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The who’s who of BBMP: the officials and their offices

 By Girisha Shankar and Aparna Ravikumar

The BBMP (Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike) is an urban local governmental body whose working keeps Bangalore functional. It takes decisions and implements projects relating to roads, bus stations, schools, hospitals, and a lot more. As the core municipal body that governs Bangalore, BBMP has both elected representatives of city residents as well as appointed or nominated officials in various roles. This blog post takes a look at the people who run the BBMP.

The city of Bangalore is broken up into 198 wards. Each ward has a population of roughly 30,000-40,000. As of 2011 data, Horamavu ward has the largest population of 93,830. Representatives, called councillors, are elected every 5 years from each of these 198 wards.  The BBMP elections, unlike the state elections that are held by the Election commission of India, are held by the Karnataka State Election Commission, in accordance with the rules underlined by the Karnataka Municipal Corporation (KMC) act. The BBMP is constituted when at least 2/3rd of the elected councilors are present and the Government has passed corresponding the Gazette notification. The fully constituted BBMP has a strength of 270 members, of which 198 are the elected councillors, 28 are members of legislative assembly (MLAs), 8 are members of legislative council-the upper house at the state level, 12 are Rajya Sabha MPs, 4 are Lok Sabha MPs and 20 are nominated members.  As of February 2014, the employed staff strength of BBMP was around 10,000 people, and around 15,000 people were contract workers.

City governance begins at the level of Area Sabhas. Area Sabhas constitute 1-5 polling booths within a ward. All registered voters of that area are its members. The representative of the Area Sabha is appointed by the Commissioner. Higher up the ladder of governance, at the ward level, is the ward committee. Each of the 198 wards has a ward committee of 10 nominated members, chaired by the councillor. The councillors elected from each ward, in turn elect the mayor and deputy mayor from their own ranks. The ruling party usually elects the mayor and deputy mayor from its ranks. The mayor and the deputy mayor have a ruling term of one year.

An important figure of authority in the BBMP is the commissioner. He is appointed by the Government for term of 2 years. He heads the executive wing of BBMP. The various departments of BBMP, like the Revenue department and Administrative department among other departments, operate under his supervision. He is assisted by the deputy commissioners and assistant commissioners. The various departments that are headed by the Commissioner, have a number of officers, like the engineers, who carry out BBMP’s ground work and handle its daily activities. These officers and engineers report to the Commissioner and form a major part of the BBMP workforce.


Standing Committees are formed to address specific issues of city governance. The committees also register complaints from the public. There are 12 standing committees in the BBMP currently that address issues like Public Health, Taxation and Finance and Major Public Works, among others. The committee consists of ten members and one chairman. The standing committees are formed for a period of one year.


Non statutory roles in the BBMP include the roles of the leader of the opposition party, the leader of the ruling party among others. These roles are not a legal requirement but conventionally command positions of influence within the BBMP offices.

 

 

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Project implementation in the city

Bangalore today is faced with several issues-ranging from messy sewerage disposal to poorly light roads. In the face of such issues, a civic leader would want to propose and implement solutions by communicating with city governmental officials. In order to implement her project proposals, the civic leader must coordinate with several organizations, stakeholders and contractors-it is a tough row to hoe.

For example, if the citizen wants a park to be developed in her locality, she needs to first map out the universe of organizations and the people who are involved in the park’s development.

The leader would have to specifically approach the different organizations, who would be the owners of various sections of the park. The projects department of BBMP would be the first point of contact for the citizen to seek approval for the development of a park and land allocation, among other operational details.  The Horticulture and Forest departments of BBMP would oversee the planting of the shrubs and trees in the land allocated by BBMP.  The BWSSB would play a pivotal role in ensuring the supply of water via pipes or by sanctioning the drilling of a bore well within the park. The citizen would also have to rope in the BESCOM to keep the walkways in the park well illuminated.

It is important for the citizen to identify the stakeholders of the operation. In the case of the park’s development, the stakeholders would be the owners, the families , the residences, offices and shops in the area surrounding the park, the users of the road-both vehicle commuters and pedestrians, among others. The citizen would do well to spread awareness among the stakeholders to generate public support in favour of the park’s development.

