Bangalore: City-State or Union Territory?

Hope you followed recent proposals from some high flying folks that Bangalore be converted to a UT or a City-State on the lines of Delhi or Chandigarh.

I do find some merit in the suggestion. It *might* cure Bangalore of its growing pains.

But in the larger scheme of things, such a step is nothing but an admission that state governments are not good at running large cities. You would be sending the message that any city, once it becomes big and unmanageable, should strive to seek independence from larger government setups.

Gulbarga - DHJ P Nagar - DH

Such solutions are looking at larger cities in isolation. What makes you think it is just Bangalore? Virtually every other town and village in our country suffers from chaos, unmanaged growth, and poor quality of public services. You wouldn’t want to make each such enclave a union territory, would you?

Now, you may say that developing Bangalore is in better interests of our country – IT and all that – so let us make an exception. That is just the type of thinking that breeds preachers of urban-rural divide and ultra-socialism, and encourages urban migrations of the magnitude we are seeing today.

Let me tell you two solutions, one near term, another long, Freakonomics style.

Long term

The solution is in preventing those Janata Express trains from bringing in thousands of people everyday to Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore from Muzaffarpur, Gorakhpur, Allahabad and what have you. Who wants to leave near and dear ones and fly a thousand miles away on his own? It is the jobs stupid. Creating jobs – for those who aren’t exactly engineers and NIIT diploma holders and the few who are – right in their own backyards, if we could do that, we would have taken the biggest step towards real development.

We need more job centers. Create more mid-skilled job in our hinterlands, period. Once we do that, the rest will slowly fall in place.

From what I figure, these SEZs seem to be exactly what doctor Silkboard ordered :). Government realizes it can’t upgrade hinterland’s infrastructure just like that, so they are trying to create pockets of good infrastructure instead. And these could be the job centers I am talking about. Cheers!

Medium term

There is a simple cure-all for our infrastructure mess, and perhaps problems of naxalism and terrorism as well. Repeat after me, “Empower local governments“.

If you are a tech worker, answer this. Does your CEO ever come down to your cube and direct what exact code you should write? If you work in an IBM or an Oracle, I hear your no. And even if you work for a small startup, this would be rare.

Now, why do you think chief ministers should be bothering themselves with flyovers and underpasses in Indiranagar, Malleshwaram or Dharwad? A chief should be spending time on strategy, sales and communications and nothing else. Indiranagar and Malleshwaram should take care of their needs. Simple.

A simple act of decentralization and delegation of most decision-making processes – that is all we need. And many of our problems will disappear just like that.

However, unlike the previous solution I mentioned, I see no steps or progress on this one. But I am hopeful we will.

So that was my first lecture on “Developmental Economics 101”. Questions anyone? Raise your hands now.

[Note: The pictures link to Deccan Herald photo archives. One is from Gulbarga, another from J P Nagar]

7 Comments so far

  1. tarlesubba (unregistered) on September 5th, 2006 @ 7:11 pm

    there seems a lot that is said in your post.

    but your decentralization point is currently in the news. check out the panchayati raj debate going on.
    briefly, KN has done some good work as far as PR is concerned. Not everything is hunky dory but it is a BIG thing.
    But now there is some noise about a retrograde step of taking back some powers out of the PR and vesting them with the local MLA.
    Another connected point, Ramanathan of janaagraha notes that urban citizens lack the powers that the people under PR enjoy. He’s advocating wardsabhas and the sort.

  2. Vijay (unregistered) on September 6th, 2006 @ 8:21 am

    Interesting post… My view is that the political system needs to change… unless that is done, whatever classification is doen the end result will be the same as today.. net zero.

    “If you are a tech worker, answer this. Does your CEO ever come down to your cube and direct what exact code you should write? ”

    Thats because as a tech worker you are accountable and will find yourself without a job if you do not execute. You are right the intermediate layers work well… which do not in the administrative sphere..

  3. silkboard (unregistered) on September 6th, 2006 @ 9:07 am

    These 2 things may sound “BIG”. But if you think about it, they are fairly doable. 1 or 2 good legislations and we will be on our way.

    Vijay, expecting “system” to change and all that is a bit much. But Panchayati Raj and Urban Local Body reform related legislations are around the corner. SEZs are here, talk of reforms in Agri sector are here (agri processing could be a job-center creator). They way I see it, we are very close to hitting that turning point of “real” growth”.

    TarleSubba, Rajiv Gandhi started the PR thing, back in 1986. And it has still not reached its final shape. Slow progress. And PR does not touch upon Urban Local Bodies (correct?). 60-70 Lakh people of Bangalore have only 90-100 odd corporators for them, and that too with no real authority (at least so it seems).

    And BTW, these changes (semi-urban job push + local bodies)) give more number of politcians (at local level) more chances at making under-the-table money. For bigger politicians, the pie becomes much bigger, so they too make more. So I dont see a lot of opposition to these types of legislations.

  4. Concerned (unregistered) on September 6th, 2006 @ 11:04 am

    I think your long term solution is practical. Atleast 2 out of every 10 PR/ward incharges tend to practice self centred politics. A good example is ward 55 corporator L.Srinivas who goes on to says that he will not even get proper roads/water/drinage to brindavan layout because they did not vote him ( BJP)… these kind of pretty politics is what troubles some pockets…

  5. Vijay (unregistered) on September 6th, 2006 @ 12:14 pm

    Silkboard, I certainly hope you are right.. I keep wondering how long the present political charade can go on for before it completely breaks down.

  6. Outspoken (unregistered) on September 7th, 2006 @ 3:47 pm

    Well the main reason why cities in India are neglected is because politicians from the time of Nehru have thought of India as a agricultural economy. Our cities were neglected saying 70% of population lives in villages. All revenue from cities is taken and pumped into the rural areas.

  7. silkboard (unregistered) on September 11th, 2006 @ 5:07 pm

    Vijay, I hope for that myself.

    Outspoken, Nehru is a real debate worthy topic. I blame him less for his socialist policies (it can be argued that he had no choice then) and more for putting the seeds for this dirty politics we see today.

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