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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Agenda for city governance

1) Adopt the Kasturirangan Committee report, and therewith the Metropolitan Planning Committee concept for city governance. In addition, adopt the 'upper house' concept suggested by Mr Manivannan, with as the medium for citizen engagement - check

2) Convert all parastatals such as BWSSB, BESCOM, BMTC, etc into expert 'cells' (or, call it by some other more appropriate name) under BBMP, with the operational functions outsourced to reputed private contractors, like JUSCO for water supply, TATA's/ Reliance for power supply, TVS for bus services.

3) Incentivise usage of public transport services, and disincentivise usage of individualised forms of transport. Phase out auto's with NANO's from within the city limits over a 2-year period.

4) Pedestrianise business districts like M G road/ Brigade road/ Commercial St areas; Jayanagar 4th block; Koramangala 7th/8th blocks, etc, with provision for passage of only public transport vehicles (including taxies) between 8 AM and 8 PM.

5) Design a total water management system, including rain-water and ground water, whereby dependence on external sources like Arkavathy, Cauvery etc reduces to the bare minimum.

6) Build de-centralised Sewage Treatment Plants, perhaps one for every Ward, across the city.

7) Build more Nirmala type of tiolets across the city, and tie up with local eateries for their operation (24 hr) and maintenance, by offering them suitable property tax concessions.

8) Re-establish Bangalore as a green city, particularly by nurturing the right species of avenue trees.

9) Establish a net-based complaint redressal mechanism - PRAJA can help here.

These are what I can readily think of, though it certainly is not quite comprehensive.

Agenda for state governance (May,'08)

This was drafted in May '08, when the BSY government took charge.

Urban Governance - Implementation of the Kasturi Rangan Committee recommendations in order to empower the citizens in line with the spirit of the 74th amendment.

Police Reforms - Implementation of the Soli Sorabjee Committee report.

Judicial Reforms - Provision of the necessary support to the Judiciary to speed up their work, particularly in lower courts, by modernization.

Adequate Representation for Civil Society members on Regulatory bodies like KSPCB, LDA, BMLTA, KERC, etc.

Government size - With a sizable chunk of the revenues going to meet just the salary burden, the Government size is unsustainable even as of now. With the latest Pay Commission recommendations, it is going to become even more so. And, the fact of the matter is that, with increased computerization and out-sourcing, the size can in fact be reduced to less than a third of what it is at present. This needs to happen immediately.

Water Supply - Urban water bodies have failed miserably in supplying adequate water to citizens, even with the governments having spent over Rs1105 billion on drinking water up to the 10th plan. On account of this, it's largely the poor who land up spending around Rs 6,700 cr annually on treatment of water-borne diseases, in addition to the colossal cost they pay for its availability. It is therefore high time new and credible PPP models for take over of the function by reputed private sector players are set up, after constituting a Regulatory Authority to oversee the job, as well as to control the resources.

Power - Facilitation of take over of power distribution in cities by reputed private sector players (atleast two per city) as already envisaged in the reforms agenda, and in the rural areas by co-operatives.

Bus services - Capt Gopinath has given the common man 'wings'. But, unfortunately, he doesn't have the more basic wheels. Physical connectivity, both in cities as well as in the rural areas, is a very serious problem today, which can be solved almost overnight by facilitating the entry of organized, private sector players onto the scene, after addressing artificialities like the Contract Carriages Act, etc. Urgent reforms of Public Bus Transport Services sector, along the above lines, is called for.

Healthcare - It will be more apt to call the present scenario 'health-care-less'. Here again, the government has failed totally. The conditions in the government hospitals keep deteriorating from deplorable to pathetic, to even worse, day after day. The only way out is for their operations to be made over totally to any of the many reputed institutions existing in the field, like St John's, St Martha's, St Philomena's, Chinmaya Mission, Mata Amrutanandamayi trust, etc, etc, all monitored by a Healthcare services and Education Regulatory Authority, set up replacing the state Health Ministry.

Education Reforms - Whereas India could easily become the knowledge capital of the world if the initiatives by the private sector in this field, particularly Higher Education, are harnessed properly, we are today faced with an unfortunate situation where we are not even in a position to meet our own demands for skilled man-power. The bigger irony is the growing levels of unemployment amongst the so-called 'graduates'. The cause of this tragic mis-match has clearly been identified by the 'Knowledge Commission' as resulting from the stranglehold of the sector by organizations like UGC, AICTE, Medical Council, etc, which has recommended their replacement by a more liberal regime under the overall purview of a Regulatory Authority. This needs to move on a war footing.

PDS - With even the likes of Medha Patkar critical of the system, it's a crying shame that the country continues to allow as massive a loot as an annual Rs 10,000 crores through this grand-mother of all scams. The "food stamps" model advocated by many eminent economists needs to be implemented immediately.

This is what I could readily think about, but it is not necessarily comprehensive.