Sunday, October 31, 2004

Get airport project off the ground, Mr CM

Get airport project off the ground, Mr CM
H.S. Balram, Editor, Times of India

Guess what Karnataka CM Dharam Singh would like to see first when he opens his eyes in the morning these days? Bangalore’s sudden transformation into a Singapore, with state-of-the-art roads, flyovers, underpasses and subways, smooth and fast-moving traffic, an efficient public transport system aided by an underground rail network, and an international airport working to its full capacity. Sadly, Lady Luck isn’t ready to oblige him on this front, like she did in the case of drought and Veerappan. Both the menaces disappeared without him having to make any effort.

In the case of infrastructure, he will have to sweat it out, be practical in approach, take the private sector into confidence, unleash upright and hands-on bureaucrats, crack the whip against the corrupt and lethargic, work out an effective action plan, fix rigid deadlines, and start implementation. Not just in Bangalore, but the entire state as well. Only then can he put a stop to daily protests by citizens, trade and industry. Even high-profile party leader Rahul Gandhi and predecessor S.M. Krishna minced no words in saying that the government muct act fast.

Agreed that Dharam Singh does not have a magic wand to change the scenario overnight. But he can at least get things moving. Take, for instance, the ambitious Rs 1300 crore international airport project at Devanahalli.

A few weeks ago, we were informed that the Centre had given the final signal by approving the concession agreement, and work would begin by the end of this year. Everyone heaved a sigh of relief. The CM claimed it as another feather in his cap. He even boasted how his good equation with Praful Patel, Civil Aviation Minister, helped in clearing the blocks. Now, we are told that there are a few more hurdles to be cleared. Which means further delay, notwithstanding the assurances being given from time to time.

The Karnataka government has reopened the issue of state support and is trying to push the amount down by Rs 75 crore. The S.M. Krishna government had fixed Rs 350 crore for the project as its share.

The land lease agreement is awaiting formal signatures as acquisition of about 200 acres of land is not yet through.

The Centre has not yet finalised an integrated air traffic management, as four airports — HAL, Yelahanka, Jakkur and the new airport at Devanahalli — are located in one line, and the air space for each has to be worked out to prevent air accidents.

Financial closure with the lenders to cover the project debt amount is yet to be completed.
Both the central and state government are taking their own time in finalising the agreements. The consortium members, comprising Siemens Ventures, Larsen & Toubro and Zurich Airport, are obviously upset. They have lodged a strong protest. Zurich Airport has told the partners that it cannot take the running expenses of the project and will have to pull out if it extends beyond March 2005. The Bangalore International Airport Ltd (BIAL) is worried. It fears that if immediate steps are not taken, the project may fall through.

Hyderabad will be the gainer. Its international airport project is going full steam as all agreements have been signed. If it is completed first, it will finalise bilateral agreements with airlines, making BIAL redundant, officials feel. In June 1998, a similar situation arose when a Tatas-led consortium pulled out of the project citing ‘political and bureaucratic’ delays. The JH-Patel JD government was in power then. Dharam Singh must speed up things. Be it the expansion of the ministry to its required strength of 34, so that immediate attention is paid to all development projects, or the film moratorium row which has provoked a boycott threat by the non-Kannada film industry, or the deteriorating infrastructure. He must persuade coalition partner JD(S) to extend full cooperation. Yes, running a coalition government isn’t easy. But he did have a long honeymoon — five months. It’s time he comes to grips with governance.

Think green and save Bangalore

Think green and save Bangalore
By Suresh Heblikar
Times of India

Bangalore once had a collective identity which helped it in maintaining its homogeneity and image as a clean, green planned city. In fact, it takes a vision to build cities and there were people who were vested with such a vision. Bangalore indeed was built over the centuries by the rulers, the statesmen, administrators, scientists, thinkers and philanthropists.

Unfortunately, the two important traits — collective identity and vision — have disappeared. They are replaced by new paradigms based on adhoc planning and short-term solutions. But even these new paradigms came a bit too late: at a time when a lot of damage had already been done.

The basic flaw was not integrating traditional establishments in the developmental process of the city. Today, at the cost of the traditional environment, the unseemly concrete structures tower over the placid but naively congenial neighbourhood communities. Since metropolitan Bangalore could not incorporate the traditional structures and utilities, upgrading the city’s infrastructure is becoming a herculean task.

Bangalore has outgrown its capabilities to withstand the present pressures exerted by huge population, expanding volume of economic and commercial activities and demand for basic necessities like water, shelter, etc, which has gone up many a fold in the last decade. And much of this can be attributed to an exponential growth triggered to a large extent by the IT and other sectors. While the citizens are put to hardship, the land mafia has struck a gold mine in the form of exorbitant land values, shot up by unbridled development.

To add to present woes, the migrant labour population brought in by contractors to build additional infrastructure is further contributing to the swelling slum population, which is already 30 per cent of the total population of Bangalore. The surrounding lands around the city, which served as a catchment area for more than 200 lakes, has been callously encroached and converted into layouts. This has prevented percolation of rainwater into the underground. We are not certain about the availability of adequate drinking water in future. The topographic landscape of Bangalore, which was immensely comparable to any beautiful city in the world, is gone forever.

The tragedy is that the civic agencies involved in the development processes are compelled to be more concerned with demographic projections rather than with environmental and aesthetic considerations. The issues of inner city decay and environmental degradation arising out of the urban sprawl will have to be seriously considered and dealt with. The civic issues of infrastructure have been brought in to the national forum because of IT’s international status. But the government finds itself incapable of addressing the serious issues of providing the amenities. This is not because of the enormity of the task, but because of the mistakes stated earlier which have dwarfed Bangalore’s ability to rise as a great metropolis.

Drastic steps need of the hour:
There is hope for Bangalore to remain as a great city, provided the authorities take drastic steps. The government will have to disallow and stop any further urbanisation and industrialisation. It is worth identifying smaller cities, which have enough scope for development. And there are many such places in Karnataka which have salient features to be developed into potential centres of growth. This way Karnataka will acquire a new face, new image and provide economic and socio-cultural opportunities to the remote corners of the state. This will also solve problems of unemployment, migration, non-development and lop-sided planning. As the rest of the state starts growing Bangalore can breathe, have its own space and move slowly filling the pot holes.

The writer is a noted filmmaker and environmentalist

We are being Bangalored too

We are being Bangalored too
Deccan Herald

Cars, cell phones, watches, works of art, holidays abroad – the snob’s traditional topics of conversation at Page 3 Parties no longer validate his existence the way they used to. The hottest topic currently in the mine-is-bigger-than-yours genre is potholes. There are people who live in streets that have no potholes who are contemplating a shift in residence so they do not get left out of the conversation.

I heard a whisky-and-soda say recently, “There are 14 potholes on my street” only to slink away moments later when a gin-and-tonic responded with, “That’s nothing. My street has 21.” From Pensioners Paradise to Silicon Valley to Pothole Passion our city has come a long way.

There is some dispute over the number of potholes in Bangalore. Media reports put it at around 60,000 city officials say it is 16,000. If one were to go by the punishment meted out by the Mayor to engineers who ‘ignored’ potholes in their area, then the number is just seven. He may be right – the rest are all craters.
Everybody blames everybody else.

The alacrity with which the various agencies – electricity, telephone, Bangalore Mahanagara Palike, water and sewage – dig up our roads without remembering to put everything back suggests they should be taken to the Sathyamangalam forests to dig up the hidden treasures of the Late Veerappan.

I have been following with great interest the road-laying technique near my residence. First they chop off the trees on either side and leave them dangerously inclined towards the road so that vehicles have to take a diversion.

A few days later (after people from far and near help themselves to the remains) the trees disappear. Then the pavements are dug up in the cause of road widening. The road to good intentions is paved with hell. Next comes the laying of one half of the road during which time vehicles can use only the other half.
Finally the road, long and unbroken, is fully laid. Now comes the fun part. The centre portion is dug up to install a median. Now we have a long broken road divided by a long unbroken median.

Then someone remembers that the median needs regular breaks. It is difficult to say which is more fun – breaking the fully-built road or the fully-built median. Then there is the matter of rounding off the edges of the median. So the roads in the gaps have to be done again.

Soon the rains arrive (catching everyone by surprise because it only rains around this time every year) and there are more craters on this stretch of road than on a similar stretch anywhere else including the moon.

