Messing around with Bengaluru

NV Krishnakumar | Updated on January 17, 2018 Published on July 10, 2016

What about him? Ordinary folk must come first SUDHAKARA JAIN

The city’s development is determined by and for the elite rather than the aam aadmi

In 2004, distinguished Harvard University social scientist Samuel Huntington coined the terms ‘Davos Man’ and ‘Cosmocrats’ to refer to a group of elites who met at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, to discuss global problems and hunt for solutions. He concluded that these Cosmocrats considered themselves global citizens with no allegiance to national identity; and their sole aim was to facilitate and promote their own interests while being completely disconnected from the concerns of common citizens.

Closer home, we have the Bengaluru Blue Print Vision Group (BBPVG) comprising mostly Bengaluru’s own ‘Davos Men and Women’. Like the Cosmocrats, Bengaluru’s Davos crowd too is more global than local. They unashamedly wear many expert hats — tourism, governance, transportation, urban planning, environment, solid waste management, and so on. And as Huntington rightly points out, like their global counterparts, they are unapologetic about pursuing their own agenda, ignoring the concerns of the aam aadmi.

The first meeting of BBPVG confirms the worst fears of common citizens. In public, many advocate structural reforms to solve the city’s problems — a strong mayor elected for five years, a well-functioning Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) council, a commitment to transfer funds from the State government to BBMP, all service agencies coming under one roof, ward committees to plan and supervise implementation at the ward level, and a metropolitan planning committee to oversee the planning of Greater Bengaluru.

Public face, private ways

But in a face to face with politicians, the dialogue centred mostly on well-known elite issues. It is puzzling why the group did not discuss structural reforms and request the chief minister and Bengaluru ministers to implement the 74{+t}{+h} constitutional amendment (relating to the relationship between State governments and urban local bodies) which is a sine qua non to transform governance of the city.

According to Narendra Pani of the National Institute of Advanced Studies, the current garbage mess has its origins in the recommendations of Bangalore Agenda Task Force (BATF). Property tax collection under the self-assessment scheme, suggested by BATF, has been dismal. The Agenda for Bengaluru Infrastructure and Development Task Force turned the city into Vatican by making made a lot of arterial roads one-way. The BBMP restructuring committee report on trifurcating the city for administrative purposes is gathering dust.

Moreover, Bengaluru’s Davos crowd being global citizens often think of cities such as New York, London, Paris and Singapore when it comes to conceiving policies for Bengaluru. This thinking is deeply flawed since these cities are exceptions and not the norm. The top 10 most livable cities across the globe have a population of less than 5 million and are rated on a variety of indicators. The Mercer Quality of Living Index analyses more than 35 factors to arrive at their list of most livable cities.

Ignoring critical issues

Task forces never contend with critical issues concerning common citizens which are part of any quality of living index — personal safety, crime, schools and hospitals, affordable housing, reasonably priced public transportation, inexpensive recreation, consumption of food, etc. Invariably, they pursue their own agenda — ways to improve infrastructure, better roads and footpaths, ending traffic bottlenecks, construction of elevated and signal-free corridors. And there is no effort to put forth a proposal on how to reduce the citizen count.

It is no mystery why politicians seek support of corporate captains to head various committees. They see it as a public relations exercise. But it is an enigma why successful industry leaders want to participate in ventures doomed to fail.

Going forward, it is best for politicians to crowd-source ideas than impose an agenda on citizens. Even if the government desires to form committees, in the interest of common citizens, Davos Men and Women must turn down the offer and continue to do what they excel in — create profitable ventures that generate jobs and pay taxes — and leave government business to elected representatives, activists and ombudsmen.

The writer is a Bengaluru-based money manager

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Published on July 10, 2016
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