It is election season in our state and in our city and citizens of our state and city are faced with that important question - who to vote for? I am repeatedly asked this question by many Bengalureans wherever they encounter me - be it my morning walk or when I am out for a social occasion or at work.
It is not my business to tell you who to vote for but I can certainly help you understand the challenges that we face as a city and state and pose the questions to the person who will represent you in our Legislature.
Over the last decade and a half, Bengaluru has become the symbol of a new India, and an important gateway for investments into the country. And as the economic engine of Karnataka, Bengaluru is even more important to the state. It is a city that has seen transformation in recent years, and promises to see even more growth in the years ahead. Managing this growth needs alert and dedicated public servants and for that the right commitment from candidates is a starting point.
The growth of the city has outpaced its infrastructure. A picture of utter urban chaos is the result and it is our biggest challenge to bring infrastructure up to speed in Bengaluru.
Not only is the situation today alarming, it could get worse! By 2020, the population in the Bengaluru Metropolitan Region (BMR) could exceed 16 million (1.6 Crores). If the same unplanned approach to growth continues, the historical advantages of the city will be lost. Like many of you I am a proud Bengalurean - and have also been a helpless witness to the decline of our city - as it has gone from a vibrant metropolis to a city that is creaking under the weight of its own growth.
Your vote in this election could help arrest this decline.
I believe that it’s important that we move from complaining about what our City has become, to actively participating in rebuilding Bengaluru into a city that we all can be once again proud of.
To achieve this goal a first step is to ensure our MLAs are people who understand the challenges. In particular action is needed around two fundamental issues of Statutory Planning for the city and ushering in reforms for citizen-centric Governance.
Planning is critical for coping with the anticipated growth of our city and the pressures that growth will place on housing, infrastructure and public services.
Planning is the glue that holds together the ideas of elected representatives and the executive actions of administrators.
In the absence of planning, residents of the city face difficulties all around - bad roads, leaky pipes, absent sewerage; intermittent power, and creaky public transport. These issues can only be addressed through a Metropolitan Planning Committee which in turn is responsible for a long term statutory Regional Plan that leaves very little room for derailment by political or vested interests.
2. CITIZEN-CENTRIC GOVERNANCE
Governance reforms are the second urgent need for the city. These should focus on transparency and RWA/citizen involvement in neighborhood life. Through proper Ward and Neighbourhood Area committees such a goal can be realized. In every successful modern city, citizens have a very powerful voice in the destiny and direction of development around their homes and places of work. For Bengaluru too, we must want the same.
Bengaluru has a long history of very livable residential areas, but the feel of a comfortable and attractive city is now at risk. We can only hope to restore this by promoting community engagement and citizen involvement on key issues. A sense of community leads to a feeling of belonging and the resulting sense of safety and security.
The decline of the various City Government agencies is an area of concern. Planning for big cities, managing public service delivery and contracting functions requires skill, integrity and transparency. For this we need continuous improvement in the capacity of public institutions. A modern - and still growing - city needs administrators who are equipped with the tools and technologies for transparent and effective administration. Developing a cadre of dedicated city managers and nurturing robust institutions that concentrate on transparency and residents’ welfare is immediately required.
Our city needs reforms and greater transparency. It needs a dedicated law/bill passed that enshrines the two much needed reforms of Statutory Planning and citizen-centric Governance.
As I’ve said before, it’s time now that we as residents took an active and informed interest in directing our city’s future. The first step of which is getting more involved in these elections and shaping its debate around the real issues that impact our city.
By starting a debate around the solutions for our city, we will make MLAs representing our city into catalysts for reforms only this can lead to policy action needed to manage Bengaluru. This change in attitude can be achieved and we can do it though appraisal of likely candidates and their stand on the city’s core concerns.
So come out and vote on May 5th.
Vote right, Vote responsibly and make your vote count for a better Namma Bengaluru.