Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Wanted: Pedestrian subways

There are only a handful of pedestrian subways in Bangalore, probably even lesser. The ones under Platform Road connecting the City Railway Station to Kempegowda Bus Station and another connecting the Bus Station to Sangam Theatre under Dhanvantri Road are the only ones I can remember straightaway. And my guess is people would rather hazard life and limb and amble across rather than use the subway. There is a pedestrian overbridge across Kempegowda Road near Santosh Theatre which is also in disuse. I am reminded of Singapore which has several pedestrian subways and overbridges the latter covered with creepers and merging beautifully into the city's extensive green cover. Given how population in Bangalore, both that of humans and vehicles has risen in the last few years the city is in dire need of pedestrian subways and overbridges in the interests of pedestrian safety as well as smoother traffic flow. More importantly its usage must be ensured by blocking pedestrian access across roads using railings or whatever it takes.

Answer to Bangalore Quiz 1

Only one response. Nice start.

The editorial offices of the Deccan Herald (75, M.G.Road) are located at the place where Buccala's Inn once stood.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

A city for the haves and the have-nots

This article in The Hindu talks about a study which finds that the IT boom has fueled the division of the city's denizens into the haves and the have-nots.

Traffic bottlenecks on the rise

As traffic gets heavier and jams last longer, commute time is growing for Bangaloreans
VINITA A SHETTY Times News Network

IF more Bangaloreans are starting earlier these days, it’s certainly not to pack more into their day. They’re trying to beat unpredictable traffic jams and bottlenecks and reach work on time by setting out almost an hour or two early. On any given day, peak hour traffic volumes in central Bangalore reach 10,000 pcu (passenger car units), in i n t e r m e d i at e Bangalore they are between 3,000-7,000 pcu and in peripheral Bangalore they can go up to 3,000-5,000 pcu. So, getting from point A to B during peak h o u r s requires a good head start for the ave r a g e Bangalorean.
D evd a s Nayak Jeppu, a factory manager who lives in Basavanagudi and works in M a d iva l a says, “To reach work at 9 am, I have to set out before 8 am. The route I take crosses two flyover construction junctions, one near National College ,Basavangudi, and the other near Dairy Circle. The same route would take me just half an hour about five years ago, now it takes me an hour and a half,” he rues. Manasa Sastri, a techie lives in Hebbal and works near Raj Bhavan. She leaves home by 7.30 am to reach work by 9 am. “The Hebbal Junction-Raj Bhavan Road has 12 major junctions and is always jammed. I have to
make an early start,” she says.
South End Circle junction, a six-arm intersection, handles 12,000-plus vehicles at peak hour. “I have to leave at least two hours early. It does not matter that much if there are delays in the evening as we are usually heading home. Even the Modi Hospital junction, which is a four-arm intersection, can cause half an hour delay every day,” says M Krishna Kumar, a bank officer who lives in the area. Most arterial roads leading to the central business districts from Hosur Road, Marathahalli, Bannerghatta Road, Hebbal, Banaswadi, Sankey Road and Old Madras Road are blocked as early as 7. 30 am, with school buses and factory buses. “The traffic delays go on till about 10 am. It clears after that. In order to reach early, people are now setting out around 8 am and the jams intensify during that time,” says general physician Dr VS Kumar .
Traffic expert and chairman of the Traffic Education and Safety Trust, MN Sreehari says, “Bangalore has a network of 4,300 km of roads and 250 km of arterial roads. Most of the delays are on the arterial roads and at peak hours, jams can drag on for 20 minutes or more. For a city with over 18 lakh vehicles, there is not just a need for police manpower to ensure an even flow of traffic, but also for the existing manpower to be deployed, utilised effectively and efficiently for a smooth traffic run.”

Utopian living for senior citizens

Senior citizens can now live in style. Of course, if you have deep pockets only.

Peripheral Ring Road plan receives setback

Ring Road pushed to periphery?
By S. Kushala/Times News Network

Bangalore: Is the biggest road infrastructure project, proposed to be taken up in the city, jinxed? The future of Bangalore Development Authority’s (BDA) dream project — the Peripheral Ring Road (PRR) — looks bleak.
If things had gone ahead as planned, the BDA would have kickstarted the project by February this year and completed within a year. Now, the project, which is ready to take off is gathering dust for various reasons.
The first hitch was the elections which stalled the process. The next hurdle was the delay in government formation. Now, the reshuffle of BDA’s top brass. Conceived at a cost of Rs 550 crore, including land-acquisition cost, the Peripheral Ring Road will be 109 km in length and will be located approximately between 2.8 km and 11.5 km from the existing Outer Ring Road. The entire stretch has agricultural lands and the proposed PRR passes through the Green Belt except for small patches.
The six-lane, two-carriageway, 60-metre-wide PRR will have a buffer zone running parallel to the entire length of the carriageway. It will have 12 major roads, six railway lines, three water supply lines, 48 major and 20 minor drainages.
Though the CDP of 1995 had indicated the alignment, the BDA recently obtained a satellite imagery of the stretch which revealed that more than 90 per cent of the suggested alignment has been built up as the land had not been acquired. Also, with the growth of the city, the alignment suggested by the CDP has lost its significance.
The BDA has fixed the new alignment which indicated acquisition of 2,050 acres of land for the project. While land acquisition cost has been estimated at Rs 8 lakh per acre, the cost of the PRR per km is Rs 2.9 crore.
While fixing the alignment, the BDA has ensured that it passes only through open spaces and not built-up areas. Also, since it is away from the city, extra traffic from the Ring Road gets shifted to the PRR and not to the city. The BDA had also decided about the mode of funding — securitisation of corner sites. The authority was planning to raise a loan, mortgaging corner sites at banks. After a certain period, banks can auction these sites, recover the principle and interest amounts, and share the difference amount with the BDA.
The future of the project is undecided now. “The project involves raising finances from BDA’s resources as it is not dependent on the government funding. The issue of land acquisition is also another herculean task which has to be carried out without legal entangles. With the government planning to shift the BDA’s top brass, such a big project will definitely suffer,’’ official sources said.

• The BDA is ready with the proposed Ananda Rao Circle flyover. To be built at a cost of Rs 27.6 crore, the five-lane ramp will be constructed by Simplex Piles Project Ltd. The ramp starts from Khodays Circle and ends at Vasavi Bhavan.

• Similarly, the BDA is also ready with an underpass project near Ramamurthynagar on the Outer Ring Road. Planned at a cost of Rs 8.5 crore, the project needs to be tendered.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Bangalore, a wired model for America ?!?

The Democrat candidate for the US Presidential elections, John Kerry thinks that Bangalore is fully wired!! How I wish it were, though. Read this excerpt from an article in USA Today.

Kerry touts tech

Kerry, who has been conducting a series of campaign events on science and technology, came to Silicon Valley to tout his plans to create more high-tech jobs and universal high-speed Internet access known as broadband.

He said the United States had fallen to 10th in the world in adapting to broadband, which he described as essential to U.S. economic growth and the generation of new jobs.

"We need to seize on the possibilities of the broadband revolution and make the Internet access available to all of America's families," Kerry said. "If Bangalore in India can be completely wired, then so should all of America."
Bush has set a goal of 2007 for universal availability of high-speed Internet access, but Kerry aides said he had failed to provide details of how he would reach that goal.

High-speed Internet service grew by 42% last year to 28.2 million lines into homes and small businesses, which subscribe to it either from a telephone or cable television company.

But Kerry said South Korea and Japan already are deploying networks that are 20 to 50 times faster than in the United States.

Kerry said installing a universal high-speed network could expand the economy by $500 billion and create at least 1.2 million new jobs.

His proposal would provide tax credits for investments in broadband technology in rural and inner city areas, and for investments in the next generation of high-speed broadband anywhere in the country.

Kerry said he would raise $30 billion to create high-tech jobs and promote innovation by auctioning to private companies the spectrum made available after more households transfer to digital television.

Bangalore Quiz 1

Q: The pubbing phenomenon is not new to Bangalore. As way back as 1910 there was a famous pub in the city called Buccala's Inn. This pub was renowned for its wooden dance floor. Although the pub itself no longer exists the wooden dance floor still remains. What would you find today at the location of this pub?

Answer not before 48 hours from the time (in IST) of this post. Answer can be mailed to or left as a comment to this post.

Illegal hoardings appear on Richmond circle flyover

The Hindu

CityScapes: The Gurudwara

Where work is worshipped too

The Gurudwara in the City is not just a place of worship for the Sikh community, but is also a place of service to the downtrodden in society.

The largest Sikh shrine in Bangalore, the Sri Guru Singh Sabha, is situated on the banks of the picturesque Ulsoor Lake. The sprawling white building on the edges of the lake, is indeed a well known place on the City’s landscape.

There are two groups of Sikhs in Bangalore - the first comprises natives who came to this State about 200 years ago to join the Mysore ruler Tipu Sultan’s army, who also speak Kannada at home and the second comprises Sikhs who migrated to the City recently. It is the second group of migrants which built the Gurudwara at Ulsoor.

