Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa had said that a Bengaluru Development Task Force would be formed for the overall development of Bengaluru.

Why activists are fed up of elite task forces constituted for Bengalurus development
news Civic Saturday, August 17, 2019 - 16:22

After toppling the coalition in Karnataka, the new BJP government is following in the footsteps of its predecessors and is going to form another “elite task force” to advise the government regarding Bengaluru city’s development. Taking exception to the formation of the elite task force, Citizens’ Agenda For Bengaluru, a city-based group of activists, is opposing the new government’s idea to form yet another task force which does not have any implementational authority.

Since 1999, which is when former Chief Minister SM Krishna started the concept of an elite task force, successive governments have constituted their own task forces but these end up lasting only until a new government comes into place.

During the speech he made in Bengaluru on Independence Day, Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa had said that a Bengaluru Development Task Force would be formed for the overall development of Bengaluru. “The aim of my government is to make Bengaluru the real Silicon Valley of India. Bengaluru should be developed just like California and San Francisco,” he had said. 

He said that the new task force will comprise elected representatives, urban planners and entrepreneurs. 

Speaking to TNM, Sandeep Anirudhan, who is a part of the Citizens’ Agenda For Bengaluru, said that activists have expressed their opposition to the taskforce and if the government decides to go ahead with the formation of this taskforce without consulting with the public, protests will be launched.

“The BJP had promised the exact opposite in their manifesto. They had not mentioned the setting up of an elite task force but had said they will empower local self-governance and citizen participation in governance. If they are not going to stick to their promises, we will protest,” Sandeep said.

What the BJP manifesto had said

Ahead of the 2018 Karnataka Assembly elections, the BJP had come out with an exhaustive manifesto for Bengaluru’s development. One of the first promises made in the manifesto was to constitute and empower a new Metropolitan Planning Committee, integrate all agencies including inter-modality of transport services in the city and empower ward committees and citizen participation. “Right to service for all citizens, citizen participation,” the manifesto read.

“What worked for the BJP was that they had promised one unified civic body that addresses all issues rather than having various agencies for different things. We are demanding that they keep those promises and also demand that reforms in BBMP must take place. We also demand that the elected council must be held accountable and the term of the mayor must be extended to over 1 year in order to ensure accountability. These elite task forces do not have any citizen representatives at all,” Sandeep added.

Bengaluru’s history of elite task forces

The first elite task force was formed in 1999 by former Chief Minister SM Krishna. The Bangalore Agenda Task Force (BATF) was headed by former Infosys CEO Nandan Nilekani and urban planners like Naresh V Narasimhan and V Ravichandar were a part of it. The task force aimed at creating a public-private partnership in formulating development policies for the city. The BATF ceased to exist when Krishna dissolved the Assembly. 

It was BATF that set the precedent for successive elite task forces. 

In 2008, the Kasturirangan Committee was formed to come up with a framework for Bengaluru's governance. The Kasturirangan Committee had recommended the formation of the Metropolitan Planning Committee, which the Siddaramaiah government formed only in 2014. However, this MPC only had representatives from BBMP, Bengaluru Development Authority and the state bureaucracy. 

In 2010, when Yediyurappa was the CM, he had set up another elite task force called Agenda for Bengaluru Infrastructure and Development (ABIDe), which had Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Dr Devi Shetty, who runs the Narayana group of hospitals, and Mohandas Pai. This task force also ceased to exist when Yediyurappa was forced to step down as the CM. 

"Look at the history of these task forces. They are extra-governmental bodies, with no real power. They are just influencing governments to carry out works that are beneficial to them. What's important is citizen representation and we demand that," Sandeep added. 

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