It’s a small step for man but a giant leap for vehicles every time they hit one.
The Engineer-in-chief of the BMP has airily dismissed the potholes everywhere saying “it is just like a cough or a common cold” Nothing to worry about; just take a couple of aspirins and call him in the morning. The Mayor is cuter still. “We cannot cover the entire city in umbrellas” he says, thus instantly raising the level of the debate. Next time you see a portion of our city covered by umbrellas it means our beloved Mayor has been at work.

If you can’t fix it, define it, is the Engineer’s motto. Bangalore has low pothole density (LPD) he says almost apologetically.

This means there are fewer than five potholes per square kilometre. If you want to graduate to high pothole density (HPD) then you need more than ten potholes per square kilometer he says, throwing a challenge to his men. A challenge, I am happy to say, these sturdy chaps take on wholeheartedly.

But the math doesn’t make sense. The BMP looks after a city whose area is 225 square kilometers. We have either 60,000 potholes or 16,000 (depending on whether you believe the media or the officials). That means we have either 266 potholes per square kilometre or 71 potholes. We need to look beyond mere ‘high’ density. Intense. Concentrated. Extreme. Super. Unbelievable.

These look weak too. We need a new word. Pothole poetry has all the tragedy of lost love if not lost axles and wheels. Ours is not a city with too many potholes; ours is a pothole with too little city.

In the United States, John Kerry’s supporters walk around with ‘I Have Been Bangalored’ on their T-shirts in protest against the outsourcing of jobs. In Bangalore ‘I Have Been Potholed’ is the more appropriate.

The writer is a reputed journalist and is former editor of the New Indian Express

CM keeps Singapore Deputy PM waiting for over 2 hours

Politics butts protocol to backfoot
Deccan Herald

A head of State had to wait close to an hour for a function as Karnataka’s political machinery was in full churn for the Legislative Council by-election to wrest two precious seats.

Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Dr Tony Tan who was the guest of honour for the opening ceremony of the new wing ‘Inventor’ at International Tech Park in Bangalore on Saturday, waited and waited for the host and Chief Minister Dharam Singh to arrive. Mr Singh was apparently busy with the by-election at Vidhana Soudha.

The embarrassment doubled considering the immaculate time and business sense that Singaporeans are famed for. Dr Tan had arrived for the opening ceremony good 15-20 minutes earlier than the scheduled time.

Though the organisers went on religiously announcing that the chief minister, Deputy Chief Minister Siddaramiah and Industries Minister P G R Sindhia were on the way to the venue, only Mr Singh turned up along with his official entourage, that too an hour late.

Mr Singh profusely apologised for arriving late. “I’m extremely sorry for coming late. Today, we have council elections at Vidhana Soudha. I’m a voter and I had to be there. In fact, I have taken the permission of my party’s state unit president (B Janardhan Poojary) to rush here. I regret for the delay as it caused Singapore Deputy Prime Minister wait for me,” he said.

But, the apology did not cut much ice with the business leaders and other executives who were present at the function. As one of the senior IT executives remarked, “No wonder, the perception of Indian politicians is not good abroad. Arriving so late for the function is nothing short of being discourteous to your guests.”

Saturday, October 30, 2004

BATF, Interrupted

Dataquest records the contribution and the passing away of the Bangalore Agenda Task Force. Read article here.

The Bangalore Syndrome

Government antipathy towards infrastructure development and a city's inability to keep up with explosive growth - Bangalore Syndrome is the name that Dataquest has given this phenomenon which goes to on add that other Indian cities could soon face the problems that Bangalore is facing today.

Read the article here.

Deadlines are meant for the birds

'Sorry'...flyover not completed yet
New Indian Express

BANGALORE: The sign board says it all. There are mega snags in the mega city project. But authorities seem to have washed their hands off the issue after putting up a ‘Sorry...’ board.

While the Chief Minister recently said that work on the Jayadeva flyover on Bannerghatta Road would be completed by February 2005, the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) is apologetically declaring the end date as December 15, 2004.

The long lines of congested traffic are fast becoming a spectacle all over the city and construction work sites of flyovers have become major bottlenecks. The delay in these works can only make things worse. Motorists on Bannerghatta Road couldn’t agree more.

The flyover is yet to make any considerable progress and BDA has already postponed its completion by six months. Once complete, it is expected to ease traffic on Bannerghatta Road and Hosur Road, which are witnessing huge congestion.

Estimated to cost Rs.17 crore, no BDA official was willing to comment on the escalation in costs due to the delay. The UP State Bridge Building Corporation has taken up the work. The agency recently restarted work after the CM spoke to his UP counterpart.

Inventor opens today

The fifth building at the International Technology Park complex in Whitefield, Inventor, will be inaugurated today by Tony Tan, the Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore. The other 4 buildings - Discoverer, Innovator, Creator and Explorer aggregating to 1.6 million sq ft of high-tech office space enjoy over 95% occupancy and half the space in Inventor has been leased out during construction itself.

Flyover projects over-fly rules

Rules go for toss in flyover project
Times of India

Bangalore: A flyover should be built only on a four-lane road with a distance of at least 16.6 feet from shops, says the Indian Road Congress, the Bible of all road constructions. But take a stroll down the Hennur Main Road dotted with shops and houses on either sides you will come across a recently constructed crammed road over bridge.

With just 2-3-foot breathing gap between the bridge ramp and the buildings, one could easily jump across to a building terrace from the flyover. Clearly, no rules have gone into the making of this RoB.

This is the second flyover after Richmond Circle flyover that cuts through the row of buildings at a close range. Authorities say they were forced to go against norms to avoid the “full of trouble’’ land acquisition. The project was earlier designed in such a way that 76 buildings had to be demolished for space. But later it was modified to avoid land acquisition hassles.

“Once a project gets into land acquisition mess, it’s difficult to progress. The project will be wrapped under litigations and it will get jinxed. So this RoB was planned in such a way that it required no land acquisition but had to be squeezed on a narrow road,’’ says assistant executive engineer of projects, east division, Hanumanthe Gowda.

Road engineering expert M.N. Sreehari says flyovers must be constructed on wide roads keeping a good distance between all establishments. “In developed countries, flyovers are not built within the city. And of course, they never come up anywhere near buildings. The same questions were raised when the Richmond circle flyover was conceptualised. But the authorities choose to ignore all fundas.’’

The RoB was constructed at a cost of Rs 15.5 crore and the project consultants were RITES and contractor ECCI.

Though the trial runs are smooth, the roads below and at both the ends of the bridge are in a deplorable state. Once asphalting is completed, the railways will ban entry of vehicles near the railway level-crossing by constructing walls on both sides. Hence, to facilitate pedestrian movement, a foot over bridge will also be constructed, according to sources.

Residents and traders in the area had lodged several protests against the RoB construction. They said it would choke the already narrow stretch.

There’s hardly any breathing space between the road overbridge and buildings at Lingarajpuram. Built by the BCC and railways, the project was completed recently.

Use HAL airport, pay Rs 500 into a black hole

Use HAL airport, pay Rs 500 for Devanahalli
Times of India

New Delhi: The government wants air travellers to pay for developing greenfield airports. The civil aviation ministry is planning to impose a fee of around Rs 500 on all air passengers using airports to raise funds for developing greenfield airports. The proceeds from this cess — Advance Development Fee (ADF) — will be collected in a separate pool that will be used for funding new airport ventures, ministry sources said.

“We plan to start collecting this fee from all passengers using the existing HAL airport in Bangalore. The proceeds will be used to partly fund the government’s investment in the greenfield airport at Devanahalli, near Bangalore,” the source said. A similar levy will be charged from users of airports in cities where the ministry has started the exercise of developing greenfield projects.

“The ministry has decided to cap the cess at Rs 500. We will be notifying the creation of this fund soon,” a source said. The fund is proposed to be managed by a high-powered committee of government,” the sources added. The fee will be collected from passengers embarking from a particular airport.

The tenure for the levy of ADF, official sources said, could start even before the commissioning of the greenfield project. The government has already initiated the process of constructing greenfield airports in Bangalore, Hyderabad, Mopa (Goa), Navi Mumbai, Chakan (Pune), Kannur (Kerala) and Kanpur.

Rs 500 will be collected from a passenger embarking from a particular airport.
The money collected will be used to partly fund the development of greenfield airports.
Proceeds from the ‘Advance Development Fee’ will be collected in a separate pool.
The tenure for the levy of the fee could start even before the airports are commissioned.

Sindhia promises airport work in three months’ time

A day after former chief minister S.M. Krishna expressed anguish over the delay in Bangalore International Airport implementation, industries and civil aviation minister P.G.R. Sindhia told a UK trade mission that work on the project would commence in the next two-three months.