Sri Gurusingh Sabha Gurudwara at Ulsoor was built in 1943 by A G Russell and was inaugurated in 1945. “While the Jollys and the Sahani families were the main forces behind the construction of the Gurudwara, all the community members and the Kohli and Chandoks families financed it under the leadership of Ahulwalia,” says Kuldeep Singh Rakhe, the general secretary of the Gurudwara’s Committee.
It was only later in 1975, that the first floor of the Gurudwara was built. The monument is known for its splendid structure - it has added to the beauty of the area and Kensington Road where it is situated, which is also popularly known as Gurudwara Road.

Being the biggest Gurudwara in City, a huge gathering of Sikhs come here on Wednesdays for prayer and the ‘langar’ on Sundays. All the devotees are offered free meals on Sundays, in what is known as the ‘Langar Sewa’. Around 500 people visit the Gurudwara on Sunday mornings, while more than 1,000 people visit in the afternoons and have their meal.

The ‘Langar Sewa’ is a practice based on the Guru’s concept ‘Sangath and Pangath’, which is essentially a concept to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor. ‘Sangath’ is the assembly of Sikhs of all classes. And such an assembly of Sikhs sitting together to share the same meal is known as ‘Pangath’. To facilitate the Langar Sewa, a large modern kitchen has also been built inside the Gurudwara. The Gurudwara Committee called Sri Guru Singh Sabha takes care of the running of the kitchen and the maintenance of the Gurudwara.

The Sikhs contribute one-tenth of their earnings to the Gurudwara, for the upliftment of society and to benefit the poor. This practice is called ‘Daswand’. These contributions may be used to clothe the poor or for the Langar or construction of schools, dispensaries, libraries and Gurudwaras.

The Sri Guru Singh Sabha Gurudwara runs a hospital called Guru Ramdas Charitable Trust Hospital. Here the poor and the ill are treated and the committee funds the poor who cannot afford treatment in bigger hospitals.

There is also a primary school at the premises run by the committee for the poor and slum dwellers in the locality. It houses seven classes from nursery to Class VII. There are around 260 students and 14 teachers says Tripjeet Joneja, the headmaster. The school is equipped with computers and an indoor playground for the children. Books and stationery are provided at subsidised rates, which is compensated by donations from philanthropists. Though these children are from poor families, they have made their presence felt in the interschool competitions. “We provide them quality education to bring out the talent within,” says Headmaster Tripjeet.

The Gurudwara has facilities for lodging and boarding for visitors and Sikh gurus who come from outside Bangalore, during cultural and religious meets. Since its establishment, the Gurudwara Committee has conducted many social activities, this year three blood donation camps were conducted here.

Among the dignitaries who have visited the Gurudwara were late former president Giani Zail Singh.

The Gurudwara today is not just a religious edifice for Sikhs in Bangalore, but is also an example of true social service to the marginalised sections of society.


CityScapes: Russel Market

‘Russell’ up a square deal at this market

Russell Market Square - with its fresh vegetables, fruits and meat stalls, kababs and Irani tea stalls, and the innumerable other shops around it - is quite a ‘happening place’.

As Bangalore turns into an international shopping bonanza - with brightly lit fancy malls, eyeball catching hoardings of international brands, plush food courts, coffee houses with 25 varieties of coffees, multiplexes and an atrium where bands perform - with footfalls over the weekends creating traffic jams on the roads leading to them - I wonder whatever will happen to Russell Market?

One of the oldest markets in Bangalore, Russell Market was built around 1927 and its clientele included English memsahibs who were driven in their horse drawn carriages to source their vegetables and meat for their kitchens. Even today, several restaurants in the City source their vegetables from Russell Market. I met a German restaurateur in Tiruvanamalai who said he drove down every weekend in his station wagon to Bangalore to buy vegetables for the week from Russell Market. He runs ‘Ushas’, a quaint vegetarian restaurant in Tiruvanamalai, that dishes up continental fare for its largely western clientele that comes to the neighbouring Ramana Ashram.

Some of the rarest, exotic vegetables, fruits and flowers can be found in Russell Market. For example, red jalapenos, red cabbage, artichokes, celery, broccoli, water cress, avocados, kiwis, gladioli, tulips, exotic roses etc.

But the touch and feel of Russell Market is not limited to the market alone, which is in itself a tourist attraction with its beautiful architecture, but the whole Russell Market Square which has contributed to giving the area its old world look. Take for instance St Mary's Basilica - the church opposite the Square built in 1818, with its Parisian stained glass windows. But don’t ever attempt going to the Square during St Mary’s festival, when hordes of lilac clothed disciples throng the Basilica.
One of the other icons in the Russell Market Square is Adams, where steel, crockery, cutlery and plasticware are sold. The saying among old Bangaloreans is that if you are looking for something and don’t know where to look, you will find it at Adams. I once found a bathroom weighing scale there and on another visit an ironing table.

Next door to Adams is the oldest antique shop, where some of the quaintest furniture can be found. A marble inlaid circular centre table that was used by an English nobleman, an old gramphone, a teakwood medicine chest, with several tiny drawers.... nobody is ever around in this shop, so you can browse around to your delight and when you decide you want something or want to know its price, all you have to do, is go over to the back and yell out for someone to attend on you.

Another shop that is found off the Square is the only authentic NCC outlet, where you will find all the NCC paraphernalia that your son’s school wants you to get, like badges, berets, belts, ribbons, pins and lapels.

Then what cannot be missed are the rows of cane furniture shops. A tiny gully from Adams leads to these furniture shops beside the main square, opposite which is a makeshift clothes bazaar. The cane chairs may turn out to be a little rickety and you may have to guard against someone plonking themselves on your delicate low seat, for it could collapse along with them.

If all the shopping has made you hungry and you are not overly concerned about hygiene then there are all those food outlets, opposite Russell Market selling kababs and Irani tea. These shops may not be able to compete with the expensive and plush foodcourts of the malls, but some of the best kababs are sold at Russell Market Square.

JANAKI MURALI, Deccan Herald

Bengali fair for Bangaloreans

Bengali fair for Bangaloreans
- By By Sreemoyee Piu Kundu , The Asian Age

Bangalore, June 27: For the two-lakh plus Bengali residents of the Garden City, there’s much to look forward to in the coming weeks. Bangla Utsav a weeklong socio cultural extravaganza which started on Sunday, promises Bangaloreans an enticing experience of Bengali arts, crafts, food, music and dance complete with an exhaustive soiree of cultural programmes by renowned artists from Bengal and Karnataka. “There are numerous Durga pujas held all over the city each year,” says Mr Tapas K. Dutta, chief executive of Upasana Advantage, the organisers of this gala event, who was an active member of the fund raising committee of the Jayamahal Durga Puja Committee.
In its 50th year, the members proposed to raise funds through an annual cultural fiesta that would not just bring the most wanted stars of Bengal within the reach of Bangaloreans but also exhibit the finest handicrafts, textiles and food items synonymous with Shonar Bangla.
“The event will witness the presence of luminaries like writer Sunil Gangopadhyay, director Aparna Sen, danseuse Mamata Shankar and musicians including Lopamudra and the popular rock band Bhoomi,” adds Mr Datta.
The exhibition displays a wide array of goodies ranging from Bengal taaths, Baluchari saris, kantha work kurta sets, jute jewellery, bags and slippers, murals, artefacts and leather products from diverse parts of Bengal to batik and block printed ensembles from the artisans of Shantiniketan. An exclusive crafts pavilion sponsored by the directorate of cottage and small scale industries of the West Bengal government, demonstrates live, the making of

handicrafts by the craftspersons themselves. “Of course no Bengali function is complete without sumptuous food and we have a varied range of stalls, taken up by the Bengali citizens of the city which serve everything from samosas, chaats, Chinese cuisine, Mughlai paranthas, kathi rolls to the most wanted rasogullas and other delectable savouries,” says Mr Dutta.
While the event has attracted much publicity among the Bengali population, its website ( is being visited by a wide range of cosmopolitan non-Bengalis. “Our road show team comprising young Bangla warriors had hit the streets of Bangalore sporting Bangla Utsav T-shirts. They openly interacted and spread the Utsav word among college students, Bengali families and Bangaloreans in general,” concludes Mr Datta.
With a large segment of the city’s IT population hailing from the land of Tagore, the organisers are hopeful that this cultural mela will soon expand both in terms of participation and spirit.

