Metrolife: What use is a minister for city development?

In Pune and Mumbai, bus transport is managed by the municipality.

Citizens’ groups in Bengaluru are campaigning for a stronger municipal structure. Metrolife brings insights on how the city can be administered better even without a minister for Bengaluru development.

BMTC under BBMP

Extending the mayor’s powers is the Constitutionally right thing to do, says Vinay Srinivas, member of Bengaluru Bus Prayaanikara Vedike. 

According to the 74th Amendment, Article 243 Z, urban local bodies should have control over transport and water and electricity supply. “If you look at cities like Pune and Mumbai, bus transport comes under the municipal corporation,” says Vinay.  

The BMTC managing director should be answerable to the mayor. Corporators know where bus stops are required. At the moment, there is no forum to redress such grievances at the BBMP, he says. 

“All utilities should come under the BBMP. But for this to happen, the Karnataka Municipal Corporations Act has to be amended. At the moment, the mayor holds no executive powers and everything comes under the BBMP commissioner,” he says. 

Light on Bescom

The mayor being head of Bescom would channel many initiatives in the right direction, says Kathyayini Chamaraj, founder of Citizens Voluntary Initiative for the City (CIVIC).

She says Bescom engineers should be accountable to the municipal ward committees, which can decide on everything from replacing streetlights with solar lights and implementing solar energy for water pumping.

“More coordinated participation will come into play when a mayor heads all local bodies. Things will become more people-centric,” she says.

BWSSB and digging 

D S Rajshekar, president of the Citizens Action Forum, is among those who recommend a longer term for the mayor.

BBMP provides ground infrastructure, but BWSSB digs up the roads for repairs, and so coordination is essential, he argues. 

“When roads are dug up, pipes leak. If the mayor is directly handling all agencies, he would be able to coordinate and set appropriate deadlines, understanding the limitations of all agencies,” he says.

If BWSSB is brought under the mayor’s belt, distribution of water across neighbourhoods will be better, he reckons. “One will not have to ask 10 people for solutions,” says Rajshekar. 

Aye or nay?

Leo Saldana, a full-time coordinator of Environment Support Group says empowering the mayor is not possible in the current structure.  

“There is no provision for a direct elected mayor now. There has to be a political shift for a strong mayoral system. This can come with the risk of turning into an oligopoly. A mayor in such a case should be the head of the Metropolitan Planning Committee and the BDA will cease to exist,” he says.

He believes the current one-year term is not workable, and a two-and-a-half or five-year term may be an idea worthy of consideration. 

Term length

The Bengaluru mayor now enjoys a year-long term, but that is too short to do anything meaningful, activists say. They are pitching for a longer term of three to five years.

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Metrolife: What use is a minister for city development?

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