The Karnataka Assembly has constituted a joint select committee to look into the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) Bill that was tabled in March earlier this year. A notification naming 20 MLAs and seven MLCs was issued on Tuesday.

The committee comprises S. Raghu, Ravisubramanya, M. Krishnappa, M. Satish Reddy, Arvind Limbavali, Uday B. Garudachar, S.R. Vishwanath, Narasimha Naik, Ramalinga Reddy, Dinesh Gundu Rao, Krishna Byre Gowda, R. Manjunath, K. Srinivasamurthy, K. Govindaraju, M. Narayanaswamy, P.R. Ramesh, K.A. Thippeswamy, N. Ravikumar, A. Deve Gowda and Tejaswini Gowda.

The framing of a separate Act for Bengaluru was discussed during the previous Assembly session in March this year. It was decided then to constitute a committee for the same. Apart from the MLAs and MLCs, the Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs and another Minister nominated by the Chief Minister, who also holds the Bengaluru Development portfolio, will be the ex-officio members.

The constitution of the committee assumes importance as the term of the current council in the BBMP will end in September. While holding elections to the civic body ruled out due to the pandemic, the BBMP will come under the rule of an administrator.

Sources in the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said the party was keen on reorganising the city’s administration set-up before the next civic polls. The joint select committee will be the vehicle for this restructuring, sources said.

A city BJP MLA, who is part of the committee, said the process was put on the backburner due to COVID-19. The ruling party is also keen on increasing the BBMP limits by adding more villages on the city’s periphery. It has been proposed that 65 villages be added, especially in the Electronics City- Sarjapur stretch, and increase the number of wards to 224, sources said.

Citing the example of areas around Whitefield, Muneendra Kumar, Ruling Party Leader in the BBMP council said many urbanised villages were still under panchayat limits. “These villages can be developed further. That apart, these areas have the potential of garnering nearly ₹80 crore in revenue for the civic body,” he said.

Opposition Leader Abdul Wajid termed the move as “dirty politics” to put off civic polls. “Several areas were included in the BBMP limits in 2007-08. Even now, these areas lack basic amenities. The BJP lacks the vision for Bengaluru’s development.” he said.

Feasibility of increasing city limits questioned

Several reports, including one submitted by the BBMP Restructuring Committee, have recommended that the civic body be broken up into multiple corporations on the ground that the 800-sq-km area under the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) is unmanageable and unwieldy. In the backdrop of these recommendations, the State government’s proposal to further expand the BBMP has raised concerns.

Rama N.S. from the Electronics City Industrial Township Authority said residents may be happy with the proposal as they feel they will be served better with water and public transport facilities. “But the city is already large. It can be managed only through decentralisation, empowering wards and leveraging technology,” she said.

BJP leaders defend their stand. “The areas along Electronics City and Sarjapura have been urbanised. It is strange that they are still governed by gram panchayats. They have to be brought under the corporation. It is a natural process,” said a BJP leader.

Another BJP leader argued that the expansion will not be a major strain on the civic administration, as it will be restructured with a focus on decentralisation.

While the ruling party is against multiple corporations, an idea championed by the Congress, it is keen on adapting certain provisions from the BBMP Restructuring Report 2015, especially empowering zones.

“The city’s zones will be rationally redrawn and may be reduced to six from the present eight. These zones will be headed by zonal commissioners. The zones will act as semi-autonomous municipal authorities. This, while retaining a single administrative unit for the city governance, will also provide for decentralisation and autonomy for the zones,” a BJP MLA said, adding that the number of zones and its modalities will be deliberated further.

The proposed BBMP Bill, 2020, provides for zonal committees that will have councillors from that particular zone as its members. The committees will be headed by an IAS officer who will be posted as zonal commissioner.

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