The transformation of governance in ‘India’s silicon valley’
SINCE the creation of Electronics City on the outskirts of the city, Bangalore is often referred to as ‘India’s Silicon Valley’. The term ‘Silicon Valley’ was initially used exclusively for Electronics City but is now used to refer to Bangalore in general, signalling the city’s importance as a centre of the software industry. However, the ‘informatisation’ of Bangalore has a longer history.1
The establishment of public sector enterprises and knowledge based production facilities in the 1950s and 1960s contributed to Bangalore emerging as India’s ‘Science City’. So when India liberalized its economy in the early 1990s, Bangalore was already a centre of scientific research and development and had a nascent technology sector. It was the establishment of an office of the central government’s Software Technology Parks of India (STPI) in the Electronics City campus in 1991 that led to the transformation of Electronics City from an electronics hub to an IT hub. Over the last decade, the IT industry has been further promoted by various enabling policies such as the granting of Special Economic Zone (SEZ) status to certain entities and exempting the sector from key labour regulations.
Largely led by the development of IT and IT-Enabled Services (ITES) industries, Bangalore has experienced rapid demographic and spatial growth over the last two decades. The city’s institutional and infrastructural architectures have consequently undergone major transformations – especially with the promotion of high-end infrastructure, mega-projects and elite civil society-government partnerships. A recent example of such an institutional innovation is the creation of a new body for governing Electronics City: the Electronics City Industrial Township Authority (ELCITA). With the establishment of this authority in March 2013, the village panchayats in peri-urban Bangalore lost control over parts of their territory as ELCITA was vested with the powers of a municipal government.
The creation of such a privatized governance system may be seen as an instance of ‘bypass urbanization’2 whereby capital avoids the peculiarities of ‘political society’ in the city by building new townships in urban peripheries. These new urban forms may be characterized as ‘premium networked spaces’3 where higher levels of infrastructure and service are provided for certain valued users, bypassing the majority of the population. Such urban spaces are created not just by a spatial bypass, but also an institutional bypass by legally locating itself under exceptional governance architectures.4 This essay examines some of the key changes in the governance framework of Bangalore in general, and in the Electronics City area in particular, to make sense of the transformations that the city is undergoing.
Bangalore functioned as two administrative entities until India’s independence: the Bangalore City Municipality under the princely state of Mysore and the Civil and Military Station (Cantonment) Municipality under the administration of the British. The cantonment and the city (the pete) developed as independent entities, with separate central markets, rail-way stations, hospitals and so on, and coexisted without interfering much with each other.5 The cultural divisions between the two cities were quite deep in pre-independent India, which arguably continue in certain ways even today. After independence, a single municipal body – the City of Bangalore Municipal Corporation – was set up in 1949 by the amalgamation of the Bangalore cantonment and city municipalities.
Bangalore has since then grown both demographically and spatially. Spatially, Bangalore has grown more than ten times since 1949. When the Bangalore Municipal Corporation was formed in 1949, the area of the city was only 69 square kilometres, while today the area under the municipal corporation spans 712 square kilometres. The key moment of spatial expansion was in 2007 when the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP, or the Greater Bangalore Municipal Corporation) was formed by merging the Bangalore Municipal Corporation with seven city municipal councils, one town municipal council and 110 villages around Bangalore. The integration of these peripheral areas into the city subsumed and extinguished the rural and urban local bodies existing in these areas without giving them enough opportunities to voice their concerns.6
The rapid growth of Bangalore has been accompanied by the rise of ‘speculative urbanism’7 whereby the state government, along with private firms, promote mega-projects in peri-urban areas as a means of land speculation. This often causes the dispossession of those living in peri-urban areas and also transforms its institutional and infrastructural architectures. One of the most controversial infrastructural projects in recent times was the Bangalore Mysore Infrastructure Corridor (BMIC), planned by the Nandi Infrastructure Corridor Enterprise (NICE) – a 130-km long private toll expressway which would also have along its path five industrial townships.
The promotion of mega-projects seeking to transform Bangalore into centres of international investment also realigns institutional architectures. In the case of BMIC, a new institution – the Bangalore Mysore Infrastructure Corridor Area Planning Authority (BMICAPA) – was created and vested with all the rights of a local planning authority.8 Consequently, BMICAPA is responsible for preparing the master plan and is also the single window agency for all approvals related to land use and building constructions.