The trade mission — Black Country Chamber and Business Links — met Sindhia on Friday morning to explore investment options. The minister reportedly told them that all requisite clearances for the Airport project had been obtained. He told them that work would commence in the next 60-80 days.

He said the focus was on improving air connectivity within the state. “We are improving the airport infrastructure at Mangalore and Belgaum, which have tremendous investment potential,’’ he told them. Besides, Sindhia assured the delegation that Bangalore’s infrastructure would improve in the coming days. “Nobody had projected the economic growth of the City at such a fast rate. There were no plans to meet the growing demands of the industry sector. However, we intend to set right the anomalies over a period of time,’’ he added.

NICE shoots of protest letter

Why were notified lands withdrawn?
Times of India

Bangalore: A Dabhol-like situation looms large over the much-talked-about and much-delayed Bangalore-Mysore Infrastructure Corridor (BMIC) project.

Ashok Kheny, chairman of Nandi Infrastructure Corridor Enterprises (NICE), which is implementing the project, has shot off a 10-page letter to chief minister Dharam Singh. “The appointment of any committee other than the EC (Empowered Committee) to review the progress of the project will become a governmental ‘force majeure’, and will be a default of the agreement by the government.”

The bone of contention is the allegation that NICE is utilising parts of the land as real estate. Kheny contends that townships along the expressway is part of the frame work agreement (FWA) and the project company has been utilising the land within this framework.

“Instead, it will be more relevant to set up a review committee to go into details as to why the lands notified for the project were withdrawn,” says Kheny. His maintains that neither the PWD, the administrative department for the project nor the NICE had sanctioned the partial (30 acres/33 guntas) withdrawal of the 1,181-acre land notified for the project.

Kheny’s letter talks of how the state government had made a submission to the Karnataka High Court in 1997 (in response to a PIL) that an extent of 20,193 acres of land would be required for the project.

Of that, the expressway roads would require 6,999 acres. The letter warns of a possible contempt-of-court situation if the government goes back on these commitments. It’s been a decade since the project was mooted and it has gone through a maze of approvals and reviews. Kheny now fears the government’s latest move may lead to more review committees which will jeopardise the financial closure (for phase one) achieved earlier this year.

Gowda manages to scuttle BMIC

Bangalore-Mysore corridor project under the scanner
The Hindu Business Line

Conceived in 1994-95, the Rs 2,200-crore BMICP co-promoted by the Kalyani group achieved financial closure in March this year and began construction on phase 1 in a course beset with legal and other hurdles.

THE Bangalore-Mysore Infrastructure Corridor Project (BMICP) has been put under the scanner.

The Karnataka Cabinet today named a committee to probe allegations of irregularities and deviations in the project.

The committee headed by Mr K.C. Reddy, retired engineer-in-chief and adviser to the public works and energy departments, would be asked to submit the report in a month's time.

The probe team would include officials from the Finance, Urban Development, Public Works and Industry & Commerce departments, the Revenue Minister, Mr M.P. Prakash, told a news briefing.

Conceived in 1994-95, the Rs 2,200-crore BMICP co-promoted by the Kalyani group achieved financial closure in March this year and began construction on phase 1 in a course beset with legal and other hurdles.

It involves a 40-odd km peripheral road, a 111-km toll expressway up to Mysore and five townships along the way.

The decision comes in the wake of allegations principally from the Janata Dal (S) leader, Mr H.D. Deve Gowda, that the project was more a real estate proposition and that there were violations of the framework agreement of April 1997 in respect of quantity of land acquired, road alignment and also in securing bank loan by mortgaging land allotted to it.

Reacting to the development, the Managing Director of the promoter consortium Nandi Infrastructure Corridor Enterprises Ltd, Mr Ashok Kheny, told Business Line that he had sent a 10-page letter to the Chief Minister, Mr Dharam Singh, in support of the project.

Mr Kheny said the project was, for five years, under the purview of Mr Dharam Singh who was the PWD Minister in the previous S.M. Krishna government. The High Court and the Supreme Court, he said, had upheld all clauses of the framework agreement of 1997. No land was mortgaged, no alignment was changed and there was no violation of any sort.

"In a long gestation period like this, we cannot be held hostage whenever the Government changes; we are not afraid of review but the framework agreement cannot be touched now," he said.

The company has, so far, been allotted 1,035 acres of land for phase 1 at the Bangalore end. The company has spent Rs 300-Rs 400 crore towards land acquisition and KIADB charges. The entire project needs over 20,000 acres of land, mostly acquired from farmers and private holders.

Friday, October 29, 2004

BIAL pleads govt. for nod

BIAL asks govt to speed up nod for airport
Deccan Herald

Till now, the State Government may have brushed aside complaints about prolonged delays in the international airport project from the Siemens-led consortium as not being “officially conveyed to either the Ministers or to the bureaucrats.” Not any longer.

Government sources said that officials from the Bangalore International Airport Ltd (BIAL) met with senior bureaucrats on Thursday evening to formally lodge their grievances about the continued delay in the State’s approval for the project.
Construction of the ambitious Rs 1,300 crore greenfield airport project was scheduled to start by November after the Central Government approved the concession agreement in July.

However, the State Support Agreement and the Land Lease Agreement - two key finalisations - are yet to be concluded till today. Both are to be concluded by the State Government, and the partners in the project - Siemens, in particular - have expressed their concern over the delay.

BIAL officials met up with Principal Secretary (Infrastructure Development) Vinay Kumar to air their grievances. Sources said the officials “shared their anxiety about how difficult it will be to implement the project if the project is further delayed.”

Pact in two weeks?
“The matter has been with the Finance Department for two months now. We are willing to take it to the Cabinet the minute Finance Department approves it. But as it involves Rs 350 crore in State support, it needs serious thinking. But we are still on track to finalise financial closure by December,” said Mr Kumar, when contacted.
Finance Department sources said they expected the State Support agreement to be finalised in two weeks.

Traffic police gear up to mark roads

If followed, that is.
That's a pretty big if.

Traffic police gear up to mark roads
New Indian Express

BANGALORE: One can think of a road, without potholes, but it is difficult to imagine a road without any markings or guidelines. These markings help traffic to flow smoothly. If followed, that is.

As the rainy season comes to an end, the traffic police in the city are all prepared to start marking zebra crossings, yellow and white lines on the roads. More than a 100 litres of paint and thinner are used to paint markings in every jurisdiction.

East Zone Traffic DCP M.A. Saleem told this website’s newspaper markings on roads are very important as they guide motorists onto safe driving paths. He said previously, Bangalore City Corporation (BCC) and Land Army Divisions were engaged in doing the painting on the roads, but for the last four years, police have themselves taken up the initiative.

‘‘Markings done by police personnel are more accurate and we do it according to the traffic density,’’ said Saleem. Generally, police constables and a few hired painters do the markings on the roads.

Cubbon Park Traffic Inspector M.L. Alvares said the marking work on the roads starts soon after the rains. ‘‘The central areas will get touch ups every alternate week, while the outskirts will be painted once in three months,’’ he added. The markings once painted will last for a minimum of three months.

Each marking done on the road has specific measurements. Each strip on the pedestrian zebra crossing is one foot wide with a gap of 1.5 feet between each. The central lines on the roads are each three feet long and at intervals of five feet between two lines.

Another traffic inspector said more than 50 litres of paint and thinner are used to mark one junction alone. Mysore Paints is the major paint supplier for the road marking and further added that new pedestrian crossings with reflecting paint on it, is under testing on few junctions. After checking the results, busy junctions in the city would get reflecting markings on the roads, he added.

The police department is ensuring the safety of every rider on the road and now its the motorists’ choice to follow lane discipline while riding their vehicles, officers said.

Consumer questions Bescom over indiscriminate pruning of trees

Consumers vent ire at Bescom meet
Times of India

Bangalore: The Bescom authorities saw anguish blowing in from all directions at an open house meet with consumers on Thursday. “In the previous meeting (January 2003) Bescom had promised consumers would be consulted in case of pruning of trees. That has not happened,’’ said Suresh, a resident of Jayanagar. To that managing director of Bescom, Bharat Lal Meena, replied, “We will have to work that out with the BCC and Forest department.’’

Many others complained of intermittent power supply, voltage fluctuations, snapping of power and discrepancies in billing. However, most queries ended with just one assurance from the Bescom officials: “We’ll look into it.”

Pick any Kannada paper for Re 1!