Japanese garden to come up in Lalbagh

Japanese garden to be the new attraction at Lalbagh

Vijay Times News

Bangalore: The Horticulture department has drawn up plans to upgrade and replant the Lalbhag Botanical Garden - a major tourist destination in the garden city. The Rs 50 lakh project, whose fundamental aim is to further diversify the biological wealth of the garden, is expected to get underway sometime next year.
If the project is implemented, the 250 acre garden may attract more number of tourists as the project includes setting up of herbarium where the department plans to grow variety of plants by controlling the climatic condition in accordance with the needs of plants.
The botanical garden is currently home to over 1,800 species apart from the famous glass house and the project may strengthen the bio-diversity by including more plants.
The special feature of the project will be the Dhanwantharivana, where the department will grow medicinal plants and also set up a laboratory to teach people how they can make use of herbs for medicinal purposes. “Nothing will be sold in Dhanwantharivana. It will rather work as a school of herbal medicine,” said Dr. G K Vasanth Kumar, director of the Horticulture department.
The “Japanese Garden” is the most attractive feature as it is expected to mirror the gardens in Japan. Though the Japanese Garden is slated to cover a small part of the Lalbhag, it has been designed to become the centre of attraction as it includes Pagodas and large number of lanterns hung on the trees that would glitter during nights giving an ethereal effect.
''We estimate that the project may cost Rs 4 crore. Department of Forest, Environment and Ecology of the Union Government has assured Rs 50 lakh. And we are looking for financial resources from two other sources,” said Vasanth Kumar.
Meanwhile, the Bangalo-re Development Authority, has almost de-silted the Lalbhag lake and begun the process of laying water pipes along the fence so as to help labourers draw water wherever they want around the Garden.

A pleasant start to the week

Here's something that will is sure to set you starting the week with a smile.

The picture is shot in the Cubbon Park with the Seshadri Iyer Memorial Hall in the background.

Pic courtesy: Rajeev Desai.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

How flyovers add to the chaos

The Hindu

More one-ways in the offing

Queen's Road set to be a one-way
One-ways: No exit from the chaos

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Is it good bye to greenery?

Deccan Herald takes a look

Is Bangalore losing its green look?
With its lush green landscape, Bangalore was once considered a pensioners’ heaven. But the unchecked growth of this fastest growing city in Asia is robbing it of its green cover. Is Bangalore losing its trees at the altar of ‘development’? S NANDA KUMAR takes a sober look at the various arguments and counter-arguments on the issue.

The sight of a stately tree being cut down disturbs many of us. When the thudding of the axe ceases, the remains haunt us, that unfathomable emotional feeling that leaves us feeling so helpless and frustrated, because something that took years to grow is gone in an instant. When a tree is causing danger to human lives, sure, it has to go. But are all trees cut down for this reason? We need to take a sober, unemotional look at the issue.

Anyone who has travelled around in India will admit that the term ‘Garden City’ certainly suits Bangalore. Compared to several other concrete jungles of the country, Bangalore certainly is green. One of the first things that any first-time visitor to Bangalore notices is the large number of trees in the City. On the other hand, whenever one looks at old pictures of the City, the drastic change that has taken place hits hard. “Change,” you mutter to yourself, “is inevitable.” Or words to that effect. Could it be that the term ‘Garden City’ is struggling to remain in place, in the face of rapid expansion?

Land developers have moved into Bangalore, and there are scores of high-rise buildings coming up all over, both concrete and glass towers of commerce as well as residential apartment complexes. And in many areas, few could resist the temptation of selling stately old bungalows with spacious gardens to developers for astronomical prices. Trees are the first casualties when land is taken over for building. Luckily, there are rules in place to check this: you cannot fell a tree without the go-ahead of the Forest Department. Before the Forest Department can issue permission for a tree to be felled, at least two saplings have to be planted first.

In Bangalore City, the Deputy Conservator of Forests (DCF), Urban Division, Mr Parameshwar is the Tree Officer. He is the chief custodian of the trees, in a manner of speaking, because the power of giving permission to fell a tree rests with him. He says he receives about 300 to 400 applications a month requesting permission to fell trees. “The number of trees maybe more or less, sometimes a certain applicant could ask permission to cut more than one tree, sometimes it could just be a large branch of a tree that is posing a risk to residents.”

A Range Forest Officer (RFO) is deputed to inspect each tree that the applicant has indicated, and then, after ensuring that at least two saplings are planted for the tree to be felled, permission is granted. So, in theory, the trees are safe. But the reality is that however well-meaning the rules might be, the Forest Department definitely does not have the manpower to monitor all the trees in the City.

Leo F Saldanha, Coordinator of the Environment Support Group (ESG) believes that there is an urgent need to update the rules of the Forest Department if Bangalore’s tree cover is to be protected. “A Forest Officer cannot save every tree when land is sold. And the legal system that governs the protection of trees gives a great deal of arbitrariness to the Tree Officer.

There is absolutely no public consultation that is worth talking about. The Forest Department does not have the wherewithal to go and inspect every tree that is to be cut. So, in many cases, the default option is to give a go-ahead to cut a tree. This is a system that needs to be changed. It is a big challenge to protect trees when land is poached for development and trees are cut.”

Bangalore Development Authority (BDA), the main agency responsible for identifying and acquiring land that would be converted into sites, maintains that every care is taken to see that new layouts have adequate green cover. Jaykar Jerome, Commissioner, BDA, says, “In our layouts, apart from the avenue trees that we plant, we also maintain 15 per cent of the land for parks.

We have also done away with the old practice of having small parks all over. Instead, like in the Banashankari VI stage, we have earmarked the Forest Land plus 440 acres as a park. In Anjanapura layout, we have sixty acres of green cover. Nearly 4,000 saplings have been planted around lakes that we have rejuvenated, like Agara and Benniganahalli. Similarly, trees have been planted along the Outer and Inner Ring roads.”

When his attention was drawn to the concern expressed by environmentalists on the rapid growth of Bangalore and the loss of green cover, Mr Jerome cut in to say: “The City has grown, roads have to be widened, there is no alternative, trees have to be cut...It is the last option. If a flyover is required, when there is no option, we have to cut some trees. But you have to plant at least two for every one you cut, and we have been doing that scrupulously.

What we definitely need to do is to not only maintain but improve the tree cover we have got. And that is best left to experts.” Mr Jerome takes great pains to make the point that the BDA has, for the first time, a full time forest officer of the rank of DCF on deputation.

Bangalore previously had a green belt zone clearly marked, something that came out of the efforts of the State Government in the eighties, called the Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP). Today the City’s limits have gone far beyond the Green Belt, thanks to the accelerated growth of the City in terms of population and residential requirements. One of the first adverse impacts on Bangalore’s green cover came in when the wetlands were taken over for ‘development.’

Along with the wetlands went the water courses. “Even though the tree cover increased in the eighties and nineties, in effect, we have not gained anything,” says Leo Saldanha.

While it is very clear that urgent steps must be taken to protect the little green cover that exists around Bangalore from being ‘developed’ into residential areas, another concern is the maintenance of the existing trees within city limits. The South West monsoon is setting in, and now is the time when BESCOM, Bangalore’s Electricity Supply agency, begins its task of trimming trees that may cause damage to electrical lines during stormy weather.

BESCOM says it has acquired two ‘ladder vans’ at a cost of about Rs 7.5 lakh each exclusively for tree trimming and overhead line repair work. But the sight of the company’s linemen pulling down potentially dangerous branches with nothing more than a long wooden pole with a sickle tied to it at one end as ‘equipment’ is a familiar one. This is not a trivial matter being blown up.

The danger lies in the fact that unskilled, excessive trimming such as this could result in the tree’s crown balance being upset, resulting in it toppling over in subsequent winds or squalls. Add to this the risk of fungal infection when the cut part is not treated or covered - the result could be the loss of the tree.

Mr Muniswamy, Director (Technical), BESCOM, has a more lasting solution to offer for Bangalore - underground cabling for distributing power. “We are very seriously considering going in for only underground cabling in new layouts. BDA will have to cooperate with us, because the cost of the sites will go up. The cost to convert existing overhead cabling to underground is about 1:5.

If we can do it in the beginning stage it will be 1:4. This is in terms of money. In terms of oxygen per tree, the cost is priceless, it cannot be calculated. Then people can grow any kind of tree, how many ever they want without the danger of overhead lines and constant need for trimming.” In the long run, this could allow the expanding City to have more green cover. The electric company would also save substantially on expensive repairs to transformers caused by falling branches and subsequent short-circuits.

The City has seen a massive influx of Information Technology (IT) Companies, a phenomenon that really caused the land ‘development’ and real estate boom. Thousands descended upon Bangalore to earn a living, and they had to find spaces to live. Enter the property developers and apartment builders. Exit green cover.

To give them some credit, most top developers are at least making the right noises about ‘enchanting green spaces and lush trees.’ But the ratio of the green cover in the City versus concretised buildings and ‘heat islands’ could go horribly wrong. Companies like Infosys, as part of the Bangalore Agenda Task Force (BATF), have been in the forefront of civic campaigns. It seems only reasonable to hope that they would take the lead in a massive tree planting campaign.

Subramanya Shastry of ESG feels that IT techies and companies need to get more involved. Leo Saldanha has another point to make on the same lines. “The IT-type of campuses that are coming up are projecting a different type of Bangalore. If it was somewhere in large enclaves of their own, that is one thing, but it is coming everywhere, even into the City.”

Nandan Nilekani, CEO of Infosys disagrees. “That is not true. We are planting diverse trees on our campus, and we take every care to look at the eco-system and bio-diversity. ”

Rather than engage in finger-pointing, it only seems sensible to assume that the way forward is for Bangalore’s inhabitants to come together and draw up a massive and comprehensive plan to protect and enhance the City’s green cover. This includes citizens, the State Government, agencies like the Forest Department, BESCOM, BMP, BDA, eco-groups, schools and colleges, and important players in the IT, bio-tech and other private sectors.