The citizen must also develop a rapport with the officials overseeing the various operations involved in the development of the park. This will allow her to seek out the specific officers and report to them in the event that issues crop up in the setting up of the park.

The contractors and on the ground workers are crucial players in the implementation of the project. Ground realities sometimes might be in stark difference to the plans on paper; awareness of such issues will allow the leader to approach the specific overseeing officers to ease bottlenecks. By keeping regular tabs on their work, she can ensure the completion of the project.

The sequence of work in the project is also crucial to the project’s success. In the development of the park, for example, it is important to sufficiently plan out the location of the trees and the lights so that the trees do not act as obstructions to the lighting in the park.

The civic leader and her team must, therefore, involve all the players of the game-the owners, the stakeholders, the overseeing officers, the action-takers and most importantly, the sequence of actions in the implementation of the project. It is important for the leader to understand that city leadership is a long drawn affair, requiring immense patience and artfulness.

This was covered by Subbiah in the B.CLIP classroom sessions.

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Bengaluru-the story behind the name

The city of Bangalore was officially established in the year 1537 by Kempegowda I. Most historians agree that the establishment of Bengaluru city was a stroke of genius. Its geographic location secured it from earthquakes, and its height above sea level gave it strategic importance, in terms of both military and governance needs. The city prospered and grew rapidly under the rule of the Kempegowda bloodline. Kempegowda II gave the city a large number of monuments. The watch towers that we see today at Lalbagh, Kempambudhi tank, Halasur tank and near Mekhri circle were built by Kempegowda II. The Kempegowda tower, as the watch tower is now popularly known as, is the insignia of the BBMP. The contribution of the Kempegowda rule to the development of Bengaluru is immeasurable. It is interesting to see then, that the name ‘Bengaluru’ was not coined by Kempegowda I. The story behind the name stretches across several centuries and civilizations.

The earliest reference to the name ‘Bengaluru’ appears in the ninth century Ganga inscription on a ‘hero-stone’ (vira kallu) found in Begur. The inscription makes a reference to the battle fought at ‘Bengaluru’. The name is believed to owe its origins to the Ganga rulers. Bengavalu was the name of the hamlet that the rulers built for their security guards. Bengavaluru, the name of the guards’ residences is believed to have morphed into Bengaluru. The city has had other names-Deverayapattna in the 16th century and Kalyanpura. During the British rule, the city came to be known as Bangalore. At the 2005 golden jubilee celebration of Suvarna Karnataka, UR Anantha Murthy proposed that the city’s name be changed to Bengaluru. In 2006, BBMP passed the resolution to implement the change of name. On November 12, 2006, the then Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy declared ‘Bengaluru to be the city’s official name.

Several legends actively compete with facts in the narration of the history of Bangalore. Among the most popular ones is the story, set in the 12th century, of the tired Hoysala King Veera Ballala who was offered boiled beans (benda kallu in Kannada) by an old woman. In praise of the boiled beans, he named the town Bendakaluru (town of boiled beans). Such stories add a highly interesting dimension to a city’s history, but are not backed by any evidence.

From Bengaluru to Bangalore and now to Bengaluru again, the name has turned a full circle. From the era of Kempegowda to being the Silicon Valley of the country, the city has come a long way. Knowledge of a city’s history is crucial to city governance. Appreciating the city’s history will fuel a sense of pride and love for the city among its officials and as a result, empower them to work efficiently.

The History of Bangalore city was covered by Suresh Moona in the B.CLIP classroom sessions

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Public Participation in India

by Aparna Ravikumar

The participation of the Indian public in political affairs is a story much like any other. It has gone through a series of ups and downs that stretch across history and spill into the current days. The first major act of public participation in modern India took shape in the form of the freedom struggle. The freedom movement gave the extremely diverse population the identity of being an Indian. The idea of India took the nation and its people by storm, forcing a frenzied participation in the political sphere. It gave hope of better economic and social status to the average Indian, motivating his participation in the freedom struggle. Poets and lawyers marched with the poor and hungry, their minds captured by the single, powerful idea of a free India. The stroke of the midnight hour, however, brought with it a far uglier struggle for dominance. The partition again forced frenzied public participation- this time in a horrific, violent manner. The drafting of the constitution lead to the public actively participating in the process of policy-making. The public engaged actively in several critical policy decisions, like the drawing up of the Indian map based on the linguistic factors, Hindi becoming the official language of the nation and other such debates.