Newspaper hungama: Pick any Kannada paper for Re 1!
New Indian Express

BANGALORE: K.V. Ramachandra finds himself in quite a pickle. Pick up any Kannada newspaper from his modest idli shop on Chamarajpet main road and it comes to you at Re. 1.

The more he sells, the more losses he suffers. But Ramachandra, the Kannada activist, wins over Ramchandra the businessman. And the language of Kuvempu and of Da.Ra.Bendre gets another gentle breath of life.

It’s a rather novel way of promoting Kannada at a time when banning anything non-Kannada is thought to be the only way to save the language. The 42-year-old activist has been running the small eating joint, popular for its piping hot idlis and dosas, for over two decades now opposite the Bata showroom.

He’s also general secretary of the Chamarajpet Kannada Cultural Centre and involves himself in pro-Kannada campaigns and agitations.

This PUC dropout’s latest campaign is to promote Kannada newspapers even if it burns a huge hole in his pocket. A few Kannada banners greet people passing his shop. And one exhorts Kannadigas to buy Kannada newspapers, read and promote them.

Ramachandra says that every time he bought a Kannada eveninger, a big crowd would flock around him for a glimpse of the news. He believes that most Kannadigas only read newspapers; they don’t buy them.

This is in sharp contrast to the Tamil population, which buys and reads Tamil newspapers and the reader’s poverty is never an issue. It has been a month now since Ramachandra introduced the Re-1 offer, and it has been a runaway hit. No matter how much he pays the newspaper agent, he himself offers every copy at Re.1. There are losses, of course, but the idli business, he says, compensates for them.

‘‘The initial response was encouraging. With the news reaching many people in Chamarajpet by word of mouth, I am selling 200 copies a day. I sell more on Friday and Sunday because of the supplements,’’ he says.

Many residents ask if he can deliver the paper at their doorsteps. ‘‘There are many who want to switch from their existing vendor to save some money. That is meaningless,’’ he says. The copies are sold from 6.30a.m. everyday and people must go to his shop for their copy.

The success has only spurred him to start planning the marketing of Kannada books in the same manner.

He also plans to give away copies of Kannada newspapers free on November 1 to celebrate Kannada Rajyotsava in his inimitable style. To minimise his losses, let’s hope his idli-dosas are a sell-out too.

Flyovers no hit with bus users

Flyovers no hit with bus users
New Indian Express

BANGALORE: Flyovers in the city, existing and proposed, may be useful to motorists but they are hugely unpopular with bus commuters. Reason: BMTC users are forced to walk additional distances to catch buses.

Before the flyovers were built, buses would halt at several stops on the road and this was convenient to many who lived or worked around these stops. With the flyovers in place, buses now skip many old stops and halt at only the two extremes of the flyover. This lapse has been highlighted by the Consumer Comfort Task Force (CCTF) constituted by BMTC in its yet-to-be finalised report.

In its draft, the CCTF has stated: ‘‘Flyovers that are being constructed are not always designed for public transport users resulting in bus users being further discouraged from their use.’’

This is perfectly true of the Sirsi Circle flyover. To catch a bus, a commuter from Chamarajpet has to either walk all the way to Sirsi Circle or Town Hall square.

As a solution, the CCTF has suggested that ‘‘innovations to increase bus usage might require retro-fitting of bus stops onto flyovers with pedestrian ramps for people to access them.’’

There can be supported concrete or metal box-like structures attached to the flyover to be used as bus stops at the top. Foot approaches to this relief structure also need to be provided for people to get there.

Among the several changes that BMTC envisages, it intends to reduce the distance between two stops to no more than 250 metres, which will be impossible without stops on flyovers.

Congress councillor threatens suicide over parking lot contract

Congress councillor threatens suicide over parking lot contract
New Indian Express

BANGALORE: B.T. Sreenivas Murthy of the Congress has alleged massive irregularities in the allotment of building contract for a major parking facility and commercial complex on K.G. Road and demanded a CBI inquiry into the case.

Speaking at the council meeting of the Bangalore City Corporation (BCC) held on Thursday, he threatened to hang himself if his allegations were found to be false.

The BJP had been condemning the move of the BCC to give the 400-car capacity parking facility and the connected commercial complex to Maharaja BuildTech but coming from a ruling party corporator with substantial support from the partymen, is an indication that the mayor is heading for trouble in the last leg of his tenure.

Mayor P.R. Ramesh immediately set up a committee to look into the matter. Deputy Commissioner East, Jayaram, heads the committee.

However, sources say that despite such resistance, Standing Committees on Planning and Tax have already taken a decision to sanction the lucrative project to Maharaja BuildTech.

Krishna: Snubbing IT Will Not Lead Bangalore Anywhere

Now, Krishna fumes over bad roads
Says Snubbing IT Will Not Lead Bangalore Anywhere
Times of India

Bangalore: After IT captains, the industry and highprofile visitors damned Bangalore’s crumbling infrastructure, former chief minister S.M. Krishna — once called the CEO of Bangalore — has joined the chorus over the neglect of city’s roads and the IT sector. Mincing no words, Krishna said: “This state of affairs in Bangalore cannot continue. The roads in rural areas are equally worse. I will speak to CM Dharam Singh soon on this.” Krishna feared that MNCs might fly off to other developing countries if the city’s infrastructure was not improved. “Local companies may opt for Hyderabad or Chennai. But what about the biggies? They may relocate to China. Eventually, the state will not only lose revenue, but employment of thousands,’’ he said at a meet-the-press organised by the Press Club of Bangalore.

The IT-savvy former CM said the government cannot afford to ignore the IT sector. “A balanced approach is very much needed. Both IT and rural sectors require equal importance, but not at the cost of one another. In fact, the government should nurture the IT sector and divert the revenue generated from it to rural areas.” Krishna then trained his guns on the delay over the Devanahalli airport project. Criticising the government over the delay in commencing work, he said, “The Centre has given all the clearances. The state government has no reason to delay it further. I’d a tough time convincing the previous NDA government and project promoters. If it is delayed further, the consequences will be serious.” On outsourcing, Krishna said he felt that the proposed restrictions by the US might never happen. “Outsourcing has become the US Presidential election issue. I am sure neither Kerry nor Bush would impose restrictions on outsourcing. Anyhow, let’s wait and watch.”

Tree falling: Environment panel submits report

Tree falling: Environment panel submits report
New Indian Express

BANGALORE: The special committee set up under the chairmanship of environmentalist A.N. Yellappa Reddy submitted its report on causes and solutions to falling trees in the city.

The committee comprising Dr. Uday Shankar, Suresh Heblikar, Dr. Chandrashekhar and Dr. Bhaskar was set up on June 4.

The committee evaluated the status of the roadside trees and held consultations with BWSSB, BSNL, OAFC and the Horticulture Department and made suggestions to monitor ‘‘suspect’’ trees.

Mayor P.R. Ramesh accepted the report in the presence of BCC commissioner K. Jothiramalingam, Chief Horticulture Officer Narayanaswamy and senior advocate K.N. Subba Reddy.

Communal clash in city

Communal clash in city over place of worship
Times of India

Bangalore: Ten persons were injured and two houses torched in a communal clash that broke out at the sensitive K.G. Halli on Thursday. Police lobbed teargas shells and resorted to lathicharge. Prohibitory orders have been clamped in K.G. Halli and D.J. Halli police station limits till the midnight of October 31. The clash started around 10 am near HKBK College of Engineering near Nagavara over a piece of land and a place of worship adjoining it.

The dispute between Vyalikaval Housing Coop Society and a group headed by a senior politician had started years ago. “On Thursday, a group headed by a society member objected to the place of worship encroaching into the land owned by him. An argument followed and in the melee, the steel railing on the compound wall of the place of worship was damaged,’’ a senior police officer said. The rumour that it has been demolished ended up in the communal clash. The two groups armed with clubs and weapons clashed at Tannery Road, Govindpura, Nagavara junction, Karu Mariamma Temple, Marimuthu junction and parts of Dinnur Road. Police resorted to lathicharge at several places to quell angry groups indulging in stone-throwing. Tear-gas shells were lobbed thrice. Two houses, a wine shop, audio shop, three scooters and two autorickshaws were burnt. No casualties were reported.

An angry mob prevented Congress leader C.K. Jaffer Sharief from entering the area. He had gone there to pacify the groups. His vehicle was damaged. Police have arrested over 50 persons and more than 20 platoons of armed police have been deployed. Senior police officers, including police commissioner S. Mariswamy, visited the spot. Jurisdictional DCP (East) Jayaprakash Naik and other officers are camping in the area. The police used the public address system to contain rumours of fresh violence. We’ll organise peace committee meetings after the situation calms down,’’ police said. Traffic was affected on Nagavara Main road, Lingarajapuram- Kammanahalli Road, Outer Ring Road between Hennur and Hebbal. Now things are under control, they added.

