It was heartening to see Namma Bengaluru recently placed at the top of a global ranking of cities. The JLL City Momentum Index has ranked Bengaluru as the most dynamic city in the world, ahead of Silicon Valley and Shanghai. Hyderabad also features in the top 10 list at the fifth position. The results of the rankings are in line with the view held by many of the leaders of the e-commerce giants that are based here, who vouch for the fact that Bengaluru is the destination of choice for new generation companies. However, they also agree that this is due to a combination of factors, primarily the moderate weather and the abundance of skilled labour due to the established IT ecosystem.
Bengaluru has grown like a city on steroids, but the growth "momentum" is in danger of being unsustainable.
Bengaluru has grown like a city on steroids, but the growth "momentum" is in danger of being unsustainable. Citizens are already paying the price for this unplanned growth, in the form of traffic jams, poor air quality, depletion of green cover and open spaces, and lakes overflowing with untreated sewage. The administration is completely overwhelmed with the unprecedented growth. They lack the financial, human and technical resources to serve the citizens adequately.
As evaluated in Janaagraha's Annual Survey of India's City-Systems (ASICS) 2015, Bangalore (and most other Indian cities) performs poorly on all four components of city-systems that determine the ability of the city government to deliver a good quality of life to its citizens:
1) Urban planning and design
2) Urban capacities and resources
3) Empowered and legitimate political representation
4) Transparency, accountability and participation.
The 2015 ASICS survey ranked Bengaluru 12th among the 21 largest cities in India that were covered in the survey.
The key to sustainable improvement in the quality of life in India's cities and towns lies in addressing the underlying governance framework—the laws, policies, capacities (financial, human and technical) by which the city is administered. As evidenced in the survey, all major cities in India fall short on the parameters evaluated. All four parts of the framework: planning, transparency, capacities and legitimate political representation must be addressed in a holistic manner and work in tandem for ensuring a good quality of life in our cities.
The government of Karnataka has taken some steps in this direction. In May 2016, it constituted a Bengaluru Blueprint Action Group (BBAG) to supervise and provide guidance on reform which would help improve the quality of life in Bengaluru. To be chaired by the Chief Minister, the BBAG members included N R Narayana Murthy, Azim Premji, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Sachin Bansal, Swati and Ramesh Ramanathan, Mohandas Pai and other urban experts and professionals. The BBAG was to formsix sub-committees, each of which was to focus on a specific area identified—transport, infrastructure, lakes, solid waste management, finance and power. However, action on the ground is yet to be seen. The time for Bengaluru to take its place among the world's best cities is now.