As the new Chief Minister takes office, many Bangaloreans must be wondering what lies in store for our city. We are all hopeful that along with a new government, we will get a new direction too. We’ve had enough of irresponsible apathy and outright criminality of the political leadership over the last decade. The city is virtually gasping for a new politics, focused on solving problems and being accountable to the public.
There are a number of things that the CM can do, to clearly signal a break with the failures of the past.
First and foremost, there must be a proper plan for the city, covering all aspects of development – infrastructure, jobs, education, public spaces, and much more. The BMRDA, which has been asleep since birth, needs to be put in charge of developing this plan, and coming up with a blueprint in three months flat. And after that, whatever plan is finalised must be binding on every department; they cannot be allowed to go on making their independent plans, and ruining the city in the process.
Second, the State must figure out how to commit a considerably higher degree of funds for the city. We need at least 5000 crores a year more than we now have. Whether this is going to be devolved to BBMP, or spent through BDA and other infrastructure agencies can be debated, but it is clear that current levels of expenditure are simply not enough to keep us competitive going forward.
Alongside this, we must have an economic development strategy. At present the private sector creates jobs in some sectors, and this is completely outside the influence of government. We have to understand what the core strengths of the local economy are, who our direct competitors are, and what we should do to give ourselves the best chance of competing strongly in the future too. We cannot leave these to the vagaries of the market.
Third, public participation in governance must be formalised. The ward committees should be formed in a much more inclusive manner, and they should actually function. At present neither of this is true. We need representatives in each ward committee who are active citizens in their respective neighbourhoods, and who are not mere chelas of the local political establishment. The Community Participation law has to be amended to ensure this; as of now, it is a joke.
Fourth, we must build a technology backbone for the city. All aspects of city governance must link with each other, and we need much higher levels of data-sharing between departments. In some areas, like public safety, we should have started to do this years ago, but there has been no progress at all. Every bomb that goes off simply reminds us what we should have done years ago, but doesn’t seem to goad anyone into actually doing it.
Fifth, we must measure our progress in every sector. How well are our children learning? What are the incidence rates of various illnesses? What is the growth rate of traffic in each arterial? All of these and much more need to be measured continuously, so that governance can then respond to this data. We have been going around like blind men describing the elephant, and so far we have not even figured out that the thing we are describing is an elephant !!
And to make all this work, we need outcome orientation in whatever we do. Every department now reviews its work by describing and detailing its inputs, rather than measuring what outputs and outcomes have been achieved as a result. We must have a public commitment to achieving certain things, and be able to tell whether we are succeeding in doing so. We cannot possibly ‘progress’ without a clear idea of what we mean by the word.⊕