Sealings in Bangalore – welcome development?

City newspapers have been reporting this week that BMP (Bangalore Mahanagar Palike) may have quietly begun with sealing operations of its own. As per this report in The Hindu:

The operation was carried out as the BMP had received a notice from the High Court to close down commercial establishments in residential areas … High Court notice came following a public interest litigation petition filed by the Sadashivnagar Residents’ Welfare Association.

I have been watching sealing related developments in Delhi with great interest, for I believe the ‘controversy’ is setting the stage for true “urban” development in our country. Whether you spend big bucks to churn more concrete via JNURM (National Urban Renewal Mission), or provide more power to the local urban bodies, how well your citizens follow prescribed rules and regulations is what matters most at the end of the day.

Despite having elaborate and well publicized norms and guidelines about urban residential and commercial development (try these byelaws), citizens routinely flout them. Usual excuses will be heard –

  • why didn’t the city government notice all this earlier,
  • everyone else flouts these laws so why shouldn’t I,
  • these stupid rules and bylaws don’t make sense,
  • I haven’t committed a murder by running a shop in a basement so go catch Manu Sharma first.

But we all ought to learn to lead life in civilized, orderly and community-fashioned way. Overly socialist thoughts, and stupefyingly selfish ways in which we go about our lives has lead to creation of these piles of sh** called Indian cities. Something has to give, and a start has to be made.

Each party here – except the city governments – has some valid arguments. Residents can’t be expected to just put up with violations of zonal norms and building bylaws. Traders can’t just shut shop and move on like that. And the courts can’t be expected to play witness as laws get broken. But please, don’t blame this mess on the city governments alone.

  • For every babu who took bribe to issue an illegal permit, there was a businessman who offered it.
  • For every unauthorized shop that comes up, there are a dozen residents who sit and tolerate it.
  • And before these PIL and RTI things came together, courts didn’t really lay red carpet for citizens walking in with complaints about broader civic issues.

Jumping back to Bengalooru, sealings are a welcome move. But a Delhi like situation may recur here as well. I only hope that events at Delhi end up setting some ground rules that will make life easier for similar drives in Bengalooru and all other cities of India.

Let us keep watching.

PS: BTW, I thought the Koramangala Demolitions promised a lot, but the ‘movement’ fizzled out for whatever reasons. The formula for the compromise reached there – legalize small violations through a fine, and take heavy violators to task – may end up getting used in this case as well. But these are still early days.

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13 Responses

  1. You have a very nice blog here. The “silkboard” name was inviting ;-)

    K, regarding this post. This is a very well brought up point. Unless every individual feels the responsibility in making the city better, just the government or the court’s decision will not help.

    Interestingly, I have travelled quite a bit both in Europe as well as USA, and I notice that, this same brothers and sisters of our country are at their behavioural best “outside” India. Why can’t we be so in our own home land? When coming to following the rules (be it speed limit or the traffic lights), they are so loyal to a foreign land. Leave them in India and it’s back to sqaure one.

    And the most irritating reply I get when I try to talk some sense into them is that “Aww come on.. here we can do anything. who cares!”. Oh really? YOU should care, I should care. EVERYONE of us should care….

  2. SB,

    Its indeed a complex issue to resolve now after allowing it to become a frankenstein monster. I have friends in delhi who have been directly affected and are at their wits end with no clear solution as to the future. This is a very interesting situtation and i really wonder till when the supreme court goes behind the govt to sort this out. The politicians (including the GoM) seem clueless as to how to solve this problem but as expected are complicating the issue further by muddying the waters further. I hope this does not flare up into another major ‘drama’ across the country.

  3. In the long run, sealings are required. Twenty years from now, we will be happy that we did prevent urban chaos. In addition, the fear of getting sealed will prevent people from breaking laws again and again.
    In the short term, it causes problems and there are many innocent victims.
    1)Persons who bought commercial property in residential areas. The previous owner would have illegaly converted the property and bribed officials to enable this. The new owner is not really responsible for this
    2)BMP/BDA officials who personally may not have done anything wrong but have to clean up their predecessors’/colleagues’ mess

  4. Sealings in Bangalore as well?

    Sealings in Bangalore as well? posted at IndianPad.com

  5. SB,
    As usual you have touched a very important hot topic.

    OK, we seal off those commercial establishments etc , the roaring business these outlets got indicates there is a requirement for commercial activity for that area. So govt has to cater to that business opportunity in a correct fashion – this should be tone and tenor of the supreme court order. All the rules need to be revisited too as you have pointed out in one of your earlier posts.

    cheers
    mohan!

