Community Participation Bill are very sketchy and there are no procedures laid out regarding financial powers of ward committees. Also, powers given to the elected representatives to nominate members to ward committees will only turn such forums into rehabilitation centres for political party workers,” she explains.

Kanaka R, a member of the Vijayanagar Residents’ Association, observes that the corporators are scared of ward committees as they feel such forums would come in the way of their decision-making powers. “Even officials from civic agencies like the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) and the BDA are not keen on such committees, as they do not like citizens questioning their day-to-day work and execution of projects. Many officials are hand in glove with the elected representatives in getting big budget projects sanctioned and reap money from them,” she says.

Citing the government’s reluctance to bring out the BMRGA Bill, an ABIDe member said on condition of anonymity that a key provision under the Bill was to have a mayor elected by the people with a five-year term. “MLAs in the City are not happy with such a provision as they feel their powers would be at risk with such a “powerful” mayor. They also feel a similar threat in the formation of a metropolitan planning committee,” he elaborates.
Chamaraj concluded that the solution to the problem was a strong commitment from the political fraternity to hand over powers to the public. “If politicians are not giving it, the onus is on the citizens themselves to get it done,” she says.