The builders and developers are here to stay. Bangalore will continue to rapidly expand. Its fine weather will continue to attract people to come in and make it their home. These are truths that cannot be wished away or reversed. The City’s charm is taking a severe beating, true, but walk out after just one good shower - it is green and beautiful - at least in some areas. Bangalore’s citizens love their plants, and will definitely make their voices heard when trees are felled.

But love and nostalgia are not enough, nor are wistful conversations of the past over cups of hot, steaming filter coffee. We all need to sit up and do something to protect it from being lost forever. It is still not too late.

Don't cry for me, Bangalore

Businessworld July 5, 2004
Urban Affairs
Don't cry for me, Bangalore


BANGALORE Agenda Task Force (BATF), the first successful public-private partnership in India, aimed at tackling urban issues has suffered a tragic death at the hands of political agenda. In just five years, BATF brought some order to Bangalore. It helped the municipality add close to Rs 300 crore to its coffers through property tax reforms, and implemented accounting reforms, making Bangalore the first city in the country to have its own balance sheet. Thanks to BATF, the Bangalore Development Authority had enough funds to undertake infrastructure projects, a whole host of public toilets and bus shelters were built, and even the police force started using the fines it collected for traffic improvements. BATF showed that it was possible for a city to be financially self-reliant, thus allowing the state's development funds to be directed to rural areas.

BATF, the dreamchild of former chief minister S.M Krishna, was born in 1999, along with the education, healthcare, IT and biotech taskforces. With BATF, Krishna wanted to make Bangalore a world-class city by 2005. But his exit seems to have spelt BATF's end too. "We did a decent job, it is now the new government's prerogative to figure out if they need this public-private partnership to continue," says Nandan Nilekani, CEO, Infosys Technologies and chairman, BATF. Nilekani put in Rs 5 crore of his personal wealth to rear BATF, while corporates like Biocon and Aditi Technologies nurtured various projects. Professionals contributed with their expertise and time. And stakeholders like the Bangalore Municipality, the power board, water supply and the transport authority worked with BATF to ensure the city functioned like a well-oiled machine.

In five years flat, BATF has given Bangalore a remarkable facelift. According to a survey conducted last year, 94 per cent Bangaloreans believed that post-BATF Bangalore had become a better place to live in. Yet, the new CM is keeping quiet about BATF's future (probably because of the perception that Krishna lost the elections due to his undue focus on Bangalore, to the detriment of other regions). Does a change in the government, also mean that the initiatives taken up by the earlier government will be abandoned? "We are sure that the stakeholders would try and meet the public commitments they made on the BATF platform," says V. Ravichandar, member, BATF. The spokesperson for the Bangalore Development Authority said it was too early to say whether the commitments made on the BATF platform would be honoured. The Bangalore municipality, however, plans to go ahead. "BATF helped us get started. Now it's up to us to continue whether Bangalore is on the new government's radar or not," says an official.

BATF, in its short and sweet innings, has shown that metropolises need a city manager to oversee their day-to-day operations. "The idea is to get one individual to take accountability of the performance of the city," says Ravichandar. We hope that BATF, headed by a strong business leader, will one day be back at the crease.

Lakes get a new lease of life

The Hindu

Country's first budget hotel comes up in city

After seeing the launch of the country's first and only budget airline Bangalore becomes home to another interesting business venture. The Tatas' new chain of branded budget hotels, IndiOne Hotels kicked off its ambitious plan of setting up 150 hotels in the next 3 years with the launch of its first hotel at the Export Promotion Park in Whitefield. Air-conditioned double rooms with LCD TVs, refrigerator and internet access come at Rs 850 for a night. Sounds like a good deal.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Punishing the performers

It must only be in India that performers are punished and banished to obscurity. Jayakar Jerome, Chairman of the Bangalore Development Authority, who was appointed to the post by former Chief Minister S.M.Krishna is a performer par excellence. From turning around the down-in-the-dumps BDA and equipping it with a surplus of Rs. 1200 crores to alloting over 60000 new residential sites, rejuvenating lakes and gardens, building the Outer Ring Road, several flyovers, taking on the land sharks and clearing encroachments and recovering public property, renovating hospitals and monuments - he's done it all. Now the its the turn of every lobby with vested interests that Jerome took on, and won, that are set to get back at him. The Dharam Singh regime is all set to banish Jerome to an obscure posting. The loss will entirely be Bangalore's.

Quit if unable to take on responsibility

Even as the Chief Minister has unequivocally stated that the BATF will continue to stay on, its spokesperson V Ravichander has, even since the fall of the Krishna government, been repeatedly saying that the BATF will wind-up citing , of all things, a technicality that it was created not through a law but a Government Order of the previous regime. If he doesn't want to stay on and contribute let him quit and let the others get on with the job. Why take the organization down with him?

Town Hall to get a makeover

Now, its the turn of the Sir Puttanachetty Town Hall to get a makeover. It hasn't come a moment too soon considering the decrepit state in which one of the city's few auditoriums is in.

Schools and traffic chaos: The other side

TOI publishes a follow-up to its earlier story on how schools add to traffic chaos. This one is about those sensible citizens who managed a work-around to the problems.

Indiranagar turns hell-hole

TOI publishes an indepth story on how Indiranagar is becoming a nightmare for residents thanks to thoughtless commercialization, a topic on which I have posted a couple of times previously.

Property prices set to go up

If you thought property prices were already beyond the reach of most Bangaloreans, with the state Government proposing to usher in the Capital Value System or CVS for determining property prices, the registration cost and consequently overall cost of owning property in the city are likely to shoot up considerably.

BTP object to Brigade Road parking system

Even as the new parking meter system on Brigade Road kept most parking slots vacant, the Bangalore Traffic Police (BTP) have objected to the Brigade Road Traders Association's move to tow away vehicles exceeding their paid-for time citing laws that permit only them to take such action.

Story from TOI
Pic from TOI

Bescom continues to wield the axe

Every other metro city I have seen, Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi and even Kolkata have subterranean power lines. Why not Bangalore? With the BESCOM showing no signs of being merciful with the city's green life that seems like the only way that the city's trees can be saved from the fate that has befallen tens of thousand others in the city (see photographs of BESCOM butchering trees in an earlier post and visit any residential locality in Bangalore to spot the ghoulish remains of such trees).

Bescom at it again, goes chop, chop, chop

Vijay Times News

Bangalore: Trees in the City seem to have been caught in a war of words between Bescom and the Horticulture Department.
The Horticulture Department has always blamed Bescom for the uprooting of trees in the City. It claimed the trees were chopped in an unscientific manner, causing them to lose their balance and crash.
As many as 300 trees were uprooted during the recent rains and winds in the City.
Undeterred by the allegation, Bescom on Wednesday was at it again in the City. Armed with sophisticated equipment, Bescom men began pruning trees on either side of Magadi Road, near Karnataka Housing Board Colony. "We have been asked to prune the tree branches obstructing power lines," said a person engaged in the task.
Trees, over a height of 25 feet, were pruned using cranes, causing apprehension among local people. Branches of several tall trees
were brought down as nobody protested.
When questioned whether the department had obtained permission to go ahead with the job, those engaged in cutting down the trees said they were not aware of it.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Old weather comes revisiting

Reminiscences by Subir Roy in the Business Standard.

Raising a stink

Every morning amidst the hustle and bustle of rush-hour traffic, several beaten down trucks rattle across the city collecting municipal waste and transporting them to land-fills outside the city, in the process raising a stink and leaving a trail of garbage falling leaving no one in any doubt about the way that leads to their destination. What's more, the workers who are involved in this task do it manually and with no protection making them vulnerable not just to the nauseating smell but also to potential health hazards. A primitive waste disposal system in India's hi-tech city!

Six years ago the Chennai city corporation outsourced its waste disposal function to Onyx, a Singapore based company (For the trivia lovers, Karunanidhi's son M K Stalin was the Mayor of Chennai at that time and he pushed through the deal amidst allegations of kickbacks. But who cares when the system is working so excellently). Onyx has a fleet of state-of-the-art trucks which are totally covered to prevent the stink or the waste from polluting the environment. The workers are clothed in protective overalls, shoes, caps, face masks and hand gloves. Huge plastic garbage bins with wheels are placed at streetcorners across the city for the public to discard their waste into. The waste collection is entirely mechanized with the trucks using their forklifts to lift the bins and transfer the waste from bin to truck which is carted away to a modern waste processing facility outside town. And all this happens between 12 AM and 4 AM. What prevents
Bangalore from having a system like that?

To be fair the ex-BMP Commissioner Ashok Dalwai initiated a move to issue global tenders for outsourcing waste management. But his efforts were stymied by a lobby of private contractors who were hand-in-glove with the corporators. One fine morning they lined up stinking garbage trucks across the city and went on a strike. The BMP quickly backtracked. The move has been in a limbo ever since. What do you need an elected body of corporators for? Except for a very very stray example like the ex-Hanumanthanagar
corporator and now Basavanagudi MLA, K Chandrasekhar, there has never been a case of any corporator doing anything worthwhile. They only obstruct the good work that some Commissioners (an appointed post, usually an IAS officer) like A Ravindra, K Jairaj, Ashok Dalwai attempted. The elected body of corporators should be disbanded and replaced by a body of administrators. It will not only save a lot of money, some development for the city would also follow.

