Bangalore Needs Reforms, Not More Vested Interests Taking Over The City

I have been receiving representations from various citizens and Resident Welfare Associations ( RWAs) expressing their concerns over the recommendations made in the Karnataka Information and Communication Technology Group 2020 (Report), and  its dangerous implications on  the development of Bengaluru.

Citizens have pointed out , and rightfully so, that many recommendations made in the Report do not address the crucial challenges faced by citizens, especially in terms of real governance reforms and transparency. Any proposal to develop a city that does not address the fundamental issues of statutory planning for the city and ushering in citizen-centric governance reforms is not consistent with a government that has been elected on a promise of better Governance.  Moreover, a report such as this that would directly affect the lives of all citizens, was developed without any public consultations.

The core proposal in the Report recommending increase of Floor Space Index for builders to generate funds for development of Bengaluru, without taking into account the infrastructural constraints in the form of adequate roads, water, electricity and civic services required to service the additional Floor Space Index will sound a death knell to the city. Citizens are wary of the repercussions of  such a proposal that christens the city’s real estate and the builder community as the purported funders of Bangalore’s development

It represents a surrender of the city’s development to the commercial interests represented by builders, contractors and real estate companies – many of whose commercial interests are directly responsible for the problems faced by the city and residents.

The development of the city, including various contracts and projects has for long been influenced by vested commercial interests of some builders and contractors, who seem to have overtaken the planning of the city. The large number of elected representatives who also have deep and very conflicted interests in real estate that has become almost symbolic of the poor governance of our city. There is an urgent need to put an end to such a nexus between contractors and officials acting against public interest. We must not let any community singularly hijack the development agenda of the city.

In such a scenario, any proposal like the one mentioned, despite being backed by highly visible industrialists  must been seen as what is:  An attempt by some builders and the real estate lobby to significantly influence the development plans of our city..Nowhere in the world are builders given the responsibility to build cities and this certainly should not be the case in Bengaluru. Such moves will neither lead to the development of the city nor solve the problems of the city.

In addition to pandering to vested interests, one must also consider the other implications of increasing FSI. Allowing greater FSI to builders would essentially destroy the last vestiges of greenery left in a city that was once known for its vast green stretches. In a city already crumbling under the weight of a huge population influx without a concomitant improvement of infrastructure, increasing FSI increases population density. With civic infrastructure in shambles, we are not ready to accommodate more people in our neighbourhoods.

The government should instead, design a blueprint for development that includes planning and developing satellite towns in the vicinity of Bangalore in locations such as Yelahanka, Kengeri, Devanahalli and Hosakote  and reduce the enormous pressure on Bangalore’s infrastructure and public services.

Any solution to Bangalore’s myriad problems must necessarily follow an intelligent approach that takes into account the aspirations of the citizens of Bengaluru with the interests of all socio-economic groups represented and seek guidance from the planning and financing techniques used by other successful cities around the world. Top-most priority should therefore be on important issues including access to adequate drinking water, mass transportation, public health & sanitation and affordable housing for the sections  of society that need Governmental intervention.

I have backed the citizens fight on the matter and urged the Chief Minister Siddharamiah to exercise extreme caution while considering the recommendations of the report. It is in the interest of the citizens and the overall development of the city that this report is not accepted.

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