Since the late 1990s, Bangalore has also witnessed the emergence of new elite forms of representation through civil society-government interfaces like Bangalore Agenda Task Force (BATF), Agenda for Bangalore Infrastructural Development (ABIDe) and now the Bangalore Blue Print Action Group (BBPAG). Pursuing the vision of turning Bangalore into Singapore, BATF worked along with elite NGOs in applying public-private partnership models for the infrastructural development of the city.9 Subsequently, with the fall of the S.M. Krishna-led Congress government and arrival of the B.S. Yedyurappa-led BJP government, the ABIDe Task Force was set up in July 2008 with the objective to ‘revive and rebuild Bengaluru’.
The latest entrant in this space is the BBPAG, also called the Bangalore Vision Group, constituted by the Siddaramaiah-led Congress government in 2016 which largely consists of many of the same members from BATF and ABIDe. While getting ‘eminent citizens’ on-board for such initiatives allows the government to construct a veneer of ‘citizen participation’, it generally remains oblivious to the multiple voices and interests emerging from the ground.
As the narrative of good governance gains currency, the role of the elected local government in shaping the development of the city is being enfeebled. Many of the essential civic functions of the city are not with the municipal corporation but with various parastatal agencies (public corporations under the state government but not accountable to the local government). The parastatal agencies in Bangalore responsible for development and service delivery include Bangalore Development Authority (BDA), Bangalore Metropolitan Region Development Authority (BMRDA), Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) and the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC). With essential municipal functions like urban planning, regulation of land use, water supply, slum improvement etc., being performed by parastatal agencies, the local government’s power and influence is limited.10
It is against the backdrop of these institutional transformations which have splintered and depoliticized urban governance that a new private governance regime for administering Electronics City emerged. The first phase of Electronics City was created on the outskirts of Bangalore in 1978 by the state controlled Karnataka State Electronics Development Corporation Limited (KEONICS). In 2003 Electronics City was further expanded by creating two more phases. While Phase I was developed by KEONICS with Karnataka Industrial Area Development Authority (KIADB) performing the task of land acquisition, Phase II and Phase III were developed by KIADB, a wholly owned industrial and infrastructure development agency of the Government of Karnataka.
The areas constituting Electronics City were primarily used for agriculture before the land was acquired by KIADB. Ragi was the staple crop grown in the area and rice was also cultivated in the wetlands near the lakes. However, with the setting up of Electronics City, agricultural activities have virtually come to an end as the land nearby is urbanizing with rapid construction of residential and commercial undertakings. In 1992 the Electronics City Industries’ Association (ELCIA) was formed with the objective of promoting the interests of the industries operating from Electronics City. While ELCIA was made responsible for the maintenance of Electronics City in 1997, the region was still administratively under gram panchayats in peri-urban Bangalore.
Over the last few years, Electronics City has increasingly become a site of contestation between various interest groups – the industries association, the local village councils and the central city council. While ELCIA was lobbying for an industrial township status for Electronics City, the elected council of the BBMP passed a resolution in 2012 to include Electronics City and the villages surrounding it under its jurisdiction. However, BBMP’s resolution for including Electronics City within its boundaries was rejected by the state government. Instead, in March 2013, the state government issued a notification for creating the ‘E-City Industrial Township Authority’ which was made responsible for the governance of the three phases of Electronics City constituting a total area of over 903 acres. Consequently, three village panchayats (Dodda Thoguru, Konappana Agrahara and Veerasandra) lost their authority over the region. The right to levy property tax which was earlier vested with the village panchayats was now vested with the ELCITA. However, 30% of the property tax collected by the Industrial Township Authority is required to be remitted to panchayats from which the area of the industrial township is carved out.
