Bangalore’s struggles are not due to lack of expertise or new ideas. We’ve tried those, with only limited success. What is needed instead is faith in the right institutions and processes, and realising that until the rest of Karnataka develops, it will be next to impossible to restore and maintain the capital alone at high levels of livability.
It is the prerogative of every new government to appoint its advisors, but in doing so, it must take care that the statutory bodies which have the mandate to guide development are not bypassed or diluted. Indeed, if those same advisors were inducted into the statutory institutions, a powerful new direction of governance will emerge.
There is a Metropolitan Planning Committee for the city region, but this has not functioned at all in the past. There is also a State Planning Board, of which the less said the better. These are statutory bodies, which means that they are the right institutions in which we should try to gather the expertise needed, if at all we focus on expertise as the starting point.
BATF and ABIDe, both from the pre-MPC era, had limited programmatic successes, but the momentum from each did not outlive the governments that created them, partly because the push to institutionalise good planning through the Metropolitan Region Governance Bill failed. The Vision Group of the previous government was a non-starter. All for roughly the same reason – the failure to build capacity in statutory institutions.
I call upon the community of experts who have worked closely with different governments in the state to insist that the MPC is the right institution through which their expertise should be taken on board by the government.
Equally, without a regional development strategy for the state, properly led by the Planning Board, every idea we encounter for Bengaluru will be overwhelmed by immigration. Making the different regions of the state independently strong as economic centers is a pre-requisite for the development of Bengaluru, and the sooner we get down that road the better.
How does the new demand for a separate state in North Karnataka fit into the overall scheme of things?
The North has cheap labour, availability of water and power is not an issue but its management is. Most of Hyderabad Karnataka is arid and rich in mineral wealth. It is time to get investors to these locations in North Karnataka and build capabilities in both discrete and process based manufacturing.