Tag Archives: Bangalore


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’.


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

Bangalore Water Bill1

Demand, Supply and Marginal Cost Pricing

Karthik Shashidhar, Resident Quant at the Takshashila Institution and B.CLIP faculty, discusses a few concepts in economic reasoning.

How much would you value a pen? I’m talking about a stainless steel fountain pen here, made by the Parker Pen Company. It is a three year old pen in excellent working condition.

Let us say that Anjali values it at Rs. 100 and Babu values it at Rs. 50. Now, what if I tell them that I’m willing to sell the pen, and that the price at which I’m willing to sell is Rs. 75? Will either of them buy the pen?

It might be intuitive to see that Anjali will buy the pen at Rs. 75, while Babu will not. Notice that Anjali values the pen at Rs. 100, which means by paying Rs. 75, she is getting hold of a good that is worth Rs. 100 to her. It is a clear win for her! Why will Babu not buy the pen? Given that he values the pen at Rs. 50, he will only get Rs. 50 worth of goods by spending Rs. 75 – clearly a losing deal.

Insight 1: Price and value are not the same thing. Value is what a particular good is intrinsically worth to you. Price is the rate at which the good is traded.

What would happen if I were to set the price of the pen at Rs. 40? Now, you might see that both Anjali and Babu will want to buy the pen. If the price is Rs. 150? It is intuitive to see that neither will want to buy the pen at that price.

Now let us expand the problem. What if there are a thousand different potential customers,  rather than just Anjali and Babu? Let us assume once again that each of them values the pen independently. Now, how will the number of people who want to buy the pen depend on the price?

Insight 2: If you value a good that is for sale at an amount that is higher than the price at which you can buy it, you should buy.

If we were to price the pen at Rs. 50, how many units will it sell? This is exactly equal to the number of people who value the pen at greater than or equal to Rs. 50! If we are to price the pen at Rs. 49? Then it will sell exactly as many units as the number of people who value the pen at greater than or equal to Rs. 49!

You might see a mathematical insight here – the number of people who are willing to buy the pen at Rs. 49 is either greater than or equal to the number of people who are willing to buy it at Rs. 50. How is this so? The people who buy it at Rs. 50 are those who value the pen at an amount greater than or equal to Rs. 50. Now, if an amount is greater than or equal t Rs. 50, it is also greater than Rs. 49. So everyone who values the pen at greater than or equal to Rs. 50 (i.e. people who are willing to buy at Rs. 50) will buy it at Rs. 49. And there are more – what about those people who value the pen at Rs. 49? They may not buy when the price is Rs. 50, but they will definitely buy when the price is Rs. 49! Adding these to the number of people who have valued the pen at an amount greater than or equal to Rs. 50, we find that the number of people who want to buy the pen at Rs. 49 is greater than or equal to the number of people who want to buy at Rs. 50.

Now, we can generalize this rule.

Insight 3: For a particular good, the number of people who will want to buy at a lower price is greater than or equal to the number of people who will want to buy at a higher price.

Now, let us look at selling. Let us assume that everyone in the class has an identical pen.  Let us say that once again it is a stainless steel fountain pen made by the Parker Pen Company. Once again, each member of the class values the pen differently. Now, what if I offer to buy their pens at Rs. 50? Who is going to sell to me?

People who will sell me the pen at Rs. 50 are those that value their pens at an amount lower than Rs. 50! Let us say Chetan values it at Rs. 40. By selling the pen to me at Rs. 50, he is giving up a good which is worth only Rs. 40 to him, and getting Rs. 50 in return. Hence, he will sell it to me.

Let us say Diana values the pen at Rs. 60. She will not sell it to me at Rs. 50, because by doing so she is giving up a good worth Rs. 60 and getting only Rs. 50 in return! Hence, the people who will sell to me at Rs. 50 are those that value the pen at Rs. 50 or lower. The people who will sell to me at Rs. 100 are those that value the pen at Rs. 100 or lower.

Like in buying, we have a similar law in selling. The number of people who are willing to sell a good at a particular price is less than or equal to the number of people who are willing to sell the good at a higher price.  

The proof of this is similar to that of the buying case, hence it is left as an exercise to the reader.

