CM HD Kumaraswamy recently met Infosys co-founder Narayana Murthy with regard to heading one such committee.

Ktaka HC calls expert panels formed by state for Blurus development undesirable
news Civic Issues Friday, June 08, 2018 - 18:16

Much before the 25 ministers took their oath in Bengaluru on Wednesday, an ‘expert committee’ for the city was in the offing.

Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy, in one his first official meetings as CM, met with Infosys co-founder Narayana Murthy on June 1. He wanted Narayana Murthy to head a committee like that the Bangalore Blue Print Action Group (BBPAG) formed by former CM Siddaramaiah.

Expert committees, like Agenda for Bangalore's Infrastructure and Development formed by then CM Yeddyurappa, usually headed by non-subject matter experts, are not something new.

A new committee has been constituted with every new government the state has seen since SM Krishna's tenure, with none of the committees having much success to show for.

Active citizen groups have, time and again, objected to these committees, usually headed by industry tycoons – their argument being that a committee parallel to the Constitutionally mandated Metropolitan Planning Committee (MPC) is counter-productive and anti-democratic.

Now, the Karnataka High Court has deemed the creation of such bodies by the state “unnecessary and undesirable” to the joy of many citizen activists.

"Let the statutory bodies work. Creating parallel body is undesirable, unwarranted and absolutely uncalled for, as such bodies will only add to confusion," a division bench comprising of Chief Justice Dinesh Maheshwari and Justice Krishna S Dixit had observed on Thursday.

Additional Advocate General AS Ponnanna on Thursday had sought time to get instructions from the new government.

On Friday, he told the court that the government is still deliberating on the matter and he will have his instructions on Monday.

The HC was hearing a plea filed in 2016 by Namma Bengaluru Foundation and Citizen Action Forum seeking the quashing of these expert committees. The matter will be heard again on Monday.

What’s wrong with these expert committees?

Vijayan Menon, member of the Citizen Action Forum, said that the opposition was not to people or experts advising the government, but the powers accorded to them.

“But these expert committees become a de facto extra-Constitutional authority. Getting opinion from citizens and experts is a thing that every government should do anyway. But in Bengaluru, these groups have been given executive powers, which means they actually control the bureaucracy. This is what we are totally against,” Vijayan said.

He continued, “This is like a backdoor entry to rights of governance. If they want to do these things, they should contest elections or write the IAS exams. The second aspect is that, invariably, the members of these committees have some political or economic leanings, which is never a true representation of the city.”     

Another citizen activist, Srinivas Alavilli, co-founder of Citizens for Bengaluru, questioned the competence of industry stalwarts to solve the city’s problems.

“They (the government) know people are upset about the situation in Bengaluru, so they want to appear like they are doing something by forming committees having by these big names. In some cases, they suggest stupid things like elevated corridors, which are unwarranted. Why are none of the IISc professors, who are internationally recognised mobility experts, never in an expert committee?” he asked.

“When you create a special group of 4-5 people, the outcome will be like that (the elevated corridors). Would they put a garment worker in the expert committee? Why don't they put a pourakarmika in the expert committee, when they are already doing so much for the city?” he added.

He also mentioned successive governments’ laxity in following Constitutionally mandated norms, like the formation of ward committees, consulting the public for every big money project as mandated by the Country and Town Planning Act.

 

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