The past decade has seen Bangalore morph from an economic and climatic paradise into a living hell for its denizens. For a city that contributes over 60 percent of Karnataka’s GDP and contributes 66 percent of its tax revenues, rampant unplanned and mismanaged growth has resulted in crumbling infrastructure, poor public transport, power and water shortage, stifling pollution, and decrepit sanitation.
Leading global and Indian companies that flocked to this IT and BT capital of the country for its large talent pool, quality of life and salubrious climate are looking elsewhere to grow. While several factors have contributed to the erstwhile Garden City turning into a GarbageCity, political and bureaucratic apathy and greed stand out as the key drivers of this decline. Equally responsible is the indifference of the average citizen who is often too busy struggling for the basics of life.
Bangalore Political Action Committee (B.PAC) was formed to make a difference. It was set up through an initiative by several eminent citizens with the aim to build a better Bangalore and help improve the quality of life of every citizen. The B.PAC trustees have no personal political ambition: they however are collectively determined to make the political system work across party lines to build a better and more inclusiveBangalore.
B.PAC is optimistic that, having been voted into office with a convincing mandate, the new government will not waste this opportunity to restoreBangalore to its former glory.
B.PAC came into being through an initiative of leading Bangaloreans including Biocon CMD Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw who is B.PAC’s President and Managing Trustee, Manipal Global Education Services Chairman Mohandas Pai (B.PAC Vice President), and former Karnataka Additional Chief Secretary K Jairaj (B.PAC Trustee and Secretary). B.PAC members include eminent personalities from politics, business, sports, arts, and entertainment – it has the support and mentorship of Infosys Chairman Emeritus NR Narayana Murthy.
The key objectives of B.PAC are:
- To promote and sustain good governance practices and policies for the economic competitiveness, social well-being and inclusive growth of the city.
- To promote integrity and transparency in all arms of the government and to enhance the image of Bangalore.
- To improve the quality of infrastructure in the city based on global standards.
- To identify and support strong candidates for public office at all levels of governance from Bangalore city – city council, legislature, and parliament. B.PAC is agnostic to the political affiliation of candidates, and will focus only on their competence, integrity and alignment with B.PAC’s specific agenda.
- To create a safer city where the rule of law is ensured for all.
The charter and agenda of B.PAC were unveiled on Feb 4, 2013.
B.PAC Agenda for Bangalore
The B.PAC Agenda for Bangalore (AfB) is a set of initiatives that are aimed at enhancing the quality of life for all citizens in Bangalore. Based on regular reviews, B.PAC may include new initiatives to address the changing needs of the city. There is need for urgent action on the following issues:
- Effective governance structure
Challenge: With the policy, planning and administrative functions of government inter-twined, there is no clarity on roles and responsibilities of BBMP, state government and Members of Parliament representing Bangalore. Not surprisingly, as a consequence, there is no accountability. Further, the reforms and policies aimed at improving the quality of life in the city mandated by the 74th Amendment, the Karnataka Municipal Corporations Act, and the BBMP Act, have not been implemented effectively.
B.PAC Solution: Create an independent ministry for Bangalore with its own Cabinet-ranking minister and secretariat. This could be the ideal nodal body to achieve results quickly. With all arms of local and state government engaged with Bangalore reporting into this ministry, it could effectively be a single window to address all issues related to the city. (Please see Concept Note on Minister forBangalore)
To enable this governance structure to deliver, the following actions need to taken without any delay:
- Separate Planning and Administration – Create a statutory planning approach for all aspects of economic and social development, through the formation of a regional planning authority for Bangalore city.
- Create an Accountable City Government – A realistic term of office for the Mayor of the city, the Corporation Commissioner and key civic officials will give them adequate time to develop a vision for the city and implement it. Further, the mandates of the 74th Amendment and the recommendations of the Kasturirangan Committee must be implemented.
iii. Legislate Special Statute For Bangalore – Introduce legislation as proposed in the Bangalore Metropolitan Region Governance Bill to strengthen public administration, to facilitate citizen participation in governance, and to enhance the powers of city government.
- Make City Government Key Third Tier Of Government – All parastatals that provide civic services should be brought under a common authority for the city – the Ministry forBangalore. Ensure that the key officials in the BBMP (and the parastatals, e.g. BWSSB, BMRTC, BESCOM) are appointed in time so that there is adequate leadership to meet the city’s needs for development. A municipal cadre should be established for the state, and officials in city government appointed from this cadre only.
- Leverage Expertise for Civic Services – Appoint technical members in the Boards of the civic agencies, and technical advisory groups in each agency that bring in the expertise of private citizens into the regular functioning of service providers.
- Citizen inclusion in governance
Challenge: As the city grows with each passing day, so does the scale of the problems we face – whether it is roads, water supply, power, sanitation, healthcare, or even education. Further, there is a growing disconnect between citizens and governance.
B.PAC Solution: To address these gaps, B.PAC wants the formal inclusion of citizens in public decision-making and in solving problems at the neighborhood levels. This can be done by:
- Nominating citizens with necessary expertise in tackling urban problems as corporators in BBMP.
