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Rebooting urban governance for sustainable development

There is a strong need for a new, separate and customised law to govern the metropolitan city of Bengaluru
Last Updated : 27 May 2021, 19:17 IST

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West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday extended the ongoing Covid-19 restrictions till June 15, saying that the curbs have helped ease the pandemic situation. The West Bengal government had announced the existing restrictions for 15 days from May 16 following a huge surge in the number of coronavirus cases. The announcement for extension of the curbs came three days before they were scheduled to come to an end. "The Covid-19 restrictions in the state will continue till June 15. This is not a lockdown or a curfew. We will strictly follow the restrictions. "It's a relief to see that the ongoing restrictions have helped in easing the situation a little," Banerjee told reporters at the state secretariat 'Nabanna'. Essential services will continue operating following protocols, the chief minister said adding that all the ongoing restrictions would continue till June 15. "We will see that the state's economy is not disturbed," Banerjee said. She allowed the jute industry to work with a 40 per cent workforce in place of the existing 30 per cent following rising demand for jute bags from Punjab. Banerjee also said that work in the construction sector could be allowed provided labourers are vaccinated by companies for whom they work. "Construction companies must arrange for inoculation of labourers to carry out works," she said.

Cities and towns of Karnataka are being governed currently through Karnataka Municipal Corporations (KMC) Act, 1976, Karnataka Municipalities (KM) Act, 1964, and the BBMP Act, 2020. A careful study of these legislations reveals that these are outdated and inadequate, with disjointed operational clauses, thereby necessitating a new set of laws fully compliant with the constitutional mandate in order to meet the aspirations of the people for good governance.

As a result, there is a strong need for a new, separate and customised law to govern the metropolitan city of Bengaluru, perhaps to be called the New Bengaluru Governance (NBG) Bill, 2021, and a common law to govern all the remaining municipalities in the state, perhaps called the Karnataka Municipalities Governance (KMG) Bill, 2021.

Apart from this, the framework of town-planning legislation in Karnataka under the Karnataka Town and Country Planning (KTCP) Act, 1961, along with Bengaluru Development Authority (BDA) Act, 1976, Bengaluru Metropolitan Region Development Authority (BMRDA) Act, 1985, and the Karnataka Urban Development Authorities (KUDA) Act, 1987, are also outdated and need to be remodelled in the form of a unified legislation. This can be called the Karnataka Town and Country (Planning and Development) Bill to facilitate rebooting urban planning governance in the state, also to be fully compliant to the constitutional mandate.

The NBG Bill, 2021, envisages facilitating better governance of the Bengaluru Metropolitan City through BBMP both at the municipal and metropolitan levels as a whole with the objective of bringing out both systematic and structural or constitutional reforms comprehensively.

As part of structural reforms, the NBG Bill contemplates a new set of municipal authorities for BBMP— the BBMP Council, Mayoral Executive Committee, Subject Standing Committees and Zonal Standing Committees—endowed with powers and responsibilities mandated under Article 243-W of the Constitution. BBMP will have ward committees for a group of adjacent wards for the purposes envisaged under Article 243-S of the Constitution.

The NBG Bill is being visualised with detailed provisions for metropolitan governance for the preparation of draft development plans by the Greater Bengaluru Metropolitan Planning Committee (GBMPC) mandated under Article 243-ZE of the Constitution and their enforcement for compliance by all the constituent bodies of GBMPC. GBMPC will have a strong technical secretariat called the Bengaluru Metropolitan Region Authority (BMRA) substituting BMRDA.

The KMG Bill, 2021 aims to incorporate all improvisations as envisaged in the NBG Bill for graded and customised application to all classes of municipalities in the state excluding BBMP, with a corresponding set of structural and systemic reforms to enable them to function efficiently as institutions of self-government as per the constitutional mandate. The KMG Bill makes it obligatory for all municipalities and panchayats in a district to participate in the consolidation of District Development Plan by the District Planning Committees to fulfil the mandate of Article 243-ZD of the Constitution.

Alternatively, the state government may opt for adopting a unified municipal law containing all structural and systemic reforms applicable to all the municipalities including BBMP for reasons of brevity and non-repetitive operational clauses.

The KTC (P & D) Bill, 2021, aims to provide for the promotion of planned development and regulation of growth in urban and rural areas with a focus on scientific spatial planning on a digital platform, which is expected to act as an impetus to sustainable development and thereby enhance the living conditions of people by improving governance standards.

Articles 243-ZE and 243-ZD of the Constitution make it imperative for the state legislature to mandate preparation of draft Metropolitan Development Plan through the GBMPC and the draft District Development Plans through District Planning Committees (DPCs), which define the future urban governance profile and legislative framework for the next few decades.

The KTC (P & D) Bill involves merger of the BMLTA Act contemplated by the government with suitable improvements to it in order to create The Bangalore Metropolitan Land Transport Authority (BMLTA) as a statutory body responsible for the preparation of Comprehensive Traffic and Transportation Plan (CTTP) for the GBMA as a component of draft Metropolitan Development Plan. The CTTP involves infrastructure investment provisioning for traffic and transportation and a mechanism for enforcing them with an aim to secure sustainable mobility solutions to the cities and towns.

Rebooting urban governance by enacting the above new set of urban legislations is the need of the hour in order to fulfil the long-standing aspirations of the people of the state for improved living conditions with sustainable development. This objective cannot be achieved by resorting to patchwork of amending the laws disjointedly and on adhoc basis as is being done in the past several decades. The above three proposed laws envisage to develop a framework for formulating urban development plans on the basis of present and past conditions and of anticipated future requirements of cities and towns for the next few decades.

The government may consider seizing this opportunity as an advantage by enacting these legislations simultaneously during this year itself so that the rebooted urban governance becomes a reality for the economic good of the state and larger public interest soon.

For ensuring quick enforceability, an entire library of sub-ordinate legislations along with timelines for various statutory activities by the respective functional bodies has to be embodied in these laws.

(The writers are directors of the Centre for Urban Governance Studies & Policy Research, Bengaluru)

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Published 27 May 2021, 18:04 IST

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