Now that we know when people buy and when people sell, can we generalize a trade? If A sells something to B at a particular price, what does that tell you about the valuations that A and B put on the good? That A has sold the good means that he values the good at an amount less than or equal to the price at which it was sold to B. That B has bought the good means he values it as an amount greater than or equal to the purchase price!

So, you notice that whenever a trade takes place (unless it is under coercion or any other extraordinary circumstances), both the buyer and the seller are better off than they were before the trade! In other words, voluntary trade is always good.

Marginal cost pricing

Let us say I grow mangoes on my farm, and in season the trees collectively bear 100 fruits a day. Let us say that I am willing to sell each of these fruits at Rs. 10. I take them to the market, where other people from the village buy it from me. As long as the number of people who want to buy it from me is below 100, everybody is happy, for everyone gets the fruit they want, and I get adequate compensation for the fruits I’ve sold.

Over time, the population of the village increases and the demand for mangoes grows. Soon it goes beyond 100, and every day some people are denied their mangoes. Now, my intention is to maximize welfare, so it hurts me to see that people who want mangoes are not getting it. What do I do?

Let us say there is a neighbour who is willing to sell me mangoes, and I can sell his mangoes at Rs. 20 per piece. He has a large farm, so he can supply to me as much as I want every day, but I need to be the one going to the market and selling. What price do I sell them at?

Note that I need to have a constant price through the day. If, let’s say, I price mangoes at Rs. 10 per mango for the first 100 pieces and Rs. 20 thereafter (thus accurately reflecting my cost), there will be a rush among the people of the village to buy the first 100 mangoes. Given that they are no different (in terms of quality or any other “intrinsic value”) than the next few mangoes, this creates unnecessary commotion. As a welfare maximizer, I don’t like people fighting, and want them to come peacefully at any time they want and buy the mango at the known price. In other words, I need to price the mangoes uniformly. The question is what price I should charge for the mangoes.  Let us assume that each day I expect to sell anywhere between 150 and 180 mangoes.

Instinctively, you might think that the welfare maximizing price is the average price. For example, if I know that the demand will not exceed 180, the average cost of the mangoes I will sell will not exceed (100 * 10 + 80 * 20)/180 = Rs. 14.44. Does that mean I can sell the mangoes at Rs. 14.44 as a welfare maximizing measure?

Let us see what happens then. If the price is 14.44, I am happy selling the first 100 mangoes, for they have cost me only Rs. 10 each. The question is if I will want to sell the 101st mango. Note that the 101st mango comes from the neighbour’s farm, and I can procure it at only Rs. 20. Now, if I have to sell it at Rs. 14.44, I make a loss on selling the mango. Not just the 101st – every additional mango I have to sell thereafter I have to sell at a loss. In other words, I’m better off selling lesser mangoes than more mangoes! And if I don’t want to sell mangoes I’m making a loss on, in that case I’m not maximizing welfare!

Notice that at any price I set below Rs. 20, I have no incentive to sell any mangoes beyond the 100 I have grown in my own farm! As long as I have set a price less than Rs. 20 (even if it is Rs. 19.95) I have an incentive to pack up my shop early and not sell mangoes to everyone who wants it! Hence, a price less than Rs. 20 does not maximize welfare!

So what should I price mangoes at if I want to ensure maximum welfare? This has to be a price at which I’m as happy or happier selling more mangoes, as I am selling lesser mangoes. This can only happen when the price is greater than or equal to Rs. 20!

Essentially, irrespective of how many mangoes I managed to get (in limited quantities) at a lower price, in order to maximize welfare, I need to price the mangoes at the cost of the last mango I purchase! This means that in order to maximize welfare, I should price the good at the marginal cost of producing that good! In the case of mangoes here, my marginal cost (i.e. the cost of the last mango I buy) is Rs. 20, hence in order to maximize welfare I need to price the mangoes at Rs. 20. This is called marginal cost pricing.

Now, let us draw an analogy of an apartment complex. The complex gets a limited amount of BWSSB water a day, beyond which it needs to get water from tankers. Let us say that BWSSB charges Rs. 10 per kilo Liter, and supplies up to 1000 kL a day. Beyond that, the apartment association has to purchase water from tankers at Rs. 20 per kL. The question is how much the apartment association needs to bill its users for water.

The answer is the same as above. As long as the total demand exceeds 1000 kL a day (the price at which the association can purchase water at Rs. 10), water needs to be uniformly priced at Rs. 20 per kL, which is the marginal cost of purchase!

