Each year, when the state Budget is presented, the citizens of Namma Bengaluru hope to see things included in it which will alleviate the many challenges we face. And over time, dashed hopes have led to lower expectations. But this year, I’m happy to see something new – for the first time we have promised ourselves a comprehensive approach to problems rather than piece-meal solutions through projects.
The decongestion of traffic in the city will require a broad emphasis on all modes, with meaningful investments in sustainable mobility and public transport. The bus fleet needs to be doubled, we’ll need at least 400 km of walkable footpaths in a connected network, and the rail-based solutions should complement these. It is only by looking at all of this together that we can hope to get anywhere close to the live-ability that we want in our city.
Likewise, water security for the future will depend on a multi-pronged approach that emphasises harvesting, watershed development and maintenance, lake revival, groundwater recharge, dual plumbing in built units, treatment and reuse of waste water, and much more. The totality of these things will provide us ‘Matthondu Cauvery’ – effectively doubling the availability of water in the city from what we already have in the Bengaluru region.
Now comes the hard part, and I say ‘hard’ especially because it will almost certainly involve governance reform too. Neither of these can be done correctly if it is not part of the Master Plan of the city, and carried out through the right processes of consultation with the public. That’s an exercise that governments have never embraced, even though the laws mandate it. But avoidance of the right processes has also resulted in failure to achieve the desired outcomes. The two go hand in hand.
The Bengaluru Metropolitan Regional Development Authority has done nothing of any significance in years, even though it was intended to be the premier institution to guide the development of the entire metropolitan region. By implementing new proposals in the BMRDA, we could begin to infuse life into it, and also set right the past errors in the structure of urban governance. All of the planning functions, in every sector, should be brought into BMRDA and integrated. BDA, meanwhile, should be limited to implementing infrastructure works and stripped of its planning mandate.
The Budget also promises a new direction in primary and secondary education. School infrastructure will be improved and managed professionally, more classrooms will be built, teachers will be empowered and made accountable, and learning outcomes will be the benchmark of the public education system. If all this seems very much like AAP’s work in Delhi, we have Manish Sisodia and Atishi to thank for setting that benchmark for everyone else. Virtually every development deficit in India can be traced back to the failure to educate our children properly; erasing that history will make our society fairer to all children, and justifiably hopeful of a better future.