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Unveiled! A template for self-governing townships

Electronics City Industrial Township Authority has overcome many challenges, but there are still a few left. Historically, industrial estates have been set up in suburbs and areas distant from residential populations and, therefore, have always been governed by either a municipality or a village panchayat.

The specialised needs of industries are not clearly understood by these governance bodies, thereby leading to a disorganised management, and lack of development. The lack of interest and involvement of industries too in managing their own estates has prevented their needs from being adequately addressed.

The governance of an industrial estate needs to be primarily focused on good infrastructure that includes the following: roads, stable electric power, management of water supply and sewage, cleanliness of the estate, including waste management, mass rapid transportation for employees of businesses, good communication facilities, peripheral support facilities like security, hotels and canteens, banks and shops, and security for people and common infrastructure.

All these call for long-term vision and planning as well as good execution of up keeping at minimal cost.

ECity, the forerunner
while the demand for establishment of self-governing Industrial Townships has been voiced for many years, the Electronics City (eCity) was uniquely positioned to be identified as a forerunner for this initiative. The creation of the Electronics City Industrial Township Authority (ELCITA) under the umbrella of the Karnataka Municipality Act by the Karnataka Government in 2013 was a landmark event across the country. What makes it unique is the fact that this prestigious industrial estate is home to a mix of large corporates, as well as MSMEs operating in diverse fields from IT, ITeS, electronics and mechanical hardware manufacturing, bio-technology, as well as educational institutions.

Further, the eCity has the advantage that it is a contiguous area of industries and commercial establishments with no residential properties included within its well defined boundaries.

The Township Authority comprises of ten members, five elected from among the industry representatives, and five officers nominated from the government bureaucracy. A major challenge faced by Industrial Townships would be participation by industry owners as elected representatives, as they have to take time off their busy routines. It is a challenge to attract competent, mature businessmen to devote time for a collective local governance activity. ELCITA has successfully overcome this challenge due to its existence as a close-knit industry body for over two decades. Other challenges that have been successfully overcome by ELCITA are:

Waste management: ELCITA is addressing the issue of a non-existent sewage system by setting up a cluster of sewage treatment plants (STPs). The first one has just been commissioned and the second one is under construction.

Security, law and order: While law and order within the estate is the responsibility of the jurisdictional police, ELCITA has been playing a proactive role through periodic interactions with them. ELCITA has also facilitated the installation of an e-FIR kiosk in the eCity.

Traffic management: With a high density of employees as well as vehicles of all types, traffic is managed by a dedicated team of traffic wardens with support from the Police.
Water management: ELCITA distributes both borewell and BWSSB water to all the organisations in eCity.
EGovernance: ELCITA has already put in place a transparent eGovernance mechanism that enables all transactions, including tax collections, works contracts, payments, etc. to be conducted online. ELCITA has been issuing Khatha certificates to property owners.
But there are a few challenges that still remain.
Lack of space: Since all plots in eCityhave been sold and used up by industries and businesses over time, there is hardly any space for common amenities
Provision of sewage: Drainage, treatment and disposal is expensive — both from capital investment and operating expenses perspective.

Implementation of building laws: Need a team of specialists that a local governance body does not normally possess.

As demonstrated in the eCity, the success of any industrial township stands on four pillars — cohesiveness of its constituents, transparency, unity, and a democratic approach to finding optimal solutions to the infrastructural needs of the estate.