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April 18th, 2016
Infrastructure • Cities

Public service delivery in Bangalore

The city of Bangalore experienced rapid growth in the 1990s, largely because of its booming IT sector. However, public services lagged far behind, causing widespread dissatisfaction among citizens. In 1999 a new state governor won office and set about transforming the city corporation’s operations, introducing many innovations along the way.

The initiative

In 1999, S.M. Krishna was elected as the chief minister of the south Indian state of Karnataka. He responded to the civil society protests by instigating a high-profile campaign to reform and revitalise Bangalore's underperforming public services. He set out several objectives, which included:

  • Improving the delivery of essential public services, such as utilities and waste collection.
  • Reducing the levels of corruption.
  • Boosting property tax collection.
  • Increasing citizens' levels of satisfaction with the city's public services.

The challenge

Bangalore enjoyed rapid growth in the boom years of the 1990s, “when the Indian government decided to liberalise the economy and encourage the IT services industry”. [1] Although it became one of India’s major cities, “government agencies largely failed to respond to the city’s rapid growth … During that period, essential public services such as electricity, water and garbage collection fell into disarray, while property tax revenue stagnated. Upset by collapsing public infrastructure, civil society groups began to demand broad reform of Bangalore’s public agencies, many of which had a monopoly on the goods and services they provided”. [2]

The public impact

From 2000 onwards, the public services improved rapidly, corruption ceased to be endemic and tax collection was made more efficient. “Between 2000 and 2004, public satisfaction with the Bangalore City Corporation (BCC) and its services increased by 50 percentage points ... Both the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) and the BCC had public ratings in excess of 80%.” [3]

Business Today felt able to write in August 2003: “The Future Of Indian Cities Is Here. We have seen it. And it is Bangalore.” [4]

Stakeholder engagement

The main stakeholders were the state government of Karnataka, the city government bodies such as the 100-strong BCC, the BDA and the Bangalore Agenda Task Force (BATF), a public-private partnership (PPP), along with purely external stakeholders such as the CEO of Infosys (who donated well over US$1 million to BATF).

Political commitment

Although there was energetic support from S.M. Krishna while he was chief minister, after he left office in 2004 the levels of commitment - and of public services performance - began to decline. While Krishna was in office, though:

  • The state government granted US$82 million to Bangalore, which was used to implement a new accounting system, among other projects.
  • He gave crucial political support to the civil servants who ran Bangalore's public agencies.
  • He helped the city forge a strong partnership with the local IT sector through institutions like the BATF.
  • He encouraged innovations that transformed the delivery of public services.

Public confidence

In 1993, there was deep dissatisfaction with local government in Bangalore, as surveys conducted by civil society groups indicated. However, 10 years later, both the BDA and the BCC had public ratings in excess of 80%, indicating the popularity of the reforms among the citizens of Bangalore.

As a result of his role in initiating the reform programme, S.M. Krishna's state government enjoyed a solid acceptance rate among the urban public. However, his reforms were not as well regarded by the rural populace and he was voted out of state office in 2004, losing to the Indian National Congress party.

Clarity of objectives

The objectives of the reform programme in Bangalore were clearly stated, focusing on fostering innovation, improving the efficiency of public services and tax collection, and attacking corruption. These remained consistent throughout S.M. Krishna’s tenure, and the city experienced a transformation in the delivery of public services.


S.M. Krishna had long experience of public administration before becoming chief minister, having served as a minister in the governments of Indira and Rajiv Gandhi. By employing people with local knowledge and adopting measures to deter corruption, his management style enjoyed positive results. The BCC was encouraged to introduce a number of beneficial reforms to its administration:

  • Introducing a policy of door-to-door garbage collection system.
  • Implementing a system of book-keeping that facilitated efficient decision-making and made corrupt practices more difficult.
  • Introducing a self-assessment tax programme with the help of the BATF.


There were regular public satisfaction surveys, for example those carried out in 2003 to measure public response to the reforms in public services provided by the BCC and the BDA.


Because of the structure of public administration in the state of Karnataka, the reforms in Bangalore were very dependent on the drive from above rather than on the local politicians. For the period of S.M. Krishna’s office, there was a good level of cooperation between the state government, the BCC and the BDA, and between local government and the private sector (particularly the local IT firms) through the BATF. Krishna supported civil servants in their efforts to reform public services and encouraged constructive innovations such as tax self-assessment.

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