Flyover pics

By demand, here are pictures of the city's flyovers and grade separators. Please note that none of these have been shot by me and have been collected from various sources. The quality of some of them are no great shakes either.

Sirsi Circle Town Hall Flyover
Richmond Circle Flyover
Mehkri Circle Underpass
Beniganahalli KR Puram Flyover
Varthur Road ORR Grade Separator
Central Silk Board Flyover
Whitefield Road ORR Grade Separator
Hebbal Lake Interchange

And the Garden City Skyway as a bonus.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Flyovers galore

Now that flyovers are coming up at every intersection in town here is a list of flyovers built, being built and planned:

Flyovers and Grade Separators have been built by two agencies, the BMP and BDA.


Sirsi Circle Town Hall Flyover - BMP
Richmond Circle Flyover - BMP
Mehkri Circle Underpass - BMP
Beniganahalli KR Puram Flyover - BDA
Whitefield Road ORR Flyover - BDA
Central Silk Board Flyover - BDA
Varthur Road ORR Grade Separator - BDA
Hebbal Lake Interchange - BDA

Under construction:

BTM Layout Inner Ring Road Flyover- BDA
Dairy Circle Grade Separator - BDA
Airport Road IRR Flyover - BDA
National College Circle Flyover - BMP
Rajajinagar Entrance Grade Separator - BMP
Modi Hospital Chord Road Grade Separator - BMP


Anand Rao Circle Flyover - BMP
Chord Road Magadi Road Junction Flyover - BMP
Airport Road Wind Tunnel Road Junction Flyover - BMP

Construction of the flyover on Airport Road has been halted for the past two months because of a petition by residents in teh High Court alleging structural damage to their houses because of the construction.

Lokayukta censures BMP

The Hindu

IRR going to seed

When high speed roads are built they are supposed to be as free from obstructions as possible. But this is India, remember? The Koramangala - Indiranagar Intermediate Ring Road which for some time seemed like the panacea to the nightmare that Airport Road was is now going the way of many other roads in Bangalore. Blame it on mindless urbanization. When the road was completed in 1999, almost its entire 5 kilometer stretch had vast stretches of empty land on both sides and a median ran through from end to end except where the Ejipura Main Road cut through. Now, several commercial establishments have sprung up at both ends of the road, in Ejipura and Dommasandra at the Koramangala end (shops and restaurants) at Challaghatta and Domlur at the Indiranagar end (software companies - Dell, Peoplesoft, IBM, Microsoft etc). Result: A vast swarm of traffic wanting to take U-turns and cut across the road. And the outermost lane being used up for parking by visitors to these establishments. A good one KM stretch of the IRR, half a KM at both ends, is now steeped in chaos. The good news: the in-between stretch of 4 kms is likely to remain as it is. Why? Because that land is owned by the defence authorities. Thank God and the army for small mercies.

New monster on the road

As if all the mess we have on our roads wasn't enough, here is a new one that has come plague us in recent times.

Zipping BPO vehicles turn monsters


Bangalore: There is a new monster of a traffic problem on the road which revs up and down the road round the clock across the city. This monster takes the shape of four-wheeler carriers that ferry call centre and software employees to their offices of the city.
Some of these vehicles not only whiz around at breakneck speed but also blare loud music and honk indiscriminately late night and early morning, waking up the entire neighbourhood. The sick and the elderly have, in particular, complained about this to the authorities.
Motorists, cyclists and pedestrians who return home late after duty hours are the worst affected, who manoeuvre these zipping call centre vehicles with great difficulty.
The police washed their hands of the issue, saying they do not have enough manpower to handle night traffic. “Give us more manpower, we will deploy traffic policemen in the night too,’’ Traffic DCP (East) M.A. Saleem said.
Expressing sympathy for the victims, Saleem recalled that an elderly resident in Banaswadi complained about a particular four-wheeler pickup that would honk incessantly in the early hours of the day to wake up an employee it was to ferry across. After she passed on the vehicle’s registration number, the police tracked down the driver and warned him.
The police will initiate action if people inform them about such ‘rogue’ vehicles, Saleem added. The problem stalking the city roads could be gauged by the fact that the city is home to around 1.5 lakh BPO employees and 3.5 lakh software workers, who work 24x7 round in shifts. But tour operators defend rash driving as they have a tough deadline to meet. Naseer Ahmed of Koramangala, who has contracted a fleet of vehicles to BPOs, explained: “We work on strict time schedules. If the driver delays a bit in picking up employees, then the companies hire a city taxi and dump the bill on us. This is the reason we drive fast — and only to keep time schedules.’’
At least two accidents involving call centre vehicles are reported every week from the Outer Ring Road, Hosur Road, Airport Road or Bannerghatta Road, a police officer said. “Some drivers of these vehicles (with yellow board) don’t have a valid licence to drive passenger vehicles. The (non-transport) licence allows them to drive only light-motor vehicles,’’ RTO (Central) Syed Shafi Ahmed said.
Further, he said, a driver with transport licence has to renew it every three years by undergoing a test, whereas those with nontransport licence renew it once in 20 years. “Going by the book, passenger vehicles driven by non-transport licence holders are not entitled to insurance cover. Hence, BPOs should insist that only transport licence holders drive such vehicles.’’

Two wide roads to Mysore

With the Bangalore Mysore Infrastructure Corridor having faced a long delay, the Government had begun widening the existing highway. the result work is now in progress on two expressways to Mysore!

Glide to Mysore in two hours from 2005


Bangalore: Even as the Bangalore-Mysore Infrastructure Corridor (BMIC) has taken off, work is progressing at record speed on the Rs 330-crore widening of the state highway between the two cities.
Pegged as the “comman man’s road” versus the “rich man’s road” (BMIC), the four-laned 141-km state highway is expected to be completed by March 2005 — a mere 15 months from the inaugural date of December 15, 2003.
“We are building this road at a faster pace than the Mumbai-Pune expressway. It has better features and will withstand wear and tear for 20 years,” Karnataka Road Development Corporation Limited managing director, M.R. Kamble, told The Times of India.
Funds were pumped into the 94-km Mumbai-Pune expressway to speed up the work which took 28 months — nearly twice the time for the Bangalore-Mysore highway widening. In a specific effort to speed up the Mumbai-Pune expressway, of the total Rs 1,630 crore, Rs 300 crore was spent only on machinery, while the total cost for the Bangalore-Mysore highway is Rs 330 crore.
The secret behind the rather unusual speed of the highway is that work started simultaneously on three stretches — Bangalore-Ram a n a g a r a m , Ramanagaram-Maddur and M a d d u r-Mysore. “In our stretch, we are working from both sides — 5 km from Mysore and 10 km from Maddur side. Ours is a four-lane project against the six-lanes in the Mumbai-Pune expressway,” Ankineedu Maganti, director of Soma Enterprises, which is working on the project, said.
The four-lane road has been designed for speeds of 100 kmph, which should reduce travel time to Mysore to 90 minutes.
But, given the number of crossings and four major cities on the route — Bidadi, Ramanagaram, Channapatna and Mandya — the KRDCL has estimated that travel time will be 120 minutes (2 hours).
Revamping the road: The road is being made safe, with most of the notorious curves being straightened out. Modified bitumen is being used to surface the road to prevent the kind of tyre-burst accidents that have become common on the Mumbai-Pune concrete expressway.
Kamble said one side of the 100-km stretch from Bangalore to Maddur will be completed by September and all traffic on the road will be diverted to this, so that the other side can be taken up.
“We have received a lot of cooperation on every side. Though we acquired about 90 acres of land for the project, farmers have voluntarily agreed to give it up and accept compensation,” he added.

Amusement park boom?

India's first amusement park was Appu Ghar in New Delhi. The largest remains the Essel World-Water Kingdom combo in Mumbai. When last heard erstwhile CM of Andhra Pradesh, Chandrababu Naidu was trying to woo Disney to set up an amusement park in Hyderabad. Bangalore's first amusement park was the laughable Fun World at the Palace Grounds (an encroachment at that). It was soon followed by two others of the small town variety, Neeladri in Electronics City and Crazy Waters on Bannerghatta Road. Recently Sammy's Dreamland came up in Yelahanka and if some visitors are to be believed its the closest India has got to the western biggies. And there is more coming. Read this report from the TOI.