  6. I am from Delhi and I feel that if the authorities had not taken the concerned steps, Delhi would have gone the Bombay way because traffic was becoming unmanageble. Editor of Hindustan Times, Vir Sanghvi wrote a wonderful article ” Big cities, small minds” in which he states how we tolerate the nonsense until it starts affecting us. Well, hghtime it stopped because it is getting out of hand.

  7. People in general do support the sealing in Delhi. I like to call them the silent majority. While the traders who are violently protesting can be termed as the outspoken minority.

  8. George – exactly! The fear has to set in. So that people at least think before they set out to acquire illegal permit. But there are innocent victims too just as you point out.

    And as Mohan points out, since these commercial spaces are so crowded, there is a clear ‘demand’. Which means that city planners didn’t do a good job of creating adequately spaced commercial zones in these so called residential areas. So as you said Namma Nadu, see, it is a mess helped along by all 3 parties. Let us see what solution emerges.

    Sher Babbar I have heard that. These traders have a lot more to lose. So they are out in full force to make you feel as if all of Delhi is against the sealings. I only hope the silent majority too will spare some time to do a show of strength soon.

    Hiren Trust me, it is not just Delhi Mumbai and Bangalore. This idea that you can do business anywhere without bearing some mandatory costs (parking, public space, inconvenience to public, generate waste) has taken roots in every urban area. As you say, it is getting out of hand, and we all must be forced to get rid of our ‘small minds’.

    Shark, thanks for visiting. Yours is a statement in larger context – ‘citizens don’t care’. And that is is a big reason for many of our ills. Totally agree with you on that, it is something I regularly ‘preach’ on this blog. We all think we are living in some huge joint family where moms and grannies will clear all the mess after you.

  9. There is not much legal commercial space available in delhi. Today if you try looking for it, years will pass unless you find one at reasonable rates. The planning began failing long ago, or better to say did not happen. And where there is a crunch – we know what happens. This aspect deserves lot of attention.

    When you allow cars to be sold, you need to plan for parking space too. When parking space is not available, people will end up parking on sideroads/whatnot and paying fines as well. And cause problems to themselves and everyone.

    If same indians obey laws abroad and do not do it in india – probably the problem is not with these indians – but with the way laws exist!

  10. One more thing which is the root cause of all these mess – BDA or bangalore development authority.

    Just go to any BDA layout ( the so called correct one) you will notice roads of not more than 10 feet width but does BDA create roads without sidewalks? Where is the foot path here? BDA is only interested in collecting betterment charges with no clear site on future… what else can explain the BDA’s mad rush to create 10 feet roads without footpaths when these houses become commercial hubs – done we need to fine and make BDA pay for these mess?

    cheers
    mohan!

  11. @Mohan,
    BDA sells residential sites on narrow lanes which are only 10 foot wide without footpaths. It thinks that this is sufficient for houses(whether this is true or not is open to discussion). Such areas should NEVER become commerial buidlings or even apartments as the roads are not big enough.
    Of course, builders and businessmen(with the help of dishonest officials) do try to build offices/shops in these roads. This is a big problem for all the residents of the locality who find their road very congested all of a sudden. If the shops get sealed, the traders will protest but they have not moral right to do so. After all, who bribed officials into getting fake permits? Did they not know what they were doing was wrong? They are lawbreakers, not victims.

    @Apun Ka Desh,
    Some but not all Indian laws are not necessarily stupid-as an example, look at the discussion on the BMRDA laws about buildings on this blog. If they were followed, they would prevent chaos, although I agree that in some cases they are needlessly restrictive. The problem is that you can commit any outrageous violation of the law and get away with it. If civic agencies had greater powers to punish the guilty,such violations would reduce. It is not that are enforcing authorities are saints – I am sure that in many cases matters will be settled for a bribe. But the constant fear of being caught and made to pay a fine(or a bribe) will ensure that fewer people will break laws.

  12. Sealings in Bangalore is the wrong response or discouragement to thriving businesses or enterprises. Even the drive to evict footpath vendors is not correct. It is the story of human race that ran out of ideas and resorted to cannibalism.

    When there are buyers, there will be sellers or service providers. The BMP should provide for a decent platform for these businesses to thrive.

  13. I love sports so much I blog all day about it. My wife is ready to divorce me cause I just cant get past my sunday ticket. Hahahaha

    Anyway, I love reading about this!

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