Monday, December 26, 2005

Who will govern the ever-expanding city?

Who will govern the ever-expanding city?
By A Ravindra
The Times of India

Chief minister N Dharam Singh has announced that a Bill will be introduced to set up a Bangalore Metropolitan Authority. He had said it would be desirable to merge the CMCs with the BMP. These two proposals are in a way linked to each other and need to be examined:

If smaller municipalities are made part of the BMP, its area and population will get almost doubled. Does the BMP have the resources to govern such a vast area? Will the merger only mean appointing more staff under the existing system without making any structural changes?

Once the BMA comes into being, what will be the role of Bangalore Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (BMRDA)? According to the BMRDA Act, its functions include coordinating the activities of civic bodies, raising finance for the development of the region and extending assistance to the local authorities. Will the proposed BMA perform similar functions? If so, what is the purpose of creating another body?

Will the BDA continue to perform the functions of planning authority; if so, what will be the role of BMA in the planning process?

This is also the right time to raise the issue of the role of the corporation in the overall scheme of the governance of Bangalore, especially in the context of the proposed BMA. The 74th amendment to the Constitution aims at decentralisation of powers to the municipalities. This would call for a thorough restructuring of the municipal organisation as well as the service delivery system. The present system of urban governance basically suffers from lack of accountability. How do you answer the question: who governs Bangalore? One would have to list at least a dozen organisations. What is the role of the mayor in governing the city? The mayor performs more ceremonial functions, with administrative powers being vested in the commissioner and the standing committees exercise the powers of sanction. The diffusion of authority within the corporation makes no one accountable.

It is time to think of a system where one organisation, like the elected body of the municipal corporation, is primarily held accountable for delivery of all civic services. And within that organisation one person, like the mayor, assumes the responsibility of leadership. The next question is, how should the mayor be elected? By indirect election. That is, by the elected councilors (the prevailing system) or directly by the people. The advantage of a directly elected mayor is that any eligible citizen, without being a member of a political party can contest for mayor’s post. This gives an opportunity to eminent public spirited citizens to become the mayor. The position of mayor must carry the necessary authority and dignity. The first citizen must be vested with executive powers to enable him to ‘run the city’. People will know who is their leader who can be trusted to deliver the goods and in case, he fails, they should have the power to recall him. This is somewhat similar to the presidential system of government. Of course, checks and balances will have to be put in place to ensure smooth functioning.

The writer is an expert in urban planning and former chief secretary to Karnataka government

Some suggestions

•Make the elected municipal corporation responsible for all civic services.

•Have a directly elected mayor with executive powers; introduce the right of citizens to recall mayor and councillors.

•Abolish the city/town municipal councils and create two or three municipal corporations.

•Set up the Metropolitan Planning Committee as mandated by the Constitution to plan and coordinate metropolitan development, divest BDA of planning functions.


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