Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Power to the people

Power to the people
The Hindu

Bangalore saw an early example of local self-government in the municipality

Women have succeeded in getting elected to the posts of mayor and deputy mayor


A FIRST In 1997, the BMP became the first civic body in India to raise resources through municipal bonds

Inaugurating the conference of local self-government ministries in August 1948, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru said: "Local self-government is and must be the basis of any true system of democratic governance. Democracy at the top will not be a success unless it is built on foundations from below."

With decentralisation and delegation of power to the grassroots being the mantra in today's politics, the Government of India decided to amend the Constitution. The 74th Constitutional Amendment passed in 1993 — better known as Nagara Palike Act — provided for compulsory holding of elections to urban bodies every five years and reservation of seats for people belonging to the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes and women. The Act also had provision to enlist appropriate functions to local bodies along with funds.

All the States including Karnataka enacted legislation as per the Constitutional Amendment. In October 1994, the Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BMP) was reconstituted under the KMC Amendment Act No. 35 of 1994. The provisions of the Act included reservation of seats for people belonging to scheduled castes and scheduled tribes proportionate to their population in the city, and reservation of one-third seats for people from backward classes and women. The amending Act provided for four standing committees, viz., a) Standing committee for taxation, finance and appeals; b) Standing committee for public health, education and social justice; c) Standing committee for town planning and improvement, and d) Standing committee for accounts. To ensure people had a say in decision-making and control over resources, ward committees were to be constituted overseeing one or more wards within the territorial area of the Corporation. Another provision of the Act was the reconstitution of the Corporation within six months in case of its dissolution.

New wards

In 1995, 36 new wards were added to the existing 64 under the ambit of BMP thereby increasing its range to 225 sq. km from 150 sq. km.

In October 1996, elections were held to the corporation. The Janata Dal secured 39 seats, followed by BJP 26, Congress 19 and independents 11. Women succeeded in getting elected to the posts of mayor and deputy mayor. Padmavathi Gangadhara Gowda and Venkatalakshmi, both JD councillors, occupied the post of mayor and deputy mayor respectively.

In 1997, the BMP became the first civic body in India to raise resources through the issue of municipal bonds.

Today, Bangalore is a far cry from the sleepy town it once was. The city is a shopper's paradise, especially for apparels, jewellery, electronics and handicrafts. Commercial Street, M.G. Road, Brigade Road, K.G. Road and Jayanagar shopping complex are traditional haunts for shopping. Nowadays, new shopping malls are coming up in almost all suburbs of the city.

The night life of the city is vibrant with its pubs, movie halls, fashion shows and music concerts. Today IT powers our economy and youth. Even those with engineering and technical qualifications are switching over to IT for a place in the sun. BPO industries have transformed the working culture of the city. Night shifts were once the domain of factory workers, policemen and public vehicle drivers. Today young women too work in night shifts. The corporate sector, at one point out of bounds for undergraduates and non-skilled graduates, now offers excellent opportunities for them, especially sectors involved in business processing and outsourcing. Cybercafés are found in every nook and corner of the city. Online booking, online shopping, online recruitment and even online marriage is common. Bangalore has more than 1,200 IT companies employing over 1.5 lakh professionals. The city accounted for one-third of India's software and BPO exports in 2004-05 with total IT exports from Bangalore alone amounting to Rs. 22,000 crores. The IT fair held annually in the city attracts IT firms from all over the world.

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