Dear Deputy CM, nice thought, but an elite task force is not what Bengaluru needs

Advisory body useless without constitutional backing, govt must focus on implementing 74th amendment to Constitution that mandates formation of planning authority for local and city governing bodies

June 09, 2023 04:20 pm | Updated 04:36 pm IST - Bengaluru

Karnataka Deputy Chief Minister D.K. Shivakumar flanked by Energy Minister K.J. George and Transport Minister Ramalinga Reddy.

Karnataka Deputy Chief Minister D.K. Shivakumar flanked by Energy Minister K.J. George and Transport Minister Ramalinga Reddy. | Photo Credit: File photo

Deputy Chief Minister and Bengaluru Development Minister D.K. Shivakumar’s proposal to constitute an elite advisory group to invigorate the tech city’s infrastructure has kicked off a debate on the need for such a task force. 

It may be recalled that in 1999, then CM S.M. Krishna set up the Bengaluru Agenda Task Force (BATF), headed by Nandan Nilekani, former CEO of Infosys.

In 2010, then CM B.S. Yediyurappa set up a similar team called Agenda for Bengaluru Infrastructure and Development (ABIDe). However, the team never met, and ceased to exist when Mr. Yediyurappa stepped down.

When Mr. Yediyurappa returned as CM in 2019, he did not reconstitute the team, and neither did his successor Basavaraj Bommai. 

On June 5, after reviewing Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike’s (BBMP) developmental activities, Mr Shivakumar told reporters at Vidhana Soudha: “I have decided to form an advisory group that existed when Mr. Krishna was the CM. Individuals like N.R. Narayana Murthy, co-founder of Infosys, contributed immensely through investments and generating employment, accelerating the growth (of the city). The new advisory group will have people alike Mr Murthy.”

Advisory body versus Bengaluru Metropolitan Planning Authority

Sandeep Anirudhan, a civic activist, told The Hindu that while BATF introduced a few changes for the better, ABIde never held a single meeting before it ceased to exist.

Stressing on the constitutional validity of such committees, he said as long as task forces or committees are not institutionalised under the law, the members, however influential they may be, cannot bring about any change. The changes suggested by these groups can be reversed when a new government takes over. The Congress government has to focus on implementing the 74th amendment to the Constitution that mandates formation of a planning authority for the local and city governing bodies. 

The changes brought in the system by an authority that enjoys legal sanctity will always be protected by the law. It is not easy for new governments to scrap such changes. The Bengaluru Metropolitan Planning Authority (BMPA) is the need of the hour.

On the other hand, in an advisory body, an influential group tries to push their agenda and consultants. The group does not represent the interests of all sections of society, but their own. The task forces will have a top-to-bottom approach, while BMPA approach will be bottom-to-top. 

Powers of bureaucracy will not be diluted 

A senior IAS officer serving in key posts in Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) revealed that, during a meeting with officials, Mr Shivakumar assured that decision-making powers of bureaucracy will not be diluted, and he will not allow the advisory group to arm-twist IAS officers. Mr Shivakumar also acknowledged that, in the past, such teams made attempts to dominate decision-making spaces and pushed their own agendas to serve their interests. 

The officer added that the proposal was made with a view of making governance inclusive. The advisory group will be restricted to seeking suggestions and feedback for the projects planned by Karnataka. 

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