Get a high with this roller coaster ride


Bangalore: Get set for some thrillers like you’ve never seen before in Bangalore.
A roller-coaster that takes you as high as an eight-storeyed building and then does two death-defying loops. A ferris wheel that takes you higher than any other in this country, and guaranteed to bring your heart to your throat. A ride that rotates you 360-degrees vertically and has you suspended high above the ground with your feet up. Amazing new-generation rides, water rides, theme parks and more are coming to the city, providing for great family and corporate outing environments.
The Kerala-based V-Guard group, which runs the popular Veegaland amusement park near Kochi, is setting up a massive new amusement park on 80 acres of land on Mysore Road. To be called Wonder La and expected to be commissioned in April next year, the park will feature the roller-coaster as its USP, but will also have a variety of other rides, some of them imported from countries like Italy. Around half the rides will be water-based, with heated pools when the weather’s cold.
The recently launched Sammy’s Dreamland, promoted by US-based NRI Sammy Nanwani and situated near Yelahanka, is an amusementcum-theme park designed by the Canadian amusement park design firm Forrec. It has some 30 rides, a variety of themes — European, Islamic, Italian and technology — and replicas of the Statue of Liberty, the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Eiffel Tower in authentic detail. The park occupies some 85 acres, and there are plans now to add to it a multiplex, a bowling alley, a go-karting track and adventure sports.
V-Guard group promoter Kochouseph Chittilappilly says his company is spending Rs 65 crore on the Wonder La project, almost double the amount spent on Veegaland. He says he gets big crowds from Karnataka at his Kochi park, which is what partly inspired him to start a state-of-the-art facility near Bangalore.
The city already has amusement/water parks like Neeladri, Fun World and Crazy Waters. But the newer facilities are likely to offer far more in terms of quality of rides and ambience, a near worldclass experience. Globally, amusement and theme parks are big entertainment destinations, and there are such well-known names as Disney, Universal Studios, Warner Bros and Six Flags operating parks around the world.
According to P.I. Pal, business head of Sammy’s Dreamland, the park’s daily events like magic shows, cartoon parades, musical fountain shows, fire-eaters and firecrackers have also been big draws.
The major target segment is clearly children and youngsters. But a big effort is also to get corporates and institutions to organise in-house get-togethers at these venues. Pal says his park has organised large events, with as many as 2,000 and more people, for companies like HLL, IBM and HSBC.

IIMB cribs about state of Bannerghatta Road

The Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore has lodged a formal complaint with the Chief Secretary, K K Misra about the pathetic (Is there a stronger synonym for pathetic? Everything about Bangalore is so pathetic these days that I am on the lookout for a word to describe things that are excessively pathetic) state of Bannerghatta Road, home to the institute and several leading companies like Oracle, Honeywell, Accenture and HSBC. Read this report in the Deccan Herald.

BATF will stay on: CM

Putting at rest all speculation, CM Dharam Singh has praised the work of the Bangalore Agenda Task Force and asserted that it will stay on continue to work for the development of the city.

Parking meter takes off

CM Dharam Singh inaugurates new system on Brigade Road. M.G.Road next in line.

M G Road next in line to follow meter system

These machines can be used for car parking only and not for two-wheelers on M G Road and Commercial Street.


Automatic car parking meters would be installed on the busy M G Road and Commercial Street on the lines of Brigade Road in the City, Chief Minister N Dharam Singh said on Monday.

Speaking at the inauguration of automatic car parking meters on Brigade Road here, the chief minister said permission will be given to shop owners who have come forward with similar proposal to install the machines on these roads.

However, these machines can only be used for car parking and not two-wheelers.

“For M G Road and Commercial Street, these machines will be installed only at places, which are presently being used for car parking,” sources said.

Another Pay and Park scam unearthed

The more you hope that things will change for the better the more your hopes are dashed. Activists of the BJP have unearthed another scam in the Pay and Park scheme in Malleshwaram. This time the scamsters have been collecting parking fare in areas not covered under the scheme and pocketing all the collections. What's worrying is that the fake coupons look as good as the original, unlike last time. Deccan Herald follows the story.

Monday, June 21, 2004

The Metro Bus project

Two reports on the BMTC's Metro Bus project. So, many initiatives, but very few that actually transform anything on the ground.

The Hindu Report 1
The Hindu Report 2

The World's most expensive cities

Bangalore figures in a list of 144 most expensive cities in the world compiled by Mercer Human Resource Consulting. While Bangalore ranks at 137, Chennai ranks higher at 132. That comes as a surprise. One would like to know how much weightage was given to cost of housing. That alone would make a huge difference in Bangalore's rankings.

Are road medians a good idea?

Not if the experience of drivers in recent times are anything to go by. The Hindu reports.

Restrictive access to congested areas

I had earlier raised a question if it was time for Bangalore to restrict vehicular access to congested areas in the city by either imposing a toll or through other measures. The Hindu seems to be thinking likewise.

Remember those Hoysalas?

Yes, the first mobile patrol police squad in the country. They are hardly to be seen these days on the roads. The Hindu traces their rise and fall.

Animal Planet presents Bannerghatta National Park

Animal Planet, the television channel, is exploring a tie-up with the Bannerghatta National Park as a sponsor. While this will give the channel exclusive access to shoot features at the park it will also mean much needed funds for the upkeep of the shabbily maintained animal sanctuary. A welcome development indeed if its ensured that the terms of the agreement are not too one-sided.

The one-and-a-half phenomenon

One of my first posts on this blog was about the one-and-a-half fare seeking autorickshaw driver. The Hindu publishes reactions to this recent phenomenon from a cross-section of commuters.

Some improvements but a long way to go

The existing Bangalore Airport in the HAL Complex is often referred to as "Third-rate" by visitors from the first world. Bangalore is the busiest airport on the domestic circuit after Bombay and Delhi and in recent times the International traffic has also risen exponentially. However, a recent visit revealed several improvements which although inadequate are very welcome. The departure terminal has received quite a facelift with the entrance characterized by streamlined lanes for halting traffic, parking and pedestrians. The signs are for once informative and the guards at the gate polite. Even the interiors have been done up. Sadly, it is not air-conditioned, and even if the city is Bangalore, the discomfort is perceptible. The arrival terminal is chaos personified, in contrast. Beginning from the woefully inadequate baggage carousels where the signs display one thing and your baggage appears on another carousel, to the mob of taxi drivers who descend upon you the moment you step outside the terminal building the scene resembles one from a village market. The parking is also inadequate and the lanes exiting the departure terminal are perenially mired in confusion. Relatively better airport but still a long way to go before it will pass muster. Given the constraints of space there is little more that can be done but keep your fingers crossed in hope of the Devanahalli International Airport taking off.

Where have all the trees and birds gone?

The Hindu laments the lack of environmental impact assessment studies in the development of the city.

Do schools cause traffic havoc?

TOI attempts a study.

The garden of paradise rises again

Have to deviate from Bangalore this one time. The Brindavan Gardens in Mysore that had slipped into a dilapidated state in recent years gets a makeover at long last!

Quality given a go-by

Even when our infrastructure projects take forever to be completed, the quality of the emerging structure remain as bad as they can get. Given this, the Mayor P.R.Ramesh has ordered several infra projects to be speeded up as his term ends in December and he has nothing to show for it! Little remains to be said on the quality of what will be built. Read this report in the Deccan Herald here.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Thick as an equatorial forest

I wonder how many other cities in the world have a thoroughfare, resembling an equatorial forest, bang in the middle of the city. A lot of Singapore is like that. But to find one in India must be impossible. Bangalore itself is home to one such stretch of road. I refer to the Jayanagar 4th Main Road (known variously as R.V.Road, Nanda Talkies Road etc.) that runs a 2.5 kilometre distance from South End Circle to the Rajalakshmi Nursing Home on the J.P.Nagar Inner Ring Road (46th Cross). Covered totally in dual canopies of mammoth rain trees lining both its sides on the entire stretch, scarcely does a ray of sunlight penetrate this road. If that was the cake here is the icing on it - This entire stretch of road is lined on both sides by parks, the N. Laxman Rau Park (named after the former BMP Commissioner and one of the few right-minded city administrators that we have had), that is a 5 kilometer stretch of parks! This includes the once famous Rose Gardens in Jayanagar 7th Block (which disappeared when the Cauvery IV Stage I phase water pipes were laid).

Why am I posting this now? Because things are not going to remain the same if the proposed Elevated Mass Rapid Transit System takes off. One side of this stretch will make way for its tracks and stations and other associated amenities.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Commercialization of residential localities

Those who have been residents of Bangalore from the days prior to the IT boom would surely agonize over the way lovely residential areas like Indiranagar, Koramangala and Jayanagar, with broad canopy-caressed avenues with little traffic on them - every bit the pensioner's paradise, have gone to seed in the last few years thanks to unchecked commercialization and total lack of town planning or upholding of building bye-laws. I have also posted several times with specific instances of such degeneration. TOI holds an inquest into the issue and the BMP is pronounced guilty by no less than former Justice Michael F Saldanha whose yeoman service to the city's cause by way of his judicial activism will forever be cherished.

Commercial break: buck game still on

As the distinction between residential complexes and commercial hubs blurs in areas like Koramangala and Indiranagar, accusatory fingers are pointed at the BCC. But the blame of contention shifts, as Smitha Rao grills BCC engineer-in-chief Rame Gowda.