Once the glow of the nationalist sentiment wore away, people steadily withdrew from the public space. Public participation dropped drastically, fueled by cynicism at the government’s operations. The government has now come to be viewed as a distant ‘ruler’, and not as the people’s representative that exists to serve the people. The absence of the public from the political sphere has allowed the people in power to slack off and engage in actions that allow them to maximize monetary gain. Lack of public participation has severely disrupted the system of checks and balances that prevents people in government from misusing their power. Economic divides between the ‘elites’ and the ‘aam admi’ prevent the public from unifying as a single voice to check the rampant corruption in the political system.

However, it is not all bad news. The anti-corruption movement that began in 2011 again catapulted the people into the public sphere, bringing the idea of India back to the center stage. The ‘movement’ however, was too short lived to provoke major changes in the working of the government. This should not discourage the citizen as changes in public policy and the operations of the government can be effected only over long years of sustained public participation. Engaging in the working of local municipalities is a small step that every citizen can take in order to return power to the voice of the citizen.  

The changing nature of public participation in India was covered by Mr Mohandas Pai in the B.CLIP class. 

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Measurements and Market Research

by Aparna Ravikumar

Our everyday lives revolve around the consumption of goods. From the relatively trivial ones, like toothpaste, soaps and shampoo, to the more important goods like water, power and food grains.

The production and sales processes of FMCG are thoroughly exhaustive-in terms of manufacturing the product and performing market research. These production and sales processes can be broadly grouped into different baskets-input, output and outcome.

The entire cycle of manufacture can be grouped into the input basket. For example, in the manufacture of toothpaste, the different ingredients, like carbonate salts that go into creating the toothpaste fall under the input category. The manufacturer also incorporates several other features into the toothpaste, like fresh taste, to maximize consumer satisfaction.

On the output side, the manufacturer uses market research to gauge the response of his user. Randomized surveys will tell the manufacturer the levels of satisfaction that his consumers experience. The outcome basket categorizes the scientific testing methods and procedures that the product is subjected to. These processes are used to answer questions regarding the harmful effects, if any, of the toothpaste on the user’s health, the toothpaste’s ability to fight of germs, etc. It provides solid, evidence-based proof of the toothpaste’s real performance as against its claims.

A relatively trivial product like toothpaste requires exhaustive steps to ensure consumer satisfaction, so it is safe to assume that a vital good like water supply will require the same measurement techniques to ensure safe and efficient water supply to all citizens.

On the input side, the sources of water, water quality,  presence of stray sewerage elements among various other indicators are measured and the impurities are suitably filtered out before the water enters the supply lines.

On the output side, the quality, in terms of the water’s colour, smell, taste, and quantity, measured using water bills or sump sizes, are used as major yardsticks of measurement. Other indicators can also be used to understand consumer satisfaction- the delay in supply, affordability, ease of setting up new connection, etc.

As an attempt to gauge market performance of public utilities, the citizen report card was introduced by the Public Affairs Centre (PAC). The CRC was first introduced in Bangalore and is now being adopted in different cities of the world. The CRC attempts to understand the consumer’s satisfaction, suggestions and complaints regarding the public utilities extended by the city’s corporation. Using randomized sample survey techniques, households are surveyed to gather data on consumer levels of satisfaction, with the quantity and quality of supply of public utilities, like power and water being specifically measured. The findings from the CRCs are shared at the local level to create awareness and increase citizen participation in the sphere of local governance.  They are also shared with governmental agencies, giving the agencies a clear picture of their performance.