Dasarahalli residents fight over land & water

Dasarahalli residents fight over land & water
New Indian Express

BANGALORE: Dasarahalli residents are stressed out both physically and mentally, thanks to the City Municipal Corporation (CMC) here.

Land and water disputes have completely shaken them. While some have migrated, there are scores who have decided to stay put and fight on.

While officials are busy interpreting who is going to be the next CMC president, many residents are also busy pulling each other’s hair, accusing one another of having occupied land illegally.

Hanumantharaju, a resident of Kannada Kasturi Road and a police constable, points at a shop next to his house and says: ‘‘I bought this 35X40 site years back. As per instructions from officials, I constructed my house a good 5 to 8 inches away from the actual area. But now, a shop has come up just beside my residence, which is meant for a road. When vehicles had no other way, they started to use the space in front of the shop to commute. To avoid this, the shop owners dumped huge stones and also dug up the place.’’ The CMC however, has preferred to leave the matter to the courts.

Another major issue here is water. Susheela, a housewife, residing here says: ‘‘Tankers bring borewell water everyday. But, they charge us Re 1 for a bucket of water. I spend Rs. 20 each day for water alone.’’

Rukminamma, a resident of Old Masoodi Road, says: ‘‘Dasarahalli is very unique because it has only one tarred road. Another specialty is we have to walk one km to dump garbage, which is never collected.’’

Assistant executive engineer Ranganath admits that land disputes do happen. He says: ‘‘we try our best to solve these issues but there are thousands of cases. We can not find solution to all.’’

About water he says: ‘‘Water problem can be resolved. But for this, residents need to co-operate. If they pay their taxes on time, the BWSSB will supply Cauvery water regularly.’’

Talking about the initiatives taken by the CMC to develop the area, he says: ‘‘Nirmala Nagara scheme will be implemented soon. This scheme will look after the drainage and garbage problem.’’

Trees felled on Bellary Road for bus lane

Bus lane claims trees on Bellary Road
Friday October 29 2004 10:14 IST

BANGALORE: The dedicated bus lane system on Bellary Road has already claimed its first victim: A line of trees that spread its branches across the stretch have been cut.

The traffic police had earmarked 11-feet wide lanes on either side of Bellary Road (between the BDA office and the Hebbal flyover) exclusively for the movement of buses.

While this move may reduce traffic congestion once implemented, it also involves cutting down low lying tree branches and small trees on the kerb. Additional commissioner of Police (Traffic) Chandrashekhara said that instructions have been given to cut down only branches that obstruct the movement of buses.

Residents of the area fear that chopping down the bigger branches may eventually lead to the destruction of the trees. Some expressed concern that hacking off the limbs might make trees susceptible to heavy rains.

Arkavathy river path will go green now

Arkavathy river path will go green now
Times of India

Bangalore: The desert-like terrain through which river Arkavathy meanders will no more be the same. The 72- km stretch — till it flows into the T.G. Hall i reservoir — will soon transform into a richly wooded area with millions of trees. Giving back its lost glory, the masterplan mooted by Navachetana Trust will help rejuvenate the city’s ecosystem. Arkavathy Srinivas Raju
of Navachetana said: “It’ll cost us Rs 150 to grow and maintain trees on Nandi Hills but Rs 50 in the valley below. At that rate, 10 million trees will cost tens of crores of rupees’’.

This group has the reputation of greening the Bangalore University campus with five lakh tree saplings. It also planted one lakh saplings as part of the Laksha Vruksha programme. The four-stage plan to plant saplings on Nandi and the riverway will involve dozens of volunteers and workers. They will also plant saplings along river Kumudavathi, which joins Arkavathy in north Bangalore. The trust plans to use dozens of donkeys for the exercise. “Donkeys are hardy animals capable of carrying huge loads. The animals will ferry water to the trees during summer,’’ he said.

The tree planting spree has started and monsoon rainfall will sustain it. The trust will be supported in the venture by the forest and horticultural departments. The Karnataka State Pollution Control Board and the BWSSB too have promised “lots of help’’. A round of tree planting at a height of 4851 ft atop Nandi Hills was carried out on October 17. There are 1,084 tanks along the waterway until it joins T.G. Halli and this exercise should ensure all tanks are fully watered and Bangalore’s water stock last for long. For contributions contact: chairman, BWSSB, Vananjali.

Cops gear up to catch more traffic violators

Cops gear up to catch more traffic violators
Vijay Times

Bangalore: Traffic violators, beware. Prying eyes of the traffic police may catch you violating the rules.
The City traffic police are out to book more cases of traffic violations. The existing six Traffic Enforcement Automation Centres (TEACs) will now be extended to all the 29 traffic police stations. This will ease physical checking, say the police.

Set up in 2002, the centres are now functioning at Indiranagar, Cubbon Park, Basavanagudi, Audugodi, Vijayanagar and Upparpet along with the Central Automation Centre -- the hub -- on the 14th floor of the Public Utility Building (PUB). Earlier, people who had to pay fines for traffic violations were asked to pay it at any one of the six centres or at the PUB. However, the traffic violators can pay the fines at jurisdictional traffic police stations from November onwards.Presently, the traffic police book around 30,000 cases every month through the six existing centres.

Deputy Commissioner of Police, East (Traffic) M A Saleem said: "The traffic police will be adding one more server to the existing one at the Central Automation Centre. This will enable us to book as many as 60,000 cases every month."

Earlier, the police scaled down the cases as only 1,000 could be fed into the computers and processed through a single server and the additional cases were overlooked. An additional server would enable to process twice the number of complaints a day and none of the traffic violators would be spared, said Saleem.

He said that from 2002 till date, the centres had booked 1.5 lakh cases and the number of cases would double from November onwards. The traffic violations recorded by the Video Violation Wing or the Field Traffic Violation Wing would be taken very seriously.

Saleem said that if any traffic police constable noted down the vehicle number for violating traffic rules, the vehicle owner was sure to get a charge slip for the payment of fine. The fine should be paid within 15 days or the person would be chargesheeted after a reminder. The collection of fines was computerised at all the 29 police stations and receipts would be issued to the errant drivers immediately, he added.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Why is BIAL getting stuck at the state level now? Here's possibly why

An anonymous comment left on my earlier post, thought it deserved more visibility.

From what I see, no. The real issue here is not the state support, which is the 350 crores over three years. Come on, a state with an annual budget of around 25,000 crores, can't it afford 100 crores a year? I am sure if the government wanted, it could have imposed a cess on the airport, or taken out a portion of the BMRTL money to fund the airport. I am sure the Manmohan dispensation could have been persuaded to give out a loan. Those are not the real issues. The real issue is that the JD-S leaders haven't pocketed money out of this project. Only the Congress under Krishna has. So, now it is their turn. How do you do that? Raise unnecessary and stupid questions about the project. Thatz what is happening here.

Jayanagar Shopping Complex turns garbage dump

Shopping complex turning into a dump
The Hindu

BANGALORE, OCT. 27. The residents of the oldest planned extension in southern Bangalore have a serious complaint: the surroundings of the Jayanagar Shopping Complex are fast becoming a dump.

According to B.L.G. Rao, Coordinator of FORCE (First Block Organisation of Residents for Clean Environment), the problem became after the introduction of door-to-door collection of waste. "They have done away with dustbins except for one or two large bins in the market which are cleared late in the day," he said.

The shopping complex and its surrounding streets have close to 100 stalls — including makeshift ones — selling vegetables, fruits, coconuts, and other items, including framed portraits of the Hindu deities. The corridors of the complex, the lanes around it, and the walkways are full of discarded banana leaves and other waste, the shoppers complain.

"We have represented several times to the Health Department of the Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BMP) with no positive response or action," says Mr. Rao. The FORCE activists are not content with complaining; they have come out with the idea of a pilot project, which can be implemented to keep all market places clean.

To start with, BMP should post one "competent and sincere" Junior Health Officer to the area to carry out a cleanliness drive with powers to periodically inspect the entire area. There should be six full-time pourakarmikas for cleaning the area, especially the vegetable, fruit and flower stalls.

The shopkeepers should be told to keep a waste bin within their premises; be spot fines should be levied on any shopkeeper or vendor who throws waste on to the street or passages.

