Wanted Now: A Ministry for Bangalore

Bangalore’s problems are a complex tangle of issues with various civic and utility bodies and their overlapping agendas often working at cross purposes. The result is that in the past few years the city has slid into a morass of neglect and no one knows who is responsible for what.

A quick and efficacious way forward would be the appointment of a Ministry for Bangalore with the mandate to co-ordinate and hold the various civic agencies accountable for implementation of key projects that can stop and reverse the decline of this formerly beautiful, buzzing economic engine of Karnataka and India.

Following extensive discussion, debate and analysis over the issues that confront the city, Bangalore Political Action Committee (B.PAC) is convinced that the new Government of Karnataka needs an independent Ministry for Bangalore in order to reverse the tide of Bangalore’s decline.This can no longer be treated as an option or a token gesture.

While such a post does exist – held by independent ministers from 1994 to 1999 – since then it has remained with the Chief Minister. Considering the many administrative and political demands on the CM’s time, it is unrealistic to expect that he would be able to devote unwavering attention to Bangalore. That, however, is what is needed if the city is to be saved and revived.

The CM may therefore even consider a Minister of State for Bangalorewho can have accountable charge for an Agenda for Bangalore that has transparency and effectiveness in co-coordinating administration.

Structure of Ministry

With a dynamic IAS officer of the rank of Additional Chief Secretary  along with a small secretariat, the Minister should have complete authority over and accountability for all parastatal agencies operating in BBMP limits including civic and utility agencies such as the BBMP, BDA, BMRCL, BWSSB, and Bescom.

To enable the Minister to deliver on the objectives for Bangalore’s resurrection, he/she needs to be financially empowered. Some of this can be achieved through the steps outlined in the white paper ‘B.PAC Mission: Rescue and Revitalize Bangalore’. Another key measure would be to make a separate budget for Bangalore along the lines of the Agricultural Budget.

As a first step, the Minister needs to take up the KIG Infrastructure report and start implementing it without any delay. To ensure that this implementation and other developmental issues of Bangalore are being dealt with in a planned, transparent and timely way, the Minister and the Chief Minister should be advised by a Bangalore Vision Group headed by the likes of eminent and respected citizens like Infosys Chairman Emeritus NR Narayana Murthy. The CM and the Bangalore Vision group must receive a quarterly report from the Minister for Bangalore and review progress on a quarterly basis.

Go for Quick Wins

In order to take and demonstrate action on the ground, some projects need to be taken up on utmost priority with clear and fixed timelines for completion following rigorous quality standards. These deadlines should be linked to incentives and penalties for those responsible for executing the projects including government and parastatal staff as well as contractors. To achieve some early successes, the Minister should give orders to:

  1. Commence work on the International Airport Road from Tumkur Road (BICC) to Bellary Road for better access to South Bangalore.  This will de-congest north-bound traffic from the high density traffic from South Bangalore that includes the high profile Electronics City.
  2. Resume construction of the elevated road to the airport.  This is vital to reduce the time to reach BIAL, which is a contentious issue for all Bangaloreans.
  3. Re-open HAL Airport for select Domestic flights.  This will be welcomed by all frequent travellers who find the trek to BIAL harrowing and stressful.   Such flights can also be charged a Premium price for convenience where the premium surcharge can be utilized for upgrading HAL Airport under a PPP arrangement.
  4. Commence road repairs and building of new roads to ensure smooth flow of traffic. 7+11 roads under TenderSURE, a novel road design and implementation scheme has been approved by GoK.  The first tender for 7 roads in the CBD should be awarded at the earliest. This will be a visible demonstration of infrastructure improvement.
  5. Start a campaign to clean all debris and garbage from the streets and footpaths of Bangalore over the next 2 months; impose stiff and strict fines for littering and dumping of garbage; clean up areas around the Metro construction.
  6. Clean and cover storm-water drains and sanitation lines to ensure that roads stay clean and undamaged.
  7. Ensure that Rs:300 crores allocated for EWS housing should be immediately utilized to showcase one slum rehabilitation project.
  8. Start the concreting of pavements of Bangalore to once again make the city a walkers’ paradise.
  9. Move forward with Phase 2 of the Metro after obtaining the long overdue approval from the Central Government.
  10. Water shortage has reached a crisis level.  Rain water harvesting must be enforced. Lake restoration must be pursued by the Lake Development Authority on a war footing with a blanket ban on real estate encroachment.  It is also prudent for BWSSB construct several large reservoirs for water storage for the city as the present capacity is woefully short.
  11. Review all industrial applications for IT, BT and manufacturing on a pro-active basis to accelerate execution; review every quarter to help accelerate employment in the State.
  12. Allow Bangalore a night-life by permitting restaurants, night-clubs and bars to operate till 1 AM on weekdays and 2 AM on weekends – this will be viewed very positively by the youth of Bangalore.

Conclusion: B.PAC urges the CM to enable immediate action on the measures outlined in this concept note by appointing a Ministry for Bangalore which can translate the vision of a resurgent Bangalore into reality.

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