On the outcome side, scientific tests performed on water from different sources give a clear evidence-backed picture of the quality of water being consumed by the people.

The input, output and outcome model provides the service provider or the product manufacturer with a clear picture of his performance in the market, giving him opportunities for improvement, which will, in turn, account for improvement in consumer satisfaction levels.

The concepts of measurement and market research were covered by Pavan Srinath in the B.CLIP classroom sessions.

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What can a Councillor do?

by Girisha Shankar
Edited by Apoorva Tadepalli

The Civic Leadership Incubation Program prepares students to undertake civic governance at the local level in their wards. While the BBMP is organised as a gargantuan hierarchy with several roles at play, the elected representatives do have an important role. There is a lot that a councillor can aspire for and also achieve during his tenure at BBMP.

The most basic function of a councillor is to form and chair the ward committee. The ward committee needs to be selected carefully in order to fulfil political compulsions while at the same time allowing for adequate representation for all the citizens of the ward. The other important function of a councillor is to hold ward committee meetings, which also can be useful in coordinating civic agencies like BWSSB, BESCOM, BBMP, etc. Without such coordination, civic issues are not addressed efficiently – the simplest example of that being when roads are cut by one government body soon after another asphalts the road.  Another aspect of these meetings is that they help ensure the public’s participation, and the councillors can get to hear directly from the aggrieved parties instead of waiting for the problems to precipitate into a crisis, like with the garbage crisis of Bangalore in 2012. Most of the problems in ward can have a local solution, if proper coordination can be ensured. The councillor can be instrumental in making this happen.

It is essential that the councillor exercise their right to raise questions in the council meeting pertaining to the general proceedings and also bring up specific issues from the ward, which need attention. A councillor who stays as a mute spectator of the council proceedings without any proactive participation is a liability and it is a failure on his/her part in performing his/her duties.

Another role that a councillor can aspire to take on is to join various standing committees (though, not simultaneously). Unlike the previous roles where they are representing their ward alone, here the focus is wider – encompassing all of the city. Irrespective of whether the councillor happens to be a member of the committee or its chairman, the councillor has to manage dual role of representing their ward as well as taking a larger perspective of BBMP as a whole in dealing with specific business of the committee – be it large infrastructure works, health in the city, public schools and so on.

After a reasonably long stint in the council and having gained adequate experience with the functioning of the BBMP, a councillor can aspire to be a Deputy Mayor or Mayor, the latter of which has to ensure the execution of the council’s resolutions. Both the Mayor and Deputy Mayor have access to funds that can be used at their discretion. Here in lies the ability of councillors in ensuring that the funds are used appropriately – not just in their ward, but also for the city corporation’s entire jurisdiction.

All said, these are but the starting points for the role an ambitious councillor or corporator can play in a city like Bangalore. The true scope of a civic leader’s role, whether they hold elected office or not, is only constrained by their political imagination and drive.

Girisha Shankar is an urban policy analyst with the Takshashila Institution and a student of the B.CLIP pioneer batch. Apoorva Tadepalli is an intern at the Takshashila Institution. This was a part of Girisha’s lecture on a ‘Bottom-up Introduction to the BBMP’.

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A Brief History of Bangalore’s Governance

by Girisha Shankar
Edited by Apoorva Tadepalli

Local governance has existed in India since the Vedic days. The Indus Valley civilization had well planned towns and governing bodies that took care of civic infrastructure. Municipalities were established by the East India Company in Calcutta, Bombay and Madras, and were later empowered to enact their own bylaws. Lord Ripon instituted a major reform in 1882 paving the way for representative form of governance in municipalities. This resulted in elected councils in several municipal bodies – including one in Bangalore as described below.

Municipal governance in Bangalore

Bangalore Town and Bangalore Cantonment, analogous to modern wards, had separate committees with several divisions, with two councillors for each division. By 1892, both these municipalities were free from direct British rule and elections were introduced. The Cantonment municipality, unlike Bangalore town municipality, saw communal representation of councilors. This arrangement continued until independence. This period saw Bangalore Town municipality under the administration of eminent personalities such as Arcot Srinivasachar, K P Puttanna Chetty and A S Nagarkar.