The public should be warned against littering and fined if they break the rule. The Junior Health Officer should be empowered to levy spot fines.

Since most market places lack any order and demarcation between stall areas and common space, stall space should be marked and all stocks for sale kept within that space, FORCE has suggested. Any "spill over" should be strictly dealt with.

The residents would like the clean-up drive to start with the BMP and the Government itself. The upper floors of the shopping complex house the Transport Department offices and local offices of the BMP and the staircase and corridors require cleaning on a large-scale.

Hellish Roads 13: KR Market

Times of India

Bangalore: If a commercial hub is synonymous with traffic jams, then the Sri Krishnarajendra Market (K.R. Market) is a perfect example. The biggest and among the busiest markets in the city, the traffic woes here are endless. The area is abuzz with activity round-the-clock. While the flower marketdraws hundreds of people early in the morning, vegetable vendors take over for most part of the day, all outside the multi-storied market complex. At night, it’s mobile canteens crammed in between the traffic and parked buses.

1 Areas affected: Town Hall Junction, N.R. Road, S.J.P. Road, J.C. Road, Bamboo Bazaar, Kalasipalya, Vani Vilas Road, Victoria Hospital, Chamarajpet, Avenue Road, S.P. Road, Briand Square, Mysore Road.

2 Major problems: A pedestrian subway that is hardly used by people, a bus stand crammed with hawkers, autorickshaws,tempos, BMTC and private buses, dismal traffic regulation, pothole-ridden roads are only some of the problems here.

3 What the police say? The main problem for congestion in the area is the incomplete pedestrian sub-way. The situation will improve with a new plan to re-route buses to the Shantinagar bus terminal coming up on Double Road. —

Prof M.N. Sreehari, traffic expert

•Buses have to be re-routed to bus terminals coming up at Kalasipalya or Shantinagar.
•Sub-way should be completed for restricting pedestrian movement on roads.
•Vegetable vendors should not be allowed to operate outside the market complex.
•Civic authorities should clear encroachments rampant in the area.

Civic groups meet CM to address city woes

Now, civic groups meet CM over city’s woes
Times of India

Bangalore: After IT captains and industrialists, it’s now the turn of representatives from the city’s civic groups to meet the chief minister to discuss city woes. A large number of civil society groups and NGOs led by Public Affairs Centre (PAC) met chief minister N. Dharam Singh on Wednesday and submitted a memorandum with suggestions to improve the deteriorating condition of roads and traffic in the city. The delegation stressed that the highest priority should be given to upgrade roads rather than building more flyovers in busy areas of the city. The delegation included Dr Samuel Paul and Dr A. Ravindra of PAC, and G. Govardhan of Bangalore Environment Trust. The chiefs of BDA, BCC and the urban development secretary were present at the meeting. Responding to suggestions submitted by the delegation, Singh asked officials to start the repair work in November and opined that road repair and pothole filling work be done at night.

The memorandum contains the following suggestions for immediate action and some proposals for long term action:

*Problems: Poor condition of arterial and inner roads; inadequate action on pothole filling; blocked drains resulting in water stagnation; poor condition of diversion routes where flyover works are in progress.
*Suggestions: Urgent maintenance works on all roads, filling potholes as per specifications, clearing drainage path; exhibit brief details of the road work undertaken on each road including the name of the contractor; provide good service roads during the construction of grade separators.

*Problems: Traffic jams throughout the day; non-enforcement of lane discipline, one-way and no entry for HTVs; vehicles, especially two-wheelers and autos travelling on pavements when there is a jam.
*Suggestions: Ensure all buses stop only at designated places - at bus bays and bus stops; marking of pavements, lanes and zebra crossings to be done periodically using good paint and enforcement of lane discipline; to get paid volunteers to assist the traffic police for enforcement drives and to man the busy junctions.

The delegation has also suggested the following short-term measures to be taken up immediately.
*Widening of roads and construction of grade separators at congested intersections.
*To have integrated urban transport system consisting of metrorail system and bus system extending upto the peripheral areas of the city.
*To have an effective metropolitan development authority for planned and co-ordinated development of all the infrastructure requirements of the city.
*Raise resources through 100 per cent property tax collection with full enforcement; IT industry may be asked to contribute to low interest bonds to develop infrastructure.

From a smelly water body to a walkers’ paradise

Times of India

Bangalore: Hundreds turn up every day for their daily stroll, morning or evening as the case may be, around the rejuvenated Ulsoor lake. The desilting exercise of 2003 has seemingly changed the face of the water body. And to think that only two years ago people would consider a detour to avoid the stench. The lake spans close to 1.5 sq km. One of the watch towers erected by the legendary city founder Kempegowda in the sixteenth century stands nearby.

Frequent visitors may recall ‘unfinished’ promises of the government, which spent Rs 7 crore for the clean-up. Unfinished because plans to nurture gardens to beautify the islands once the desilting was over have not fructified for more than a year. Unfinished because there is still no “real’’ security blanket to keep away the dozens of slumdwellers who, every day, use the lake for defecation and the many who throw flowers, plastic and household garbage into the lake every day. Ironically, some arrive in cars to dump refuse. One pile floats in a corner opposite the MEG Gate with none to clear it. The walkers are a hardy community though and gather by 4 am to do their brisk rounds. Late-risers can be seen catching up after 8 am. The lake gives the Homeguards Department the course for its watermanship and other training programmes. Sappers of the Madras Engineering Group cut across another section.

Old loyals say the footpath needs to be rebuilt and dustbins in the vicinity should either be removed or cleaned regularly to prevent spillage from blowing into the lake. Some walkers suggest a safety fence, especially for children. One exercise freak was all thanks for the gravel surface for keeping him free of ankle or knee problems. There were also good words for the breeze that has come to replace the stench. The evenings see chaat and panipuri push carts catering to the romantic couple among other visitors. The year 2003 thankfully is history.

Rail link planned for still-born airport

Devanahalli Airport to have exclusive rail link
Vijay Times

Bangalore: The proposed Devanahalli International Airport will have its own exclusive rail head. Airport planners are proposing to link the airport to the City using existing rail lines from Cantonment Railway Station.
Officials say that only a minor extension of the existing rail line is necessary. Once the rail service becomes operational commuters can travel the 32 kms in around half an hour and the fare is expected to be on par with any other means of transport.

The entire project is being mooted by Infrastructure Development Corporation of Karnataka Ltd (iDeCK). It will evaluate the technical and financial feasibility of developing the Automatic Rail Link (ARL). The project is expected to cost in the region of Rs 585 crore, including cost of acquired land.

Speaking to Vijay Times, iDeCK officials said, “first we would like the international airport project to take off. Once it reaches a certain stage, then we will talk about this project. It doesn't need heavy lead time like that of an airport. However, we have proposed this idea so that it can be started on time. As of now, several parties have shown interest.”

According to Dr S Vasudevan, Senior Associate Transport, three alternatives are being considered for development of the rail link. Firstly, as an extension of the existing BG rail line between Yelahanka and Chikkaballapur, as a virgin alignment from Byappanahalli station on the existing BG line to the new airport site or as a virgin alignment from Bangalore Cantonment station along the road corridor via Jayamahal Road, Bellary Road and NH 7.
“After studying all the options carefully, it has been proposed that the most feasible alternative for development of the rail link would be to share the proposed commuter rail infrastructure from Bangalore Cantonment to Byappanahalli on the existing BG mainline corridor, beyond which the line could follow a virgin alignment upto the new airport site,” he said.

As per the plan, it has also been proposed that the main City end terminal for the rail link facility would be set up adjacent to Cantonment Railway Station, which would provide easy access to the City centre and adjoining areas.
“Today, the rates will look expensive. But, with the proposed introduction of commuter rail system for Bangalore the cost could come down, since the physical infrastructure could be shared with the CRS on the common portion of the proposed ARL alignment.

The land acquisition is also not a problem as it would be done by BMRDA. Our immediate task is to prepare a detailed project report,” he added.

Metro Rail set to follow International Airport out

Kharge and Co look for alternatives to Metro Rail
Vijay Times

Bangalore: A high-level team led by Transport Minister Mallikarjuna Kharge has left for Brazil and Sweden to scout for alternatives to the much hyped Metro Rail Project for Bangalore.

Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) sources said the corporation is now looking at cost-effective options to replace the proposed Metro Rail Project.

Sources said the team including BMTC Managing Director Upendra Tripathy plan to study efficient road transport system in Curituba (Brazil) and visit the Volvo headquarters in Gotenburg (Sweden) for a possible negotiation on the Volvo special buses BMTC plans to introduce in the Bangalore. Meanwhile, faced with an acute shortage of about 750 conductors BMTC is all set to recruit 1,100 Driver cum Conductors by 2005.