While ELCITA might seem like an anomaly in India’s governance architecture which mandates the creation of democratically elected rural and urban local governments, it is possible to create such a body due to an exception provided by the 74th Constitutional Amendment. Article 243Q of the Constitution (introduced by the 74th Amendment), which mandates the creation of elected municipal governments in all urban areas, has a proviso which offers an exception to the constitutional requirement. This provision empowers the state government to declare an area as an industrial township if the industrial establishment of that area provides or proposes to provide municipal services.11 However, as K.C. Sivaramakrishnan, one of the architects of the 74th Amendment notes, this exception was not present in the previous versions of the bill and was only introduced at the last moment when the bill was taken up for clause-by-clause consideration.12
ELCITA was created by a government notification made as per the provisions of an amendment to the Karnataka Municipalities Act, 1964, passed in 2003, which allowed the government to set up industrial townships. The 2003 amendment provides for the constitution of an industrial township authority and its composition, functions and duties. It conferred on industrial townships all the powers of the municipal council specified in the Karnataka Municipalities Act, including the power to levy and collect property tax.
The Electronic City Industrial Township Authority is the first and only Industrial Township established under these provisions. As the legislation provides that government will nominate the members of the first industrial township authority, ELCITA’s council members were nominated by the government. The present members of ELCITA include five representatives of companies in Electronic City, two bureaucrats from the departments of commerce and industries and urban development, one member from Doddathogur gram panchayat and three invited members (two of them associated with ELCIA).13
ELCITA is able to operate as an independent institution with minimum interference from the state.The functions and duties that ELCITA is mandated to perform as per the Karnataka Municipalities Act include: regulation and construction of buildings, planning for economic and social development, provision of water supply, solid waste management, provision for urban amenities such as parks, garden and playgrounds etc. Though government representatives are part of ELCITA’s council, they are not involved in its regular administration which is performed by a CEO appointed by ELCITA.
Soon after becoming an industrial township authority, electronics city is also being converted into a ‘smart city’ through a partnership with Cisco under its smart+connected communities initiative. While Bangalore is not one of the smart cities selected under the Union government’s Smart City Mission, the partnership with Cisco involves the setting up of an Internet of Things innovation hub which would help companies in Electronics City to develop products that can be deployed in smart cities across the country.
Though ELCITA is able to provide high levels of infrastructure and services within its territories, there is a sharp contrast in the areas around it. The areas falling under the jurisdiction of ELCITA are only those that were acquired by the KIADB and do not include parts of residential areas in the panchayats. While the areas under ELCITA are provided with piped water supply connection by BWSSB, the areas in the surrounding panchayats and even some of the areas within BBMP are not provided with the same facilities and often face water scarcity. The varying levels of basic services like water between ELCITA and its surrounding region highlight the operation of ‘splintering urbanism’14 in peri-urban Bangalore. Electronics City has also been provided with a nine km long tolled elevated expressway connecting the industrial park with Bangalore city, due to lobbying by ELCIA. The creation of such parallel infrastructural networks for Electronics City splinters the landscape by bypassing the major part of the population of the region.
As the first Industrial Township Authority in Karnataka, ELCITA is a unique experiment that potentially represents a new institutional architecture that may be replicated elsewhere. After Electronics City was declared an industrial township authority, other industries associations in areas like the Peenya Industrial Area have also demanded the township authority status. This is also supported by lobby groups such as the Federation of Karnataka Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FKCCI).
However, unlike the case of Electronics City, the Peenya Industrial Area is within the BBMP limits and faces tougher political opposition. By locating itself outside the boundaries of the BBMP, Electronics City is able to avoid some of the disruptive syndromes of local municipal politics. While the village panchayats also opposed the move to create ELCITA, they do not have similar political powers. Also, while the panchayats are administratively under the Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Department, the government notification creating ELCITA was issued by the Urban Development Department and hence the panchayats were not in a position to negotiate with the government.
