Bengaluru is India's most livable city, but is it equitable?

Aditi Hastak, Bangalore Community Manager
Bangalore, 13 June 2016

Recently, I spoke with Mr. V Ravichandar, an urban expert who has been involved in planning efforts for the city in different capacities since 2000. Ravichandar feels that a city is, in the final measure, defined by its community energy, public spaces and its arts and culture scene. Below is an excerpt of the conversation.

This is probably a good time to connect with you given that the new Bangalore Vision Group (BVG) was just announced. You have been part of Bangalore Agenda Task force (BATF), Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagar Palike (BBMP) restructuring committee before as well. As part of these committees, what was your thought process in the planning process?

I realized as part of different committees that reforms in administration and governance are much needed as then the city will have a more citizen-centric city corporation. Bangalore city offers economic as well as social opportunities for people to elevate however the challenges of social cohesion and environmental resilience still exist.

So, then would it be correct to say that you are referring to poorer sections of the society (economically) when talking about equity?

Well, though not really, the references always tend to incline towards economically poor as they have been the ones traditionally dissociated from the mainstream. What I really mean here is that, the systems might have benefitted the ‘rich’ so correcting this imbalance in the existing system so that ‘fairness in every situation’ is achieved is what we have been striving for.

Sure I get it. Can you elaborate on the efforts to address this inequity through the planning exercises that have you’ve been part of?

Yes, of course. We conducted a survey in July 2015 in all 198 wards. We randomly asked some people to list down ‘pains’ they feel the city is facing according to the priority. Garbage was the primary issue, followed by traffic and roads taken together and public health.

Consider, mobility as the issue. The majority of the poor and middle class people use public transport as their primary means of travel -- be it buses or the metro. There are issues of road infrastructure which this section faces, as well. The Tender S.U.R.E. work that I was part of emphasized this very principle of ‘right to walk’ by giving wider footpaths. Without embracing the public transport, and non-motorized mode of transport, the mobility issues are not going to be resolved. This project favors the pedestrians and cyclists, and that has irked many motorists.

Yes, I have seen St. Marks Road stretch. This project also takes cares of the piping infrastructure which ensures proper channels of rainwater and sewage. We were the city of thousand lakes. Lakes were the great public places, too, with many traditional livelihood activities dependent on it. How important are these public places in the city?

The public places are very critical. I am of the opinion that the city not only needs hard infrastructure which can be through design and technology intervention but also the soft infrastructure and community-friendly alternatives, like making our public spaces come alive through events such as car-free days and open streets, which we worked on with the state to get it implemented.

Exactly! One last comment on BBMP restructuring that you were part of. What was it that you emphasized?

We focused on development of ‘wards’ as it is the smallest unit. Take, for example, peripheral areas of the city: they are newly merged with the corporation but with no infrastructure. While on one hand these are the areas where IT parks are located, at the same time, the ‘livability’ is worse in that region. The restructuring was exactly supposed to correct this inequity and not on north, south, east, west geographical dimension.

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