After ignoring Bengaluru city in the first two years of its term and facing criticism for doing so,
Chief Minister Siddaramaiah's government went into overdrive on matters concerning it. But all it managed over the next two years is a series of missteps -whether it was the badly planned Akrama-Sakrama scheme or the plan to divide the city into five corporations, or the idea of common zoning regulations. Fortunately, none of them has come to fruition so far, thanks to the courts and strong resistance from citizens. The common thread in all of them is the lack of vision or concern for the city's future, haphazard planning and sometimes, regrettably, a brazen attempt to pander to vested interests. But the streak of bad ideas seems to be continuing, with the latest being a uniform municipal legislation for Bengaluru and the rest of urban Karnataka.
The government's justification for a common urban legislation is that it will enable the state to get more central grants and attract more investment by increasing the ease of doing business. Those are misconceptions. Bengaluru and the state as a whole have gotten central funds - whether it was under the UPA's JNNURM or the NDA's AMRUT and Smart Cities projects - under the existing municipal mechanisms. It is also not true that a common law that puts Bengaluru and Karnataka's other cities in the same basket will improve ease of doing business. On the contrary, it may hurt ease of doing business in smaller cities and towns, if the rules that apply to Bengaluru are applied to them, too. Instead, the case for a separate law for Bengaluru's governance is strong. With more than one crore people, Bengaluru accounts for nearly a fifth of the state's population; it accounts for 65% of the GSDP; and it's among the technology capitals of the world. On the other hand, it has the state's worst garbage and traffic management problems. Bengaluru is therefore a qualitatively different governance problem by its sheer magnitude. In fact, there is some thinking in the Central government towards declaring Bengaluru, among other such cities, a Union Territory and putting it under Central administration, which may actually benefit the city.
It is unfortunate that the Siddaramaiah government has time and again failed to take the Metropolitan Planning Committee (MPC) into confidence, as mandated by the 74th Amendment to the Constitution, before bringing forward such proposals. Whether it is common zoning regulations, allowing commercial use of land on all roads with a width of 30 metres, or the idea of a common urban legislation, the government must discuss them thoroughly in the MPC before trying to implement them.
This article is culled from daily press coverage from around the world. It is posted on the Urban Gateway by way of keeping all users informed about matters of interest. The opinion expressed in this article is that of the author and in no way reflects the opinion of UN-Habitat.