Saturday, June 26, 2004

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.


Post a Comment

<< Home