The creation of Electronics City and the constitution of ELCITA demonstrate how there is an effort underway to transform the governance of peri-urban Bangalore through mechanisms of ‘private authoritarianism’.15 Globally, private authoritarianism can be seen in the rise of urban forms such as gated communities, homeowners’ associations, business improvement districts and other exclusionary spaces which displace local governments in the suburban space. While the rise of gated communities in the urban periphery is the predominant expression of private authoritarianism, in India this trend is also reflected in the emergence of various mega-projects, SEZs, industrial townships and business parks in the urban peripheries. Peri-urban development in India is characterized by an infrastructure-led growth model in which the provincial state government collaborates with private actors in attracting investment through various industrial policies and incentives.16
New urban regimes like ELCITA are created by a kind of spatial and institutional bypass by locating themselves spatially outside the boundaries of the city under privatized governance institutions. ELCITA also seeks to secede from the local bodies in the suburban region and create a self-governing enclave that retains tax revenues within its boundaries. While the antecedents of industrial township lies in company towns like Jamshedpur, the Industrial Township exception under the 74th Amendment has become a tool to create spaces of exception for new urban configurations. Hence, the provision is also being employed for the creation of SEZs across various states in India in varying degrees.17
In Bangalore, the role of the elected city council in shaping the development of the city is being enfeebled with the rise of alternative powers, whether it is parastatal agencies, civil society-government partnerships, planning authorities like BMICAPA or industrial township authorities like ELCITA. The promotion of such partnerships in the urban political space is precisely aimed at undermining the role of elected representatives by indulging in what is derisively termed ‘vote bank politics’.18 Municipal corporations like BBMP are largely seen to be dysfunctional. Whether due to its incapacity to deal with daily civic issues or its proclivity to indulge in scams, BBMP in its present avatar is not perceived as an effective public agency. In such an environment, the rise of non-democratic governance systems does not evoke massive public disapproval. While institutional transformations continue to be contested, new governance regimes are increasingly able to gain ascendency, especially in the peripheries of the city.
1. J. Heitzman, Network City: Planning the Information Society in Bangalore. Oxford University Press, USA, 2004.
2. R. Bhattacharya and K. Sanyal, ‘Bypassing the Squalor: New Towns, Immaterial Labour and Exclusion in Post-Colonial Urbanisation’, Economic and Political Weekly 46(31), 2011, pp. 41-48.
3. S. Graham and S. Marvin, Splintering Urbanism: Networked Infrastructures, Technological Mobilities and the Urban Condition. Psychology Press, London, 2001.
4. M. Idiculla, ‘New Regimes of Private Governance: The Case of Electronics City in Peri-Urban Bangalore’, Economic and Political Weekly 51(17), 2016, pp. 102-109.
5. J. Nair, The Promise of the Metropolis: Bangalore’s Twentieth Century. Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2005.
6. M.P. Idiculla, ’Who Decides Where Your City Ends?’, India Together, 29 November 2014.
7. M. Goldman, ‘Speculative Urbanism and the Making of the Next World City’, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 35(3), 2011, pp. 555-81.
8. As per the Karnataka Town and Country Planning Act, 1961.
9. A. Ghosh, ‘Public-Private or a Private Public? Promised Partnership of the Bangalore Agenda Task Force’, Economic and Political Weekly 40(47), 2005, pp. 4914-22.
10. M.P. Idiculla, ‘A Guide to Bangalore’s Civic Agencies’, Citizen Matters, 28 April 2010.
11. The proviso to Article 243Q reads: ‘Provided that a Municipality under this clause may not be constituted in such urban area or part thereof as the Governor may, having regard to the size of the area and the municipal services being provided or proposed to be provided by an industrial establishment in that area and such other factors as he may deem fit, by public notification, specify to be an industrial township.’
12. K.C. Sivaramakrishnan, Governance of Megacities: Fractured Thinking, Fragmented Setup. Oxford University Press, Delhi, 2014.
14. S. Graham and S. Marvin, Splintering Urbanism: Networked Infrastructures, Technological Mobilities and the Urban Condition. Psychology Press, London, 2001.
15. M. Ekers, P. Hamel and R. Keil, ‘Governing Suburbia: Modalities and Mechanisms of Suburban Governance’, Regional Studies 46(3), 2012, pp. 405-22.
16. L. Kennedy, The Politics of Economic Restructuring in India: Economic Governance and State Spatial Rescaling. Routledge, New York, 2013.
17. A. Sood, ‘Industrial Townships and the Policy Facilitation of Corporate Urbanisation in India’, Urban Studies 52(8), 2015, pp. 1359-1378.
18. S. Benjamin, ‘Occupancy Urbanism: Radicalising Politics and Economy Beyond Policy and Programs’, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 32(3), 2008, pp. 719-729.