Developed or hodge-podge, you decide

Have you ever wondered why Rajajinagar and Jayanagar are well planned, but Madiwala is not? Why Malleswaram is planned while Srirampuram is a mess? How so many people lived crammed into narrow streets and bylanes in some areas with little or no drainage and roads, while relatively swanky 80ft roads run through HSR Layout? Why does Bangalore have so many illegal layouts? Why does the city fall apart during even a moderate downpour? What happened to all the drainage channels and valleys that originally used to carry water away?

Illegal layouts
Illegal Layouts

[Citizen Matters sat down with H B S Aradhya, former Deputy Commissioner of Revenue, BBMP and who for many years was part of the evolution of Bangalore’s development, and particularly, from the vantage of the city administration. He dwelt on a range of topics including the history of unauthorised layouts and failed planning, construction on top of drainage channels, and how all these eventually led to the now infamous Sakrama issue.]

A brief history of localities and the city

Chamrajpet was Bangalore’s first layout, Gandhinagar second and Malleswaram third. Bangalore city municipality developed these layouts and distributed the sites.
Malleswaram had been developed by the 1920s itself. The City Improvement Trust Board (CITB) was formed in 1945 with the ostensible purpose of developing the city.

It is the CITB which planned and developed Rajajinagar, Jayanagar, and Indiranagar layouts. During the 1940s, CITB acquired land for the formation of Rajajinagar. A number of other areas called revenue pockets – Srirampuram, Subramanya Nagar, Prakash Nagar, Mathikere, Madivala village and Thyagarajanagar were left out of planned development.

When Malleswaram and Rajajinagar were brought into the Bangalore corporation limits, many of these other areas were brought in as well. They were agricultural lands. Individual property owners in these areas then converted their lands to layouts and sold sites (a process that has continued to unfold till today). They created these layouts without synchronising roads and drainages (in particular) with the rest of the city’s network.

HSR Layout - one of the planned layout
HSR Layout – One of the planned layouts

These layouts had no planning authority’s sanction, no road width standards, no civic amenity sites, and so forth.

In the 1960s, 32 villages were taken over and incorporated into Bangalore (e.g. Marenahalli, Attiguppe etc.). In 1976, the BDA was formed out of the CITB, and BDA approval was made mandatory for layout formation. The BDA itself did not acquire the revenue pockets because they had already been haphazardly developed. The degree of planned development that happened elsewhere in the city (CITB-led and BDA-led) was not possible there.

Drainage channels and flooding

Bangalore is at a high altitude (912 metres above sea-level) and many valleys like Challugatta valley, Hebbal valley, Koramangala valley drain water out of the city.

Many of the low-lying regions were also where the revenue layouts came up. They were often basin areas, and since drainage systems were never put in place, flooding became common. Srirampuram, for example, has no drainage. In Magadi Road area near Gayathri flour mills, construction has happened all over drainage channels.

To add to the chaos, citizens went ahead and constructed homes even on the walls of major drains, even in planned areas. In the Malleswaram pipeline area, parallel to the Malleswaram Link Road, the eastern portion of the drainage has been violated. Three-storey houses have been built on the drain walls. This pipleine starts at Sankey tank and becomes the Vrishabhavati valley and flows to the Mysore Road area. The Vrishbhavati valley itself, 100-150 ft wide in the 1960s, has now been narrowed to around 40-50 ft.

Bangalore’s Rajakaluves (canals) were originally connecting the city’s tanks for overflow (from one tank to another) during the rains. Buildings were erected on the channels; eventually, tank beds were also built upon, including BDA-style planned development. In Koramangala, the S T Bed layout is an example.

By 2003, large numbers of irregular/illegal layouts had become part of Bengaluru primarily through the city’s acquisition of revenue pockets.

Enter equity – demands from revenue pockets ‘development’

Since 1950, the city corporation (then BMP, currently called BBMP) has been collecting special charges called betterment or improvement charges from authorised layouts in its jurisdiction. In fact when the revenue areas were included in the Bangalore corporation limits, citizens put demands on councillors for utilities (water, electricity, drains, roads, etc.) in those layouts too.

The BMP collected these charges to carry out development works – roads, sewer lines, water lines, in a bid to bring these areas on par with the other planned regions. Through the recent history of the city, different rates were collected starting from Rs.2.50 to Rs.4 to Rs.16 to Rs.50 to Rs.100 per sq.yard.

That is the history of how betterment or improvement charges arose. Subsequently, the city’s journey took another turn, even as unauthorised layouts continued to mushroom on revenue pockets.