Post-independence

In 1949, City of Bangalore Corporation Act merged the two municipal committees in Bangalore and all their constituent divisions were brought under a single corporation. The resultant body was what we now know as Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike, or BMP. At the same time, there was another corporation in operation in Karnataka- Hubli-Dharwad Municipal Council.

The State Government of Karnataka intended to bring these two bodies under the purview of same act. Hence the Karnataka Municipal Corporations Act -1976 (KMC Act) was introduced. This act with its various amendments continues to govern the Bangalore Corporation even today.

One of the major amendments done to the KMC Act was the Karnataka Amending Act 35 of 1994, after which Bangalore Corporation got reconstituted with larger urban area under its jurisdiction, and an election commission was set up for running the elections to local bodies in the state. A finance commission was constituted to review the financial position of Corporation vis-à-vis that of state government. This was the first time that state government endowed power and authority to local urban bodies in general and BMP in particular. This included powers to prepare and implement plans for economic development and ensuring social justice.

The next major change into Corporation came in 2007, when the state government issued a notification to merge the BMP with adjoining 7 city municipal councils (CMC), one town municipal council (TMC) and 111 villages. This resulted in a much bigger area of administration for the Corporation which was rechristened “Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike”, or the BBMP.

Electronic City, one of the city’s fastest growing areas, remains out of BBMP’s jurisdiction; in June 2007, BBMP passed a resolution to bring the Electronic City under its administration. However, Electronic City Industries’ association has stiffly opposed this move. This tug of war is went on till March 2013, when a Karnataka state government order declared the creation of an independent Electronics City Industrial Township Authority or ECLIA.

Girisha Shankar is an urban policy analyst with the Takshashila Institution and a student of the B.CLIP pioneer batch. Apoorva Tadepalli is an intern at the Takshashila Institution.

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Cities: Are they about the people or the places?

by Devika Kher

Bustling with noise in the middle of the day with a rickshaw trying to overtake a bus, while the metro train passes by tracks above a man rushing to make it to his office on time – welcome to a regular weekday in a city. When a class full of potential city corporators were asked what a city was, they said that it was everything a village isn’t. The questions that remains unanswered is: why is a city a city? Is it because of the people in the city, or because of the infrastructure and the location of it?

The Census of India defines a city as:

Town or an outgrowth of town, that is, urban agglomeration with more than million people.

For a geographer,

“The city is usually described in functional terms as an “urban area”, which consists of a core administrative-government centre linked by journey to work movements to a commuting hinterland.”

For an archaeologist, a city is

“A unit of analysis consisting of a collection of buildings, activities and population clustered together in spaces”.

The Census definition is people centric; the definition claimed to be of an archaeologist and a geographer is based on location. However, one thing common to all the definitions is that they relate the city to an “agglomeration” or a “clustered space”.

In his work City Economics, Brendan O’Flaherty explains quite vividly how this agglomeration is of two varieties. One variety is when the agglomeration “arises from having many firms in the same industry, leading to localization economies”. The second is when it “arise(s) from having many people located together, no matter what industry they work in, leading to urbanization economies.”In simple words, localization economies are formed due to advantages of the place, while the urbanization economies are formed due to the people. So to try and answer the question – is it that either the people or the location that makes a city?

Localisation economies are the by-products of cities formed due to positive economies of scale, which are offered by knowledge spill overs and the gains of demand smoothening, as well as easy access to a number of things like innovations, labour, markets, and raw material. All these factors help to create economies of scale for the industries, which translates into economic growth. This further attracts more capital in the form of land (peri-urban regions), labour and entrepreneurship. This entire process turns the wheel to the making of a city.

