Monday, September 20, 2004

Bangalore=Bihar of the south?

The battering that Bangalore’s image has received in recent months is obvious in a CEO’s remark that Karnataka has become a ‘Bihar’ thanks to its poor infrastructure and ‘lazy’ government. There has been much talk that foreign investment will be driven to other towns like Kochi, Chennai and Hyderabad.

In a way, the Silicon Valley has become a victim of its own success. Starting out as the most attractive destination for the IT industry, it has witnessed explosive growth in the last decade, leading to several infrastructure problems.

The good news is that government does have plans to address the problems of Bangalore. PGR Sindhia, minister for industries and aviation pointed out that work on Bangalore International Airport will commence in the next 100 days. New power projects are being taken up to generate over 2,200 mw in the next 2-3 years. “Unfortunately all infrastructure projects take time. The projects, which are underway will be completed on schedule. We are taking all measures to solve the infrastructure bottlenecks,” he said.

Recently, FICCI made an offer to work with the state government and help brand Karnataka globally. FICCI has also proposed to hold a joint a Business Partnership Summit around March-April next year to showcase the state’s competence under a programme called ‘Dynamic Karnataka’. The proposal is to revitalise opportunities in Karnataka and make them attractive for domestic and international investors.

The government is doing its bit. In an attempt to decongest the city, it is planning to construct a residential colony in Electronic City. “This 1,000-acre project has been awarded to Mahindra & Mahindra,” said Shankaralinge Gowda, Secretary, IT, BT, Science and Technology, government of Karnataka.

“We are also asking corporates to build their technology parks in Bangalore North, so that sout-bound traffic comes down,” he said. The government has also responded positively to Mr Premji’s suggestion to set up educational facilities near Electronic City.

The MNCs are pitching in, but they can’t do anything about the roads. Phillips Software Center is building a campus in the city. Dr Bob Hoekstra, CEO, says, “I am afraid now that if government doesn’t maintain the roads, people will take a long time to reach office. There is no clue what government is doing on infrastructure projects like the international airport or elevated railways. One can judge the performance by its results. Here we have no projects and no results.”

Mr Hoekstra believes that places like Delhi and Noida will come up because of good infrastructure. “I am sure that investors will take infrastructure concerns into consideration before finalising their investment plans,” he said.

This vote of confidence is sorely needed, especially as other heavyweights like NR Narayana Murthy, chief mentor and chairman of Infosys, have not minced their words in the past.

Mike Weston, MD of the UK-based Logica CMG, had spoken on the same lines: “Bangalore’s infrastructure is deteriorating. The government should take up projects to improve roads, sanitation and power.”

Financial Express

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