- Including citizen experts in each of the Standing Committees of BBMP.
iii. Forming ward committees in each neighborhood, thereby involving citizens in projects being executed at the ward level.
- Strengthening civic finances
Challenge: Bangalore faces a severe cash crunch. Without adequate finances it is impossible to develop or even maintain infrastructure, support economic activity and sustain public services. Given the importance of the city to the economy of the state, it is critical that we get this ‘engine’ of the state up and running smoothly.
B.PAC Solution: A number of proposals for increasing revenue are needed. Considering that Bangalore contributes 66 percent of Karnataka’s tax revenues, the following steps would be a good start:
- The profession tax collected in the city should be earmarked by the State government for the city.
- 50% of the stamp duties collected on property transactions in BBMP limits should be given to the city.
iii. 50% of the road tax collected in BBMP limits should be given to the city.
Such funds can be given either to BBMP, or to the BDA, for infrastructure development. The principle of such use can be applied in all cities in the state that drive economic growth and employment to benefit from the infusion of funds.
- Accountable civic agencies
Challenge: To most citizens, it is not clear what the civic agencies are doing – although it is obvious that, whatever it is, they are not doing it well.
B.PAC Solution: It is important to set metrics and success targets for each agency which should also be required to publicly disclose the work it is doing, the progress and the status of each project big or small. B.PAC seeks:
- Public disclosure of expenditure on all projects.
- Public information on all tenders for works executed in the city.
iii. Regular progress reports on all projects.
- Performance audits of projects undertaken by the officials of BBMP and other parastatals, with scope for citizen feedback and action thereon.
- Annual CAG audit of BBMP.
- A public accounts committee to be created in BBMP to provide continuous improvement in standards of project execution.
- Strong infrastructure
Challenge: To create a world-class city, we need world class infrastructure. At the moment there are serious deficits in physical, knowledge, social and financial infrastructure, and we must overcome these swiftly.
B.PAC Solution: A comprehensive proposal for infrastructure development across all sectors has been drawn up by the Karnataka Information Technology and Communication Group (KIG) and presented to the government on January 8, 2013. B.PAC urges the government to take up and implement this report in a planned and effective manner without any delay.
- Strengthening urban politics
Challenge – Urban Representation: Despite the growing urbanization in the country, the number of seats in State legislatures and Parliament from urban areas has not grown.
B.PAC Solution: B.PAC will explore legal and political processes to ensure that urban representation reflects changing demographic trends.
Challenge – Campaign Finance: The permissible limits on expenditure for election campaigns are currently too low and need to be reviewed realistically. Further, the monitoring of campaign expenditure is weak.
B.PAC Solution: B.PAC will seek necessary interventions by courts as well as by the Election Commission to set realistic limits for expenditure, and ensure that these are regulated well, so that voters get to know their candidates well before elections.
B.PAC Initiatives and Successes
Within weeks of its formation, B.PAC has undertaken several initiatives to achieve its objectives. These include supporting voter registration efforts to encourage citizens to participate in the democratic process, communication and outreach to citizens to enlist support for the Agenda for Bangalore, engaging with political leadership across parties, providing support to candidates who support B.PAC’s agenda, and communicating with voters on B.PAC-backed candidates using all channels including social media.
Some of the significant early successes include:
- Victory of 5 out of 14 B.PAC-endorsed candidates in the recent Karnataka Assembly elections. The other candidates that B.PAC endorsed also performed well. This is a clear sign that with greater awareness and participation, the educated urban citizen will vote for candidates who demonstrate competence, integrity and the will to drive change.
- Enrolling of thousands of new voters for the recent elections – B.PAC’s efforts led to 600,000 new voters being registered in a record 3 months.
- Target of registering 1 million new voters for the forthcoming general elections
- Large numbers of Bangaloreans are signing up to join and work with B.PAC
The B.PAC team is headed by its President and Managing Trustee Kiran Mazumdar Shaw who is supported by Vice President and Trustee Mohandas Pai and Secretary and Trustee K Jairaj. The other Trustees are Ashwini Nachappa and Prasad Bidapa. B.PAC Members include Stanley Pinto, Charu Sharma, Harish Bijoor, Harish Narsappa, Kalpana Kar, Nisha Millet, Nooraine Fazal, Prakash Belavadi, and Vani Ganapathy.
Bangalore Political Action Committee (B.PAC) that was started by prominent Bangaloreans is fast gaining traction with common people coming out to support its agenda. The agenda is to rescue Bangalore from the pitiful state it is in today and help make it a world-class city for the betterment of all its citizens. B.PAC will work closely with the political leadership to ensure that this is achieved. Effecting change through political will along the lines outlined earlier in this paper will not only help Bangalore and its citizens but also benefit the entire state. B.PAC is committed to engaging in all forums including the courts of law to ensure political change that helps rebuild a Bangalore that we all will be proud of.