Why have residential areas like Indiranagar, Koramangala, BTM Layout turned into commercial havens despite BCC diktats that offices should not be set up in such areas?
In some cases, the BDA has given change of land. There is provision to give commercial uses in residential areas for some special purposes, like setting up bakeries and grocery shops. But I fully agree that some unauthorised conversions are there. This sanction happened sometime ago and should have been prevented in the initial stages itself. Bangalore Development Authority (BDA), the planning authority, should initiate action against zoning regulation. These buildings were constructed for residential purposes but unfortunately used for commercial ends.

It is alleged that office complexes come up in residential areas by greasing the palms of officials. Do you agree?
In the first instance, who has paid these officials? The one paying them is the first defaulter. Cases like these have not come to my notice but if there really are such instances, we will definitely take action.

The BDA maintains that it has not per mitted change of land use, but why has the BCC gone ahead and issued trade licences?
We have issued licences for the purpose they are reserved for. After that, if there is any unauthorised action and deviation, we can demolish such buildings. The BDA has to again initiate action because it is a violation of allotment conditions. Since they have changed allotment action, the buildings remain residential but are used for a different purpose. We can’t demolish them because there is no deviation from sanction plan.

Without demanding land conversion deed papers, how can BCC start collecting tax and issue trade licence?
Tax is by the revenue department and trade licence does not come under the purview of engineering department. According to complete plan, the BDA has to verify. Suppose they issue a licence for a hotel, it has to be in a commercial area alone. Avenue Road is the biggest example of unauthorised complexes.

So this has become a buck-passing exercise, BCC to BDA, and commercial complexes will still thrive under your nose...?
See, if there is deviation in plan, a petition requests for 5 feet but builds on 10 feet, then there is a plan deviation and we can demolish it. But like I’ve already said, if a building is according to plan, we can’t do anything about it. We have no powers to vacate them. What can we do?

Name: Rame Gowda
Date of Birth: June 1, 1947
Qualification: BE (Civil) from SIT, Tumkur, Mysore University, MIE
Address: Engineer-in-chief, Bangalore City Corporation, Narasimharaja Square, Bangalore

The sixth rank in his BE was a rare distinction for Gudemaranahalli-born Rame Gowda. Joining BCC in 1972 as assistant engineer was not just a stint, it was a tenure, and having made a transition to chief engineer seven years ago, he has been in the BCC for 31 years. The flyovers at Sirsi Circle and Richmond Circle are his claims to engineering fame as are projects like beautification of Ulsoor, Yediyur and Sankey lakes.


Justice Michael Saldanha, former judge, High Court of Karnataka

If the history of Bangalore’s recent devastation is to be assessed it would be difficult to rule out as to whether the BCC or BDA is more liable — they function in total collusion with one singular objective, the destruction of this once fine city. A private survey done in January 2004 recorded 58,117 illegal structures, all of recent origin and another 328 of the same category under construction. If the city is choking to death due to congestion and the planning laws have been breached 100 per cent, it is traceable to the uncontrolled corruption in those two organisations which function in tandem.
In this background, the defence pleaded is not only weak and untenable, it is absolutely sham. No wonder the same survey indicated zero per cent compliance with building laws and the engineering department of the BCC is in an indefensible position and the head of the department has to accept total responsibility. It is sad because the citizens of this city who represent the right thinking majority deserve a better deal. On the facts as presented, there can be only one verdict — guilty all the way.

Friday, June 18, 2004

Yet another addition to the list

As I was driving home from the airport today, I noticed that a 5-6 acre expanse of land between Manipal Hospital and the RMZ Titanium building (next to the Intel building), which was home to a dense copse of trees had been cleared. Soon another gargantuan concrete structure will emerge here and add to the traffic congestion on the already-at-breaking-point Airport Road. The story just keeps repeating over and over again.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Church Street in a shambles

Anyone who has walked through Church Street in recent times will testify to its pathetic state as this TOI article reports.

Bus Bays in City Railway Stations

BMTC plans to put up dedicated bus bays in the city's railway stations at Majestic, Cantonment and Yeshwantpur. Why, a bus bay in the city railway station with such a huge bus stand right in front and pray, where is the space?

First metered parking system in India

Reproduced from the Deccan Herald, I for one am skeptical about its success.

Start the parking meter and return in 30 mins

The first metered parking system in India has just been introduced on Brigade Road. Its success however depends on acceptability.

Brigade Road is a shopper’s paradise, but finding parking space can be a nightmare, thanks to people who park their vehicles for long durations while they shop, watch a movie or simply hang around.

Owners of shops, hotels and business establishments on this street, felt they were losing out on genuine customers who couldn’t find space for their vehicles. Members of the Brigade Road Shops and Establishments Owners’ Association had requested the Bangalore Mahanagara Palike three years ago to solve the problem and systematise parking on Brigade Road. However, nothing came of it. So, the members put their heads together to find a solution, noted association Secretary Suhail Yusuf.

They discussed the problem, chalked out a blue print of their plan to solve it, submitted it to the BMP, which gave its consent. Result? The first ever metered parking system in India.

Eight machines, each costing Rs six lakh, were purchased from Smart Parking Company of France and placed on one side of the pavement on Brigade Road. You can park your car only for half-an-hour for a fee of Rs five. Once you park, get to the machine nearest to your car, insert a five rupee coin at the slot provided and type your car registration number. The machine prints out a small slip with details including the time when you will be required to remove your car.

If you fail to remove your vehicle at the time mentioned, the meter sets off an alarm with the car number. If you fail to heed it, the ‘tiger’ will tow it away. If you wish to spend more time in the area, you will have to park on the opposite side of the street by paying an extra Rs 20.

The Association has spent Rs 50 lakh for this new system, the members said. Mr Yusuf said, “Some of us ho have seen such a system during our travels abroad, felt it would be well worth experimenting in our city too. We discussed the idea and are happy to have the support of all shop owners on Brigade Road.”

On the flip side, the new system will mean parking only for four-wheelers, not two-wheelers, and only for those in a hurry. And questions about alternatives to two-wheeler riders and how middle class families will cope with the hike in parking fees are yet to be answered.


BMP slips up on deadlines

Again, several BMP projects have failed to meet their deadlines. And the BMP conveniently passes the buck on to the monsoon. Read this here.

Airport project inches ahead

With the Central Government clearing a revised draft agreement with an explicit commitment on shutting down the existing HAL airport one hurdle is out of the way. Still, a few more feet of red tape is yet to be cut. From the Possession certificate of the land to a license from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation there is quite a distance to cover. Latest reports suggest that construction is expected to commence by September. Haven't we seen many such deadlines in the past? Ho, Ha, Hum! I will wait for the first few bricks to be laid before being assured of its taking off. In the meantime read this detailed report in The Hindu.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

LDA's 100 lakes project

The Lake Development Authority plans to revive a 100 lakes. Read more here.

More on Prestige UB City

This page on the UB Group home page give more information, including an artist's impression of the project.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Another concrete monster rises

If you drive past what once used to be Tiffany's restaurant (now relocated to Devatha Plaza on Residency Road) at UB Circle, you will see a tall tower-like structure under construction on the UB Group's land on Vittal Mallya Road. One of UB Group's liquor distilling units and the UB Group's Corporate HQ used to be on this canopy-shrouded piece of land which has repeatedly won the Bangalore Urban Arts Commission's annual awards for the city's best maintained gardens. Now the UB Group has shifted the distilling unit elsewhere and is developing a software park spread over 15,00,000 square foot along with the city's leading property developer Prestige Constructions. This concrete harbinger of doom will have the capacity to house 15000 workers. The rest is self-evident. I am not tiring my fingers typing about traffic congestion and the other ill-effects of moronic city planning.

Some cheerful stuff for once

TOI again on the new lease of life for the city's parks.

On schools and traffic jams

TOI recounts some of the points made about schools contributing to traffic jams in an earlier post.

Read the story here

An example of ruin

Koramangala is a brilliant example of how poor urban planning can bring a residential locality to ruin. An unchecked mushrooming of commercial establishments and software offices have reduced this once posh locality to a mess of unruly traffic and chaos.

See pic

Reproduced below is a Times of India article on this subject:

Plot thickens: Koramangala turns noisy

Bangalore: Enter one of the lanes of Koramangala and you’ll feel this is the place to be. A dozen more steps and you’ll change your mind.
The area has, over the years, seen a mushrooming of companies, boutiques, software houses and packaging units that are incessantly chewing on this residential locality’s oxygen mask. The residential plots and buildings have been transformed into commercial spaces, complexes and offices, while the civic authorities have thrown up their hands.
While the BDA maintained that it had not permitted the change of land use, the BCC went ahead and issued trade licences.
Caught in the melee are residents who witness large scale commercialisation in their neighbourhood, which was once a peaceful and most sought-after residential locality.
“There is no zoning; you get up one day and see a pile of cars outside your house wondering what happened next door. You go close and realise a company has come up,’’ said Rita Goel, a resident.
Ditto is the case with the Ramachandrans, the Radhakrishnans, the Kashyaps and almost all those living in the vicinity. These residents who had paid a premium price for the ‘80 feet by 120 feet’ site, today sleep with earplugs.
Though BDA issued notices to 200 odd commercial units functioning in the residential areas, there has not been much progress except that hearings are on. “People get a residential plan approved from the BCC. Without demanding the land conversion deed papers, the BCC starts collecting tax and issues a trade licence,’’ said BDA town planning member H.B. Mukunda.
He added the BDA did not permit change of land use on any internal crossroads. A survey conducted by the BDA two years ago had identified 75 cases where violation of laws governing the urban building byelaws, comprehensive development plan and change of land use from residential to commercial, were identified.
Look closer and there is more to their plight. Companies do not have enough parking and vehicles are stationed on the narrow stream making life tough for residents. As life goes on in Koramangala, companies’ grime blows on the faces of its residents. “Why aren’t we asked whether we want commercial units to come up next door? Look at the noise, the pollution. We’re planning to move out and we know that is what some people want; they want to set up shops everywhere,’’ said Dr Leela.
But then, is anyone listening?