In 1995, the number of wards in Bangalore increased from 87 to 100, covering an extra area of 75 sq.kms. Around the same time, the BMP council passed a resolution that only BDA layouts should be included in its limits and not revenue pockets, because of the cost of developing the latter. Around 50 per cent of the expanded BMP areas (meaning at least 40 wards among 100) were revenue pockets at that time. At that time, the BMP proposed betterment charges of Rs.215/sq. yard based on costs of developing those areas.

But after the BMP elections of 1996, the council took a decision to reduce betterment charges to Rs.100/sq. yard. The state government (the H D Deve Gowda-led administration) then issued a notice to the city council demanding why the latter reduced the rates. Subsquently, the state government agreed to the BMP rates.

The law and state government’s fits and starts – a mess

In 2001, the state government ‘instructed’ the town and city municipal councils surrounding Bangalore to collect improvement charges from revenue sites (owner of sites were payees, whether or not the site was vacant) for laying sewer lines, water lines and more. CMCs had already been issuing khatas to site owners and collecting property taxes.

Some money was collected by the municipal councils until 2003. Not all site owners paid the money, that is, dues for all the areas were not completely collected. But some, like those who wanted to construct buildings and sell their property, did pay; they could not go ahead without a khata, and without paying betterment charges they could not get a khata from the councils.

With these funds, in some areas, lines were laid, but water supply itself did not begin. Bommanahalli is an example of this. The BMP and BWSSB (the water and sewerage utility) combine could have started supply in areas where people had paid the charges, and this could have been an incentive to finish the collection in areas where people had not paid, but the opportunity was lost. Water lines are yet to be laid in some areas- years after collection of betterment charges.

Then, in 2003, in bid to stop illegal layouts from further mushrooming, the state government asked
all municipal bodies to stop collecting betterment charges from revenue layouts. But this left the municipal bodies without that extra supply of funds to undertake development works.

Also in 2003, to further clamp down to unregulated development, the state government issued a circular directing sub-registrars not to register sites in irregular layouts. But the High Court issued a stay on the circular, and revenue site transfers (sales/registrations) are still ongoing.

(In 2007, in yet another mega expansion, seven municipal councils were amalgamated into Greater Bangalore and the BMP morphed into the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike- BBMP. With this, revenue pockets within the municipal councils came into BBMP’s limits, and history had repeated itself. – Citizen Matters)

Also, the same year, the state government acted again, this time to settle the matter lawfully. The JD(S)-BJP coalition government proposed and passed the Akrama/Sakrama legislation in 2007 to bring closure to the status of unauthorised layouts, illegal land conversions and zoning violations, and finally buildings that had been built in deviation from municipal bye laws.

But the Sakrama legislation penalised citizens (taxpayers) alone for what was the fault of both citizens and government officials in the mushrooming of illegal layouts and structures.

(Subsequently. citizens groups sued the government in the High Court in early 2008 and the court stayed the implementation of the legislation, also keeping in view the impending elections back then. In May 2008, yet another state government came into power, but despite promises, the matter has still not been settled. Citizen Matters reported these Sakrama throws up more questions than answers and here Citizens’ verdict: keep Sakrama in abeyance)

As 2008, draws to a close, Bengaluru has become a massive city, with none of the issues resolved. Settlement of the Sakrama issue is still pending with the state government. – Citizen Matters)

The Sakrama legislation must resolve a number of matters:

  1. It must lay down layout formation regulations and levy penalties on sites owners in such layouts. (Note: Even today, the BBMP does not have a list today of all irregular layouts in the city. BBMP only knows of the BDA-approved list of layouts.)
  2. It must take cognizance of land conversion/land use violations; plenty of buildings have been built in violation of the CDP.
  3. It must come up with an action plan to deal with unauthorised constructions, and those that violate building bye laws/sanction plans.

3 Comments

  1. Forget history. Even today. illegal layouts and illegal constructions in legal layouts come up right under the nose of the authorities but nothing is done to stop these actions for obvious reasons. Yelahanka Sattelite Town is such beautiful layout and very well planned but today, in the name of development, more and more space is illegally used for commercial ventures and hence the layout is turning into another congested and messy locality. If only the authorities are stricter, a city can be as beautiful as Chandigarh.

    Sudha Narasimhachar

  2. CITB was established in Mysore way back in 1903/1904 ! Establishment of the City Improvement Trust Board was the first effort in Asia in town planning !

  3. I am glad Shri Aradhya has *accepted* that the government has made a mistake since decades in failing to recognise the spread of urbanisation. I am glad that the Urban Development Minister, Shri Suresh Kumar is mooting a new urban development policy. I just hope loud words will be translated into action faster.

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