Now let us look at Bangalore city. Let us assume that BWSSB can sustainably draw up to 10000 kL of water a day from the lakes around Bangalore, and this costs them Rs. 5 per kL. Beyond that, they will need to draw water from the Cauvery, over a 100km away, at Rs. 10 per kL. What should BWSSB price the water at?

Again, it doesn’t matter that BWSSB is a public sector agency, providing a “public service”. We have seen that in order to maximize welfare, we need to price the good at the marginal cost. And the marginal cost of procuring water for the BWSSB is Rs. 10 per kL, hence, every unit must be priced at Rs. 10 per kL.

It doesn’t matter whether we are selling mangoes or water or electricity or brinjals. If our objective is welfare maximization, we will need to price the good at the marginal cost. This is a fundamental principle of economics.

Photo credit: S Vishwanath, Rainwater Harvesting Club.


Garbage and the city

On January 18, Kalpana Kar took a Practice Track session for B.CLIP students on waste and its management. Ms Kar is a prominent resident of Bangalore who has been a part of the Bangalore Agenda Task Force earlier and now leads the cause of a ‘Kasa Mukta’ (waste free) Bangalore, a campaign with the city corporation that strives for a clean city.

Ms Kar gave students perspectives on four broad areas: understanding waste and its categories; waste management examples from across the world; the context in India and Bangalore; and key players in the game. Some excerpts follow.

Different cities have found their own solutions for managing waste, from conversion to energy in Sweden to recycling in Singapore and London to use as road material elsewhere, all solutions suited to local constraints such as land availability, presence of a shoreline and other factors. What they do have in common is the notion that unsegregated waste neither has any value nor is it amenable for easy and safe disposal.

There is a strong role of markets to play in the waste management sector, where the role of government is be an enabling force. Segregation of waste into various categories and sub-categories not only makes disposal easier, but also creates value. Even in a city like Bangalore where currently most people do not segregate waste, it is quite rare to find milk covers, PET bottles or cardboard boxes lying mixed with garbage heaps. This is because there is already a value chain and a market for these items and people readily resell them for a profit and they get reused in various ways. The challenge is to form similar value chains for several other waste products, that incentivises their segregation. Tetrapack is a good example of a company that has done just this – where the multi-material laminate can be reused as construction material and private agencies have developed around the same. Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is another idea along these lines that awaits exploration.

Unfortunately, city contracts on waste management are more often transport contracts rather than garbage contracts. Contractors are not evaluated or paid based on how clean they keep their zone of operation, but paid on the number of truckloads of garbage they can bring to the landfill sites. Subsequently, there are perverse incentives for contractors to not segregate garbage, as segregation leads to lower weights and volumes. Restructuring garbage contracts, amending archaic laws and building capacity within the BBMP are essential components of going towards a Kasa Mukta city.

Ms Kar also remarked on the public ignorance on a range of garbage-related issues. Even amongst a group of educated and motivated residents, it is difficult to get accurate estimates of say how much waste their own households generate.

This compounds into a range of ‘guestimates’ on even how much waste the city as a whole generates, and of what types.

For more on Kasa Mukta visit wakeupcleanup.in and take a look at their slides.


Road management fieldtrack: Presentations

Following the field trips to the CNR Circle underpass and the Yeshwantpur TTMC, the B.CLIP class was divided into groups and asked to make presentations on how to improve road management in Bangalore.

From the presentations, multiple ideas emerged. The class discussed the factors that caused the degradation of the roads that included poor quality of construction, wear and tear,  and natural causes (extreme weather conditions, trees etc.) among others. It also discussed solutions in the form of human intervention (these can be legal or illegal interventions by individuals, agencies, private service providers, government agencies etc.). The concept of stakeholder analysis was also explained- who are the main stake holders with respect to a road? What are their interests and incentives in maintaining the quality of the roads?


(B.CLIP students making the presentation)

The class also discussed the kinds of interventions needed for road management. These included looking at information, coordination, monitoring and reputation.

Information: Information of various kinds exists with respect to roads in a city.  There is prior information that should address all questions related to the roads– what is over the surface and under the surface of the roads—walls, electricity wires, pipes, fences etc. There is information on the “calendar of works” for roads in a ward made available publicly. Information about the money involved-  what are the allocations for the road development? What is the spending? What are the finances of different stakeholders? And information disseminated via media– advertising road development plans in the newspaper.