If not the competition and economic activity within individual industries, it is a cluster of industries and ingenious people that spells the magic for the making of a city. The constant interactions within a small concentration of people who belong to different backgrounds and specialities, leads to the cities being a hub of growth and progress. This spatial interaction not only transforms the economic status of the city dwellers, but also the social structures and the mindsets within the close unit. Some important factors for this transformation are – the anonymity of an individual among a sea of faces and the positive externalities provided by advanced educational and cultural structures to the citizens. The evolving dynamics of the cities are an outcome of interactions of like-minded individuals from the same or varied specialisations which sometimes takes place through the sheer serendipity of being at the same place at the same time.

However, if reasoned further, either of the two reasons for the formation of the city cannot survive alone. O’Flaherty goes further to explain that if localized economies were the answer then all major industries would have been a city in themselves, and if urbanisation was the key then various industries would have concentrated in one region irrespective of the specialisation. But that is not the truth. Industries gain more from setting up plants based on the raw materials and the markets, at the same time, people benefit more from interaction of different specialisations. Hence the answer cannot be either/or. It has to be both. But is it?

In the Indian context, as far as I can trace, the main cause for the agglomeration has been varied. Keeping in mind the mill workers in Mumbai or the diamond traders in Surat, the expansion of particular industries and their auxiliary units has been the cause for the rise of a city. In the context of Bangalore and New Delhi, it is the concentration of administrative-government that has continued for a long period to provide the current status to the cities. Before independence, Kolkata was an important trade centre while Chennai was an important military base. Hence, if studied in detail the current Indian cities owe their origin to the British Empire and localisation economies. However, it is the migration of a heterogeneous mix of people, in addition to the varied minor and major industries, that has kept their relevance alive.

The essence of the current cities lies in the blend of diverse mix of people clustered in concentrated spaces to keep the blood pumping in these cities. Mumbai, the financial capital, is no more just a city for mill workers (much to their angst) with the head offices of all the major corporations and companies from all sectors setting up there. An important consideration for the present city planners in Bangalore is that with the emigration of young software professionals it is not just an army cantonment or a public sector hub anymore. Delhi along with the administrative centre, has also gained financial and cultural prominence, with the growing settlements of varied interest groups in the national capital. Kolkata has maintained its vibrancy by opening gates to the IT and BPO industries, thereby making it a home for professionals from all ends of the country. Chennai, famous as the Detroit of India, is also the centre for medical tourism, banking, finance and software services. In addition to this, it is the migration of the people from the neighbouring rural parts to the closest town which contributes to the outgrowth and the million plus population, so as to make the Census defined cities.

The urbanisation economies have, hence, been a support structure for the upgradation and survival of the India’s urban dream. Therefore, even if the formation of these cities can be attributed to either localisation or urbanisation, the present scenario votes in favour of the urbanisation economies or the people of the cities and so do I. Hence cities are likely about the people.

Devika Kher is a research analyst at the Takshashila Institution.

Photo credit: Gatesplusplus

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Not just an overgrown village

By Aparna Ravikumar

Over four hundred million people in India live in cities today. In spite of this, there is a lot of confusion about what a city really is. Cities are often seen as overgrown villages, or a group of villages at best. Cities are also seen as having better housing and better infrastructure than villages, and in general better developed. Cities are also seen as places where most of the population is not directly dependent on agriculture as a means of livelihood, unlike in villages. But is that all that separates cities from villages?

Beyond size and development, cities are different from villages in at least seven distinct ways.

First, a city resident belongs to an imagined community. Bangalore residents will think of themselves as a community of Bangaloreans or Bengalurinavaru, for example, but no one knows every Bangalorean personally. A traditional community is one where you actually know everyone personally is in sharp contrast to the community-based life of a village where pretty much every family knows the other personally. Therefore city residents end up becoming a part of an imagined community instead of a conventional one.

Second, the people and places of a city are alien to a city dweller. The large size of the city and the imagined community force the sense of anonymity into city life. In a village however, the community based life and smaller size of the village inject a sense of familiarity in the villager’s life.

Third, cities function more on rules than on norms. For example, the density of traffic in a city needs a rule that people should only drive on the left side of the road and in their lanes. In contrast, enforcing lane driving seems silly if done in a village. Given the large size of cities, you need clear rules that are documented that people need to know in order to maintain order. You also need clear rules to allow any defaulter to be punished. Villages instead run on largely on norms that are rarely written down and are enforced by society.

