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Demand to Withdraw the Proposed BMRG Bill 2011

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Demand to Withdraw the Proposed BMRG Bill 2011 We, the Grama Panchayat Hakkottaya Andolana, strongly demand the immediate withdrawal of the Bangalore Metropolitan Region Governance (BMRG) Bill that the Karnataka State Government is planning to table in the ongoing Assembly session. With one stroke this Bill will take Bangalore from an 800 sq km area to 8000 sq km by merging the districts of Ramanagaram, Bangalore Rural and Bangalore Urban into one large “Bangalore Metropolitan Region” (BMR). The declaration of the BMR will not require any prior notice to Gram Panchayats or Municipalities nor their consent, thus violating the rights and functions of the Gram Panchayats and Gram Sabhas as per the Karnataka Panchayat Raj Act and the 73rd Constitutional Amendment. -- The BMRG Bill will put the Chief Minister and the State Government as the supreme arbiter of the fate of the citizens, the utilisation of resources and the scope and extent of the planning in this region. -- The creation of the BMR will imply a transfer of all rights over social and economic planning and resources to a “Metropolitan Planning Board” (MPB) under the Chairpersonship of a nominee of the CM. -- Further, the CM, who is the chairperson of the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC), can reverse even the proposals of the Municipal Corporation headed by the Mayor! -- Issues of poverty alleviation have been relegated primarily to the Municipal Corporation without assigning any funds for the purpose. -- Through nominated members on the MPB, not only will the State have full control over the future of the BMR, but we fear that this is a means to pave the way for the ultimate Corporatisation of the State, the first step being the Corporatisation of the Bangalore Metropolitan Region. The proposals of the BMRG Bill are against the very spirit of democratic decentralisation as envisioned in the 74th Constitutional Amendment. This is a Bill that is against the poor, against farmers, against the unorganised sector and is against the urban homeless. When the proposed BMRG Bill is read along with the recently passed Karnataka Municipal Corporations (Amendment) Bill, 2011 more popularly known as the ‘Community Participation Law’ (CPL), the death knell of decentralisation sounds loud and clear. The CPL will apply to eight corporations: Bangalore, Mangalore, Mysore, Belgaum, Hubli-Dharwad, Bellary, Davangere and Gulbarga. -- The CPL claims to “institutionalise” participation, but it endorses nominations instead of democratic elections. -- The CPL will predetermine the criteria and structures for citizen’s participation - not for developing plans, determining priorities, keeping the needs of the marginalised at the fore or holding the state accountable - but only for carrying out mundane housekeeping and maintenance jobs at the local level. The rationale for both these legislations is flawed, since The Karnataka Municipal Corporations Act 1994 includes provisions for decentralisation and people’s participation through the formation of MPC, Ward Committees etc., and therefore no new law is required. Instead, what is required is the political will to empower the existing constitutional and legal provisions for both the Municipal Corporations and other local governments. These pieces of legislation read separately appear innocuous and even seem to enable citizens’ participation in decision making and governance. However in the State’s desire to become like Singapore, they are pushing for a model of governance like Singapore, that is authoritarian and not democratic and where the power over resources and planning rest in one supreme individual. These legislations will ensure that we go from being one of the forerunners of Democratic Decentralisation to a State that has not just undermined it, but paved the way for Corporatisation of the State itself! This is not an innocent mistake by the State Government and the drafters of these two pieces of legislation. Both are motivated by structural and institutional reform conditionalities imposed by the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM). It is a diabolical attempt to undermine participatory democracy and move towards a neo-liberal construct of society. A society where the fittest survive and the big fish eat the small fish until only sharks roam the oceans. The present model of ‘capitalist globalisation’ needs to be challenged and every move must be checked. We request all who believe in participatory democracy and decentralisation to join us in ensuring that the proposed moves by the State to destabilise these values be opposed. Our demands: -- We demand that the BMRG Bill and the Community Participation Act be completely withdrawn. -- We demand that the existing Karnataka Municipalities Act 1994 be amended a) by strengthening the roles and powers of elected representatives of urban local governments; b) by eliminating the parastatal planning bodies (like BDA, BWSSB etc.); and c) by empowering the MPC to plan for the Corporation and the DPC to plan for the district. Issued by: Grama Panchayat Hakkottaya Andolana


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