(B.CLIP students making the presentation.)

Coordination- There is a need for coordination committees for effective road management. The chairman of the committee should be the ward Corporator.  Important stakeholders should be on this committee- RWA members, press members, different stake holders etc. The committee should be headed by a person in authority to make important decisions related to the ward. He should be the person motivated to do the work in the ward.

Monitoring- There should also be a well developed monitoring mechanism that is a sustainable and is an ongoing process. One needs to find people with vested interests, committed to monitoring the roads, who will use information systems.

Reputation- It is important to set the pre-qualification of contractors. Also, create and use the system of merits, stars and grades to help build a reputation for the stakeholder to perform his or her job to the best of their ability.

With a flyover right in front of the TTMC, and a slum to its left, it proved to be difficult for buses to move from one side of the TTMC to another.

Field Trip Part 2: Yeshwantpur TTMC

On January 5, after visiting the CNR Rao circle underpass, students were taken to the Yeshwanthpur TTMC (Transport and Traffic Management Centre), an example of a successful JNNURM project by the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation.

Constructed on a institutional plot of land with an aim to maximise public utility, this is one of 8 TTMCs proposed in the city. A total sum of Rs. 256 crores was invested in the 8 projects and today, they are generating revenue of Rs. 42 crores per annum.

This TTMC has a multi-level car parking, 4-level commercial property, and a 2-level bus stop. Prioritising customer satisfaction and efficiency, it allows for easy bus maintenance, and houses passenger facilities, a bus terminus, public parking and commercial space.

On the 5th of January, 2014, B.CLIP students went on a site visit to the CNR Rao circle underpass near IISc. Mr. B N Vishwanath, an independent auditor at the JNNURM, walked the students through how an infrastructure project is conceptualized, and why they often fail or get delayed.

Field Trip Part 1: CNR Rao Circle Underpass

On January 5, B.CLIP students went on a site visit to the CNR Rao underpass near IISc. Mr. B N Vishwanath, an independent auditor at the JNNURM, walked the students through how infrastructure projects are conceptualised, and why they often fail or get delayed.

This project sits on an arterial path in Bangalore, and it was planned with the aim to ease vehicular congestion and facilitate easy movement of traffic between Mekhri circle, Malleshwaram and Yeshwantpur. The underpass leads on one side to National Highway 4 which links 20 districts of Karnataka.

This is a project taken up under the national Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) scheme and was sanctioned as a turnkey project in early 2008 at the cost of about 30 crores. Stipulated to be completed in 10 months, it is now fast approaching 60 months since project start. With many months and years of inactivity, there is breakneck progress in the work over the past three months and the underpass is set for full use in the next few weeks.

Bangalore 2011-12

The growth of Bangalore

The city of Bangalore grew from about 5.7 million people in 2001 to 8.7 million in 2011. Earlier, the official city area was 226 square kilometres under the erstwhile Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BMP) which expanded to 716 square kilometres in 2007 with the creation of Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike.

However, these area numbers only reflect the official administrative boundaries, and are not always reflective of the organic growth of cities in various directions. Below are two land use images from ISRO’s Bhuvan portal of Bangalore from 2005-06 and 2011-12. Built-up area in the region is marked in red.

Bangalore 2005-06

Bangalore 2011-12

Visit the Bhuvan portal for higher resolution maps and the full map key.

In the period of five years, Bangalore has grown in area mostly only on the southeastern side. It has grown considerably along Hosur road, forming a continuum between the city, spanning electronic city until the edge of the state boundary. The bulk of the rest of the growth has happened along the southeastern section of the outer ring road.

Just like administrative boundaries influence governance, organic boundaries of changing land use bring in their own influence. Those who seek to govern Bangalore may need to think along two lines: how can administrative boundaries adapt themselves to reflect changing realities; and how to govern these areas when the boundaries remain rigid.

This was a part of Pavan Srinath and Saurabh Chandra’s lecture titled ‘Introduction to the Bangalore Municipal Ecosystem’ to B.CLIP students on December 7, 2013. Adapted from The Transition State blog on the Indian National Interest.

Further reading: Karthik Shashidhar finds that Bangalore’s fastest population growth rates were actually in the 1940s and 1970s.