Fourth, cities need a lot more planning than villages. Cities provide more amenities to larger groups of people, where in villages a lot of the basic amenities are self-supplied by residents. For example, villages could use household wells for their domestic water use, but cities need a public water supply.

City vs village

Fifth, the city is also from the village in the specialisation of the workforce. Labour division in a city assigns specific tasks to each member of the work force. An average farmer of a village, in contrast, does not hire workers to feed his cattle and plough his fields – he carries out both the tasks and more.

Higher division of the labour in cities leads to the sixth difference, which is that cities have a higher specialization in their work force. After a medical degree, for example, medical practitioners study highly specific courses for degrees in specialization and super-specialization. But in a village, an agricultural worker is employed to perform various agricultural activities – sowing of seeds, ploughing of fields, and more and does not have the opportunity to specialize.

Cities can be considered as having a critical mass of humanity, a microcosm of all of human society that represents its diversity – and thus, population becomes the most obvious and the final significant difference between cities and villages.

Nitin Pai discussed the above theme in his inaugural class on “What is a city?” for B.CLIP students.

Aparna Ravikumar is an intern at the Takshashila Institution.

Cover photo: melquiades

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City, Governance and the Rule of Law

by Apoorva Tadepalli

Classes for the second batch of the B.PAC Civic Leadership Incubation Programme started this past Friday, with Nitin Pai taking an introductory session.

Government is an institution that prevents society from falling to anarchy, which is social and political disorder wherein every individual operates with their own guidelines of behaviour. Cities need government a lot more than villages as the descent into anarchy can be a lot faster. The government (or more technically, the state) enforces a rule of law to prevent violence and chaos, and promote harmony and smooth functioning of all aspects of a society. An egalitarian city is conceived as having all its residents as equal before the law, and so the functioning of a city depends on citizens subjecting themselves to this rule of law. This method of functioning in a society is characteristic of a democracy, and contrasts with the concept of divine right of kingship (characteristic of a monarchy) wherein the lawmaker is above the law.

Image copyright China Digital Times 2012

“Those who defend authority against rebellion must not themselves rebel.” – JRR Tolkien, The Silmarillion.

It can be argued that the rule of law is more important in cities than villages. As villages are relatively small and less populated, they often lack anonymity, thereby making social norms sufficient to prevent anarchy. A person may find it difficult to wrong another person in a village because they are more likely to know each other as well as everyone else in the community, and the collective enforcement from the community can be enough of a deterrent. There are other frameworks with which to establish a rule of law in other communities. For example, large slums often are illegal and slum lords use this as leverage to take protection bribes; in such cases, the mafia establishes a parallel set of rules which govern behaviour.

Note that while both village communities and slum lords can have their own means of enforcing a certain set of rules, they do not guarantee the same amount of liberty. While liberty is a quality of each state and government, all of them have to be strong enough first to prevent anarchy.  In a city, where population and therefore anonymity is high, social norms are not enough to establish common rules for behaviour. The best thing for a city, therefore, is to have an elected government representative of all citizens to establish rule of law in the society. When citizens elect representatives, they form a social contract with the government. With this contract, they exchange some liberties for the protection of others. For example, they exchange their liberty to use violence for the liberty to walk in public safely without being robbed. The social contract with the governing body is more important in a city than a village because in a village, social trust exists with other families. In the anonymous setting of a city, however, a lack of relationship with the rest of the community makes the government is essential to maintain law and order.

This is relevant to aspiring local civic leaders because it is important to recognise that there are many ways in Bangalore in which the rule of law is overlooked or flouted. Enforcing the rule of law is the fundamental duty of the government – providing security, welfare, growth, etc., all stem from this fundamental duty. Therefore, anyone aspiring for public office should pay attention to the rule of law above all else. Governance starts from local leaders at the level of the ward; only when people are responsible citizens of a ward can they be responsible national citizens.

Apoorva Tadepalli is an intern at the Takshashila Institution and a student of development studies and communication.