Chief Traffic Manager (Commercial) K S Vishwanath said the corporation will be shortly fill up the vacancies for the conductors posts. "We plan to recruit Conductors who can also drive as it is economically more viable," he added. BMTC plans to recruit 100 women drivers shortly after the first BMTC woman driver, P N Renuka, successfully taking to the wheel. The interviews for drivers have commenced on Wednesday and will go on till December 31.

Begur paralysed

Begur paralysed
New Indian Express

BANGALORE: With the State government deciding to invest money on infrastructure development in Bangalore, IT companies in the city are busy celebrating.

Now many from the Begur City Municipal Corporation (CMC), where a majority of the IT companies and their work force are located, are slowly moving back to Bangalore City Corporation (BCC) limits.

The reason is simple: No proper supply of potable water, pathetic roads and poor sanitation.

A resident, Asha, informed that tanker water is available once every three days. During summer it is even worse as water arrives just once a week. This problem was brought to the notice of the City Municipal Corporation commissioner but little has been done.

Another resident, Mani, added: ‘‘There are more than a hundred companies in this area. Hence vehicle density is high. There is nothing called a footpath here. Accidents are a common sight.’’

Revenue officer of Begur the City Municipal Corporation Huchappa admitted that water crisis was a major problem.

‘‘We have tried everything possible from our side. There was a time when people complained about electricity supply. We gave this responsibility to a private company. About water, we can only provide them with what we have,’’ he said.

Huchappa, however, added the corporation was not at fault. ‘‘Begur ward comprises five to six villages. People do not pay taxes but expect us to provide them with facilities. If we had enough revenue, we would have provided them with every facility under the sun,’’ he said.

IT companies continue to pour in to city

B'lore, choke-a-bloc with IT cos
The six-month period spanning April to September, as many as 92 companies have set up shop in India's tech Mecca, will the city be able to take the weight?
Cyber Media

BANGALORE: It is a case of an embarrassment of riches in a city that seems to be weighing under the tremendous strain of its poor and inadequate infrastructure. Strange as it may sound, Bangalore is witnessing a relentless march of IT companies coming in to set up their presence.

In the six month period spanning April to September this year, as many as 92 companies set up shop in India's tech Mecca and what is being slowly acknowledged as the world's IT outsourcing capital.

According to Software Technology Parks of India (STPI) director, BV Naidu, "Out of these 92 companies, 56 are 100 percent foreign equity companies while 20 are BPOs. In addition, a 34 percent jump in exports was recorded in the first six months of this year over the corresponding period last year."

The total amount of investment that came into the state during this time was Rs 1,125 crore, and this is well before the beginning of the festive season. Compare this to last year's 168 outfits, which included 110 companies with 100 percent foreign equity that brought in investment of Rs 1,970 crore into the state.
Even as this article goes to print, around 15 million sq feet area of commercial space for IT companies, is under construction in Bangalore.
With so much growth waiting to happen this year, the state government faces a delicate tightrope act of calming fiery tempers by providing the requisite infrastructure while still sustaining the steady flow of future investment into the IT industry's El Dorado.
The city seems to have become a victim of its own success. Sound bytes on the crippling infrastructure and traffic woes have come from no less than the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Rahul Gandhi to visiting venture capitalists, captains of the IT industry and Kiran Karnik of Nasscom. The IT industry's ire over the state government's inaction forced them to get on to the offensive and threaten blocking the traffic on Hosur Road and pulling out of the state's showpiece event BangaloreIT.COM.
Realizing this, the Karnataka government promised to get into action mode with ministers and government officials initiating meetings with IT company heads, civic departments and the Bangalore Development Authority. Chief Minister Dharam Singh has assured that the ides of November (when hopefully, the rain gods relent) will witness development work including road repairs, construction and other activities. Also tabled is a plan to decongest the choked Hosur road by building an elevated highway.
Besides these, companies especially start-ups also contend with associated problems of prosperity such as rising real estate prices, startling staff turnover rates, rising wages and lack of tax relief.

What is it about Bangalore that continues to attract companies? For one, it's the Bangalore brand that has acquired brand equity and recognition internationally. Many in the industry affirm that if Bangalore's image takes a beating, companies would just look for alternative countries to offshore their projects and not alternative cities in India.

Companies are also attracted to the existing ecosystem of IT companies, technology infrastructure and connectivity. The abundant pool of engineering talent is another plus. Venture capitalists and start-up companies are often advised to set up their development centers in Bangalore than any other Indian city. This is because companies can choose hires depending on the depth and breadth of their skill sets and experience.

In some instances, it is at the client's behest. Rama Rao C, who heads Cap Gemini's newly inaugurated development center in Bangalore admitted, "Some of our global customers told us that for offshore projects, it would have to be Bangalore."

The Garden city also scores brownie points for pleasant weather, a lively ex-pat community and good schools and universities. As for the traffic and non-existent roads, well, grin and bear with it. And pray that it gets better soon.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

State Govt. all set to scuttle International Airport project

Click on image for larger view of infographic.

State adopts aaraam approach for new airport
Our Support Amount Will Be Reworked: Sindhia
Delay Will Give Hyderabad Upper Hand: Experts

The Times of India

Bangalore: The Karnataka government has decided to take its own time in finalising agreements for the Bangalore International Airport (BIA) at Devanahalli, as financial implications for the state are “serious.’’ Infrastructure minister P.G.R. Sindhia told The Times of India here on Tuesday: Neither the state government nor the Bangalore International Airport Limited (BIAL) have been informed that consortia members are unhappy about the pace we have set. We cannot react to what has been said in the media. We want to rework the state support amount for the project and if somebody is unhappy about it, we cannot help it.’’

The clock, however, is ticking fast for the BIA: if Karnataka does not clear the twin hurdles of state support and land-lease agreements within this year, the project may just fall through. And yet again, Hyderabad will be the gainer, at the cost of the Silicon City. A BIA senior representative said: “The Hyderabad private airport has signed all agreements and is going full-steam. At this rate, it will be built first and take away bilateral agreements with airlines, making BIA redundant.’’

With all three consortium partners —Siemens, Larsen & Toubro and Unique Zurich Airport — openly airing dissatisfaction, the situation for BIA is deja vu: in 1998, the Tatas-Raytheon-Changi Airport consortium pulled out of the project citing political and bureaucratic’’ delays.

“The project is at an impasse, because the Karnataka government has reopened the issue of state support and is trying to push the amount down by Rs 75 crore.We have firmly said this cannot be renegotiated,’’ the consortium representative explained. There is severe time pressure on the project: the Unique Zurich airport has told their partners that they cannot take the running expenses of the project and will have to pull out, if it extends beyond March 2005. The time-frame being given now is: agreements to be signed by November, financial closure by December and full commencement of work by February. “If this is not met and our partner pulls out, the clock will go back to 2000,’’the representative warned.

Infrastructure secretary Vinay Kumar said he was confident the the December deadline would be met. “As per the concessions agreement,we have time till December for financial closure.We spoke to all the consortium partners and no one has indicated any problems. We are waiting for the concurrence of the finance department to go ahead,’’ he stated.

Experiment with bus lanes on Bellary Road

So, why is this bus in a non-bus lane? To let the photographer shoot the sign?

Experiment with bus lanes on Bellary Road
New Indian Express

BANGALORE: The traffic police will introduce dedicated bus lanes on an experimental basis on the busy Bellary Road by the end of this week.

Additional Commissioner of Police (Traffic) Chandrashekhara told this paper that on the the stretch between the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) office and Hebbal flyover, dedicated bus lanes will be created on both sides.

These ‘Buses Only’ lanes measuring 11 feet each are being demarcated with PVC markers.

‘‘Dedicated bus lanes are being created at the insistence of the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC). However, they will remain open for all buses including private ones. Other vehicles will not be allowed in this part of the road. This rule will be enforced strictly on a trial basis. The efficacy of the system will be studied and a decision to implement it on other roads will be taken later,’’ Chandrashekhara added.

There is a dual purpose behind the introduction of these lanes. It streamlines and ensures faster movement of buses thereby benefiting commuters. Buses no longer block the movement of other traffic and hence motorists are benefitted.

BMTC has been demanding dedicated lanes for its buses for the last couple of years. This is the principle on which BMTC’s proposed Metro Bus system is based — the buses are given exclusive road space. As buses in such lanes move faster, they get priority at junctions.