Saturday, June 12, 2004

Updates will be slow

You might have noticed that updates have been infrequent over the last few days. I am presently travelling and normal updates should resume by the 20th of this month.

B-School R&D Centre in city

The University of Michigan Business School, home to Indian-born management guru C.K.Prahlad, will set up an R&D Centre in the city. A B-School and an R&D Centre? This one will study managerial issues and emerging practices in leveraging global resources and accessing new markets. The areas of study would include services outsourcing, manufacturing outsourcing, the Indian economy. About 12 professors from the University would relocate to this centre.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Some care would have saved these trees

Deccan Herald

Sunday, June 06, 2004

How green was my (V)alley

Deccan Herald
The Hindu

BESCOM also does its bit on WED

Pic 1
Pic 2

The Bangalore Electric Supply COMpany (BESCOM) must have a weird sense of what World Environment Day is. Yesterday, it reduced several trees in Jayanagar to mere stumps in the name of "scientific" pruning. Must be stone age science.

BMP moves on the green front on WED

On World Environment Day, the BMP has announced several new initiatives on the green front

The BMP will plant 20000 roadside saplings in the city by the end of August. Mahagony, Bauhinia, Pongamia, Jacaranda, Tabubia, Pelto Phoram, Neem, Hibiscus, Silver Oak, Kumkum, Ashoka, Champak, Badam among others are the species that will be planted. Of course, survival rates, often less than 1% make this an exercise in futility.

The 93-acre Jaya Prakash Narayan Park in Mathikere will finally be complete this year. Once a pet project of the late Chief Minister Ramakrishna Hegde, it took several years before the Mathikere Tank bund, the site of the park, was cleared of all encroachments and development commenced. The park will also have a 20-acre water body. To put the size of this enormous new lung space in perspective, Lalbagh is spread over an area of 240 acres. The BDA's 350-acre Anjanapura forest in the upcoming Banashankari VI Stage layout will dwarf both of these.

The BMP will establish a panel of eminent environmentalists including A N Yellappa Reddy and Suresh Heblikar to study patterns of tree planting and suggest measures to prevent frequent tree-falls. The panel will also suggest measures on canopy management.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

World Environment Day in Bangalore's newspapers

Picture in the Deccan Herald
All we want is clean fresh air - Deccan Herald
Bangalore gears up for World Environment Day - New Indian Express
How green will be my city 20 years hence - Times of India

World Environment Day

Today, June 5th, is World Environment Day. The day you can pay lip-service to keeping the environment clean and green. Unless every day is observed as environment day, meaning unless we incorporate environmently friendly practices in every walk of life it will not be long before you have to head to the museum to see what trees looked like, that is if you don't succumb to cancer or asthma induced by pollution by then.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Schools add to the chaos

Still on the subject of traffic, with the reopening of schools after summer vacations the traffic condition seems to have worsened around the Central Business District home to elite schools like Bishop Cottons and Baldwin. Most students who attend these schools get dropped off individually in chauffeur driven cars driving up peak hour traffic volumes by more than 1000 cars. Add to that usual malaises like wayward driving and haphazard parking and the story needs no further telling. Although the traffic police have appealed to the school authorities that they allow the vehicles to enter their premises and drop students off on the vast tracts of open land within, the latter are yet to show any concern about the public inconvenience they are causing.

Managing traffic

As one crawls through Bangalore's traffic at least twice everyday, one can't help wonder how cities with a far greater density of traffic like Singapore or New York are able to manage. But then, even a superficial observation reveals many things that are wrong -

(i) The variety of vehicles

The sheer range of vehicles on an Indian road - from trucks and buses to two-wheelers and three-wheelers not to mention the occasional hand-drawn or animal-drawn cart (although their kind had almost disappeared) - are a nightmare. Their varying speeds and sizes are a surefire recipe for chaos.

(ii) Total disregard for the laws

Even the most educated of us have scant regard for traffic laws, be it speed limits, lane discipline, signals, no-horn zones, no-parking zones or any other rules.

(iii) Absolute lack of enforcement

To compound the problem of non-compliance the traffic police seem even less interested in enforcing the law. They are just silent bystanders to the goings-on. Tales of bribe-seeking traffic policemen are dime-a-dozen in most Indian cities.

(iv) Pathetic roads

India's roads, in particular Bangalore's, are a joke. When they are not layered with sand they are out to give the moon a run for its craters. And if you can tell the pavement from the road from the median you must be in some other country. Add to that fragments of rock an stone lying haphazardly and any motor-cross championship would be a cakewalk for us.

(v) Unauthorized parking

Public roads are everyone's private property. Unauthorized parking is the rule rather than the exception. Compounding it is haphazard parking and whatever little bit of motorable road that remained is also gone.

(vi) Pedestrians and cattle

Not their fault really but with no subways or overbridges for pedestrians they have no choice but to risk life and limb and walk across the road obstructing traffic in the process. Zebra crossings are not unknown in India but any motorist giving way to a pedestrian using it is rarer than snow in the Sahara.

Are we still in doubt about why our roads are so congested and traffic jams are the order of the day?

Once the problems are identified the solutions are all too obvious:

Well-paved roads of uniform dimension throughout their length that are free from objects, well delineated pavements and medians, enforcement of lane discipline, freeing up roads from parked vehicles by providing multi-storeyed parking lots and designated parking spaces, fee on parking to discourage lengthy halts, cess on access to areas which have the highest density of traffic and much more simple things that would ease up traffic congestion to a great extent. Or is that rocket science for us?

Offensive against BMP continues

The TOI kept up its offensive against the Mayor and the BMP with entire pages devoted to the city being ill-equipped to handle rains of any sort and berating the authorities for their negligence. Other papers like the Deccan Herald and The Hindu have also jumped into the fray.

NOne reproduced on the main TOI website Check out for the print edition.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Calling residents of Malleshwaram and Sadashivanagar

I had posted on this before but I am now seeking the assistance of readers who reside in and around Malleshwaram, Sadashivanagar or RMV.

Take a look at this ad. It would be great if one of you could visit the site of this proposed concrete monstrosity and assess its proximity to Sankey Lake and the potential ecological damage. If anyone reading this happens to be a legal expert, advice on what measures could be taken to prevent any damage to the lake, is also sought.


State software exports boom

IT and ITES exports from Karnataka touched a record level of Rs. 18100 crores or US $ 4.1 billion for 2003-2004 growing at 46% over last year, the highest growth since the boom of 2000. 170 new companies commenced operations from Bangalore including Google, Yahoo, Kyocera, AMD, Juniper, Reuters, Applied Materials and Infinera. Hardware exports touched Rs 1700 crores while BPO exports touched Rs 2270 crores. Significantly, about Rs. 700 crores of this came from Mangalore, Mysore and Hubli. Exports from Karnataka comprise a whopping 36% of all IT-ITES exports from India for 2003-2004.

Nokia to make cellphones in city

TOI reports that Nokia has set up a handset manufacturing facility in the city through an unnamed OEM. The report was confirmed by J Parthasarathy, Additional Secretary, IT, Govt. of Karnataka in another report.

TOI goes on the offensive

TOI has gone on the offensive taking on the BMP for its total lack of concern over the state of the city's drains that resulted in deaths and unprecedented misery for the city's denizens on Monday. Half the front page and the whole of the city pages are devoted to assailing the Mayor and the Commissioner for their callous attitude. Good work TOI, keep up the assault and hopefully atleast the negative publicity will shake the powers-that-be out of their stupor.

Check out some of the stories here (for full coverage pick up the print edition or visit

Egg all over BCC's face
Where were you when Bangalore drowned, Mr. Mayor?
The Grouse? Mayor missing

Tuesday, June 01, 2004


For the nth time the so-called "hi-tech" city was turned topsy-turvy due to an onslaught of torrential rain. Roads and houses flooded, lives lost due to drowning (yes!), traffic brought to a standstill - the feeling of deja vu is complete. Scores of localities were submerged under water 5-feet deep, the cargo terminal at the airport was overrun by water. The scenario repeats itself year after year and yet nothing is done. Why is that a nation that can build nuclear bombs and think of sending people to the moon can't build a proper drainage system?

One that missed out

While several lakes are being revived across the city here's one that seems to have missed the attention of the LDA.