On January 23, 2017, it was the last day for citizens to file their objections against the Revised Master Plan 2031. The citizenry of Bengaluru responded back with record of sorts, filing a total of 13,228 complaints. Just a day before, the tally stood at 8,869 objections. Regular residents poured over the complex documents to point errors – factual and logical. Resident Welfare Associations, Builder Consortium, individuals – they came in droves to let the government know there were many things to be fixed in this proposed road map for Bengaluru.
The controversial Revised Master Plan 2031 has been in the news since it was put out for public scrutiny in November 27 of 2017. Citizens engaged in the civic space took the matter to court, arguing that the Bengaluru Development Authority (BDA) has no authority to prepare this plan under the provisions of the Karnataka Town and Country Planning Act. They contended that the Bangalore Metropolitan Planning Committee which was constituted for this very purpose had the jurisdiction. However it is to be noted that the BDA has been THE government department that has created master plans for Bangalore since 1980s.
But even as this debate rages on about whether the master plan is a legal document – what happens to those 13,228 objections? What is the process followed? Does the BDA release the criteria and its responses to the objections filed by the public, to the public?
In a nutshell – the answer is no. While due process is defined for the scrutiny of the objections, the BDA does not release the report on it to the public because it isn’t stipulated.
The Revised Master Plans, as mentioned before, is planned under the provisions of the Karnataka Town and Country Planning Act. This Act stipulates that the department allow 60 days for the public to file their objections against it (despite numerous requests from the citizens, the BDA had refused to extend the deadline).
The Act also directs the government to constitute a committee to scrutinise the objections filed. “…the Planning Authority shall consider the such comments and resubmit the plan to the State Government” it reads. There is however no stipulated time frame for the scrutiny of these objections.
In 2005, when the BDA created RMP 2015, a three-member committee was constituted to look into the objections. They were
- Director, Town Planning Department
- Additional Director, Town Planning, Bengaluru Mahanagar Palike (as it was called then)
- Additional Director, Town Planning, BDA
The Government had also constituted an advisory committee under the aegis of IAS officer P.S.S. Thomas in response to a series of thematic workshops on all components of urban planning, development and management by Janagrahaa. The organisation had submitted submitted a consolidated report addressing vision level concerns, to the Urban Development Department and the BDA.
A member of the Thomas Committee, who wished to remain anonymous told Citizen Matters that it took the about six months to come up with their recommendations. They had proposed suggestions on how to address concerns at the vision level, including pursuit of the mandate of the decentralisation agenda, urban sprawl, local area planning, affordable housing, integration of sectoral plans with RMP- water, sanitation, transportation as opposed to roads, and urban design of public spaces.
Another important recommendation, which was confirmed by PSS Thomas himself at a public event was that a committee be set up under the Chief Secretary to review the implementation of the master plan (which did not happen). In parallel, the three-member committee assessed each suggestion received and decisions on considering the approval of the suggestion was based on consensus amongst the three members.
Neither of the documents were put out in public domain, but are available under RTI.
For RMP 2031, the government has constituted a six member committee to look into the objections. Under Secretary Jagadish Reddy of Urban Development Department confirmed to Citizen Matters the members of the committee.
- Chairman – B M Vijay Shankar, IAS, Special Commissioner, Projects, BBMP.
- Member Secretary – Joint Director, BDA (Maha Yojane)
- Town Planning Member, BDA
- Additional Director – BDA
- Director – Nagara Mathu Gramanthara Yojane Department
- Mahangara Yojakaru – Bangalore Metropolitan Development Authority
In a telephonic interview with this reporter, N.K. Tippeswamy, Town Planning Member BDA, confirmed that the committee was still scrutinising into the objections. However he declined to answer questions on details about timelines for all the objections to be looked into. He also refused questions on whether the report on the objections filed by the public will be put out in the public domain.“These are official matters” was his response.
We also tried to get a response from B.M.Vijay Shankar on the committee’s workings. However the despite numerous attempts, the officer remained unavailable to comment.
Seasoned activists seemed to expect that the report would not be made available to the public. During one of the deliberations by a group of citizens to document objections on the chapter about Bangalore’s heritage, N Mukunda of CAF had vociferously stressed that the language in the document include a line requesting a response on the rationale of rejection/acceptance of objections.
Vijayan Menon of Citizens Action Forum said: “The KTCPA does not direct the planning authority to make these reports public. But the law has to be interpreted in its spirit. If the authority has invited the public to file objections, it makes sense to let the public know what happen to them and the rationale behind why they were rejected/accepted.”
Providing informed opinions and objections to the government in matters of policy is time-consuming activity of the citizens, and requires involvement. However having no clear directions in the law to inform citizens afterward leaves the circle incomplete.