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Bengaluru needs a comprehensive metropolitan governance law

A democratically elected body like the Greater Bengaluru Metropolitan Planning Committee is the need of the hour
Last Updated : 15 April 2021, 22:30 IST
Last Updated : 15 April 2021, 22:30 IST
Last Updated : 15 April 2021, 22:30 IST
Last Updated : 15 April 2021, 22:30 IST

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Without bringing in any improvisation, the new BBMP Act has failed to incorporate the mandate of the Constitutional Amendment Act, 1992 (CAA, 1992) for metropolitan governance in letter and spirit. It has all but reproduced the extract of Articles 243‑P[c] and 243-ZE of the Constitution under Section 367 of the new Act.

Why is a comprehensive metropolitan law essential? Section 367 alone cannot facilitate metropolitan governance for the entire Greater Bengaluru Metropolitan Area (GBMA), which is experiencing physical, social and administrative complexities with overlapping functional jurisdictions of various statutory bodies.

A democratically elected body like the Greater Bengaluru Metropolitan Planning Committee (GBMPC) is the need of the hour to overcome dysfunctionalities arising out of multitude of statutory bodies which are detrimental to the common interest of municipalities and panchayats for their coordinated governance.

The CAA, 1992, paved the way for proper governance of metropolitan cities enabling state legislatures to make laws like in West Bengal, Karnataka and Haryana (1994), and later in several other states by either amending the municipal laws or town planning laws. The Karnataka Municipalities Corporations (KMC) Act, 1976, was amended in 1994 to insert Section 503-B to incorporate metropolitan law symbolically by just reproducing the extract of Articles 243-P[c] and 243-ZE without any customisation.

Some features of the new Bengaluru metropolitan law: The GBMA comprising Bengaluru Urban, Bengaluru Rural and Ramanagara districts spanning an area of 8,005 sq km must be directly specified as its jurisdiction. In order to give proper representation to all constituent municipalities and panchayats in GBMA, GBMPC can have 60 members instead of 30 as specified in the new BBMP Act.

A total of 45 members (two-thirds) comprising mayor and chairpersons of zonal/standing committees of the BBMP and presidents of the CMCs and TMCs in the GBMA may be directly specified as members since they are already elected. Seats against the panchayats must be filled by electing the members amongst the presidents of zilla panchayats, taluk panchayats and gram panchayats in the GBMA.

The remaining 15 members (one-third) may be nominated from among MPs and MLAs within GBMA. The GBMPC will have representatives of state and Central governments and all statutory or parastatal bodies operating in the GBMA. The chief minister must be specified directly in the Act to be the chairperson of the GBMPC, whether he holds the portfolio of Bengaluru City Development or not.

Additional Chief Secretary to the state government, Urban Development Department, having overall administrative control of all statutory bodies under the department, must be designated as secretary of the GBMPC, which may have three or four sectoral committees with different functions allocated to them by the GBMPC.

The existing BMRDA must be redesignated as BMRA by remodelling BMRDA Act, 1985, and appointed as technical secretariat of the GBMPC. The BMRA should have expert members having expertise in urban planning, traffic and transportation, environment conservation and institutional finance. The BMRA must be equipped with qualified and experienced staff with additional budgetary grants from the government in addition to its internal revenue resources.

Powers and functions of the GBMPC: There is a need to prepare or get prepared a five-year draft development plan by consolidating different sectoral plans. The development plan should be reviewed every year for mid-term appraisal which must incorporate development goals, objects and priorities set by the state and the Central government.

The plan must have a linkage to 20-year ‘perspective plan’ for spatial development and investment in the GBMA by mobilising equitable sharing of financial resources amongst investment made through different agencies. On its approval by the government, the plan should be binding on all constituent bodies enforceable by the GBMPC.

The annual plans of the constituent bodies should be linked to the draft plan. The GBMPC should monitor compliance of milestones of achievement set out in the development plan. The plan must be prepared having regard to matters of common interest and sharing of natural resources.

The GBMPC should be the principal controlling authority on the functioning of the BMRA. The powers of the state government should be exercised by the GBMPC independently on all operative matters of metropolitan administration.

Environmental conservation: Efforts to prevent pollution of Bellandur and surrounding lakes under scrutiny of the National Green Tribunal has exposed lack of integrated planning and monitoring through the GBMPC due to overlapping functional jurisdictions of the BBMP and the BWSSB and other agencies.

Solid waste infrastructure: The BBMP’s waste disposal projects being implemented in the peripheral areas to process 3,000‑3,500 metric tonnes per day (TPD) to cater to the needs of the eight zones of BBMP, against the estimated current requirement to process 5,000-6,000 TPD, is a classic case of piecemeal approach highlighting lack of integrated planning through the GBMPC.

Water supply and sewerage: The BBMP was established in 2006, including erstwhile CMC/TMC areas and 110 villages, without basic infrastructure for water supply and underground drainage. The BWSSB is still implementing these projects. The BBMP has to re-lay roads after the utility lines are laid, a sign that the BBMP and the BWSSB are not working in close coordination.

Traffic and transportation: The government is contemplating several policy measures affecting the common man like levy of cess on new BDA layouts, allowance of additional TDR (premium TDR) in the areas of metro alignments outside the outer ring road, levy of impact fees for utilisation of additional floor area ratio, revision of parking fee in public places, taxing on deficit parking etc. These policy measures must not be directly incorporated in the next master plan to be prepared by the BDA without consulting the GBMPC.

Way forward: The state government must pursue in right earnest as early as possible to frame a new comprehensive metropolitan law to govern GBMA. Timelines of various statutory activities must be incorporated in the rules which must be appended as Schedule to the Act.

(The writers are directors of Bengaluru-based think tank, Centre for Urban Governance Studies and Policy Research)

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Published 15 April 2021, 20:52 IST

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