BMTC is asking for 15 per cent of the available road space. The Corporation claims that such a demand is valid as 50 per cent of Bangalore commutes by bus.

BMTC has conducted surveys of 27 trunk corridors so far where space is available for such dedicated lanes.

City under seige

City Under Seige
Bangalore's story shows how politicos can wreak havoc with the best laid plans of evolved corporates and concerned citizens.
Business Today

Just last year, Bangalore was the central player in the best-known urban fairy-tale in India. The state government was responsive to the city's needs (and cognisant of its importance); citizens were more satisfied (according to a poll conducted by research firm TNS) with the state of urban infrastructure than they had been anytime in the previous five years; and a citizen movement Janaagraha was creating a new paradigm in participative governance.

Circa 2004, it is evident this fairy-tale isn't a happily-ever-after story. Roads have become unmotorable, traffic unnavigable, and the state government, unresponsive. The citizen movement continues to thrive, although things would have been a whole lot smoother for it had the government been a trifle more concerned about the city. Much of this has to do with the perception that the Congress' relatively dismal showing in the elections to the Karnataka assembly held in May 2004 (it is back in power, but as part of a coalition now) had to do with its urban-centric focus, exemplified, the proponents of this theory say, by the Bangalore Agenda Task Force (BATF), a public-private partnership created by the previous government and chaired by Infosys CEO Nandan Nilekani. At the core of batf's success was the fact that it had the blessings of the then Chief Minister S.M. Krishna; ergo, progressive bureaucrats set out, helped and aided by BATF, to do their best, and retrograde ones made a show of being interested. Today, at least one progressive bureaucrat (former Bangalore Development Authority head Jayakar Jerome) is in the doghouse and while the BATF hasn't been disbanded, it is evident it no longer has the clout it once had.

Protests abound: students of the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore staged one recently to highlight the sorry state of the road that leads up to the school. "How do you expect (executives from) major corporations to travel down this non-existent road?" asks one student. And a group of some 15 technology firms including Philips Software, hp, IBM and Motorola have come under the banner of Bangalore Forum for Information Technology and threatened to boycott, a government sponsored industry jamboree. "The government is not even attempting to solve basic issues," says Bob Hoekstra, CEO, Philips Software. The state's it Secretary M.K. Shankar Linge Gowda is unfazed. "There might be certain issues that will be sorted out," he says sanguinely. Still, given that Wipro head Azim Premji has articulated his desire to look at states that are better off "in terms of manpower and infrastructure" and Infosys Chair N.R. Narayana Murthy his to have India's largest cities directly ruled by the Union Government, the government either doesn't know the extent of the malaise or couldn't care less.

The economic aspect should wake it up soon: Bangalore accounts for almost $4 billion (Rs 18,000 crore) of India's software exports of $12.5 billion (Rs 56,250 crore); it is that $4 billion that is under threat.

Hellish Roads 12: Old Madras Road

On the ‘old’ road to despair
Times of India

Old Madras Road is a National Highway sans the trucks, but traffic jams are a daily affair all the same. Two-wheelers, cars, tempos, autorickshaws, buses and pedestrians apart, road users have to put up with the shenanigans of bullock cart and push cart drivers.

1 Main junctions: Indiranagar Double Road, Indiranagar 100-Feet Road, 80-Feet Road, Suranjandas Road, NGEF, Beniganahalli.

2 Major problems: Autorickshaws, tempos parked haphazardly along the road, even in the vicinity of junctions.

• Large traffic volume makes for slow turns at junctions.
• No traffic signals in place at junctions. Traffic cops left to the unequal task during peak hours.
• Bad condition of road and poor street lighting lead to frequent accidents.
• Traffic is diverted from Airport Road at HAL head office junction (due to flyover construction) towards OM Road, thereby amplifying vehicle volume on the busy stretch.
• With frequent VIP movement on Airport Road, vehicles are diverted on to OM Road.
• Bottleneck at the K.R. Puram flyover ramp on O.M. Road.
• Poor regulation of traffic from major establishments - HAL, BEML, NGEF, Aeronautical Society, Bagamane Software Park, ITPL, besides several apartment complexes.

3 What the police say... Though the situation is bad now, it is expected to improve soon.
• Redesigning of junctions is being taken up.
• However, the road widening work has caused congestion; improvement once work is completed.

Drought Days in KR Puram

Drought Days in KR Puram
New Indian Express

BANGALORE: Bad roads, heavy traffic and garbage have been affecting the normal life of K R Puram City Muncipal Corporation (CMC) residents for long. But nothing is of greater concern than the poor supply of potable water.

This huge area with several layouts is on the outskirts of the city but is very much a part of Bangalore now. For the record, there are about 35 wards in the K R Puram CMC.

Sayed Iqbal, a resident of Basava Nagar, informs that they receive tanker water only once or twice a week. ‘‘We have to travel nearly five km a day only to fetch drinking water. Borewell water can be used for washing or cleaning. To fetch drinking water, I have to go up to ITPL,’’ adds Chandrashekar of Vignan Nagar.

Another resident, Sridhar, complains that the roads, including the layout main roads, are heavy with traffic. ‘‘Some of the roads link various wards and a lot of people use them as short cuts. As a result, traffic is heavy and roads have been damaged beyond repair,’’ he tells.

L Jayaram, president of CMC, K R Puram, says: ‘‘We want people to get good facilities. But the bitter truth is that we do not have enough funds to provide them with all they need. We gather revenue from self assessment and trade licence taxes. This income is too little to maintain the 35 wards in the area.’’ He, however, is hopeful that the government will give them the right to collect developmental and stamp duty charges, which will augment their revenues.

He assures: ‘‘There will be regular supply of Cauvery water from January. The BWSSB is planning to set up a sewerage treatment plant in Devasandra and Marathahalli. We can repair the roads only after they set up this plant.’’

On the Old Madras Road

On the Old Madras Road
Subir Roy, Business Standard

I have become a little superstitious about roads. Gradually, they have come to acquire in my mind the status of a horoscope or the lines on the palm of the hand, both of which are studied to predict your future. The big difference between roads and horoscopes, and lines on the palm is what the latter are to individuals, the former is becoming for governments, or rather state governments.

When a group of us visited the enchanting forests of Kanha and Bandhavgarh in Madhya Pradesh in the winter of 2002, I didn’t like the looks of the roads one bit.

More correctly, I felt distinctly uncomfortable when there was no road but the driver of the hired cab provided by the state tourism department insisted that there it was and that he was driving down it.

I made a mental note of mentioning the matter to then Chief Minister Digvijay Singh the next time I got a chance to meet him. I was sure I would as I belonged to that tribe of journalists who were quite impressed by his ideas on grassroots development.

But unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to caution him. He was gone in the next elections. Now it is moot whether it was the roads or whatever else that did him in, but the point is that bad roads are a bad omen for a government, a state government that is.

If good roads could see a government through, then surely Atal Bihari Vajpayee with his Golden Quadrilateral would never have lost. Not just Vajpayee, but most of us were sure that the shining face of the dual carriageway, multi-lane highways would convince everyone that it was not just the roads but the entire India that was shining. At the end of the day, the roads didn’t show the path to victory.

This just goes to prove that the rules of astrology are not to be applied mechanically. Different rules apply to different entities and if you think that the fathers of Indian astrology who formulated its rules thousands of years ago could not distinguish between a state and a Central government, you will pay for your modern day arrogance.

An astrological insight is like a premonition. It does not say it is coming but quietly creeps in on you so that you do not know when exactly did you get a particular idea but at some point you realise that it has been growing on you.

This is what I felt when I returned from our puja holidays in Chennai, where we had gone by road in our new car. Now that our son goes to college in Chennai, we thought we might as well have the family reunion there and check out on the state of the Bengali diaspora in the city. The more corporate sponsorships the local pujas get, the greater will be the clout of the local Bengalis.

But at the end of the holidays, the social status of Chennai’s Bengalis was the furthest from my mind. Something more serious was brewing inside me. Bangalore’s roads were a distinct bad omen for its new government. I would have passed this on to the state’s chief minister without an astrologer’s fee if I had ready access to him.

There have been endless rains in Bangalore this year. Hence the potholes, we are told. Let the rains end and they will be filled up pronto, we are told yet again. Within 5 km of the car passing the new cable bridge that adorns one end of Bangalore, the potholes disappear, proving no doubt that the heavens carefully respect the city’s municipal borders, showering not a drop of rain beyond them.

Once you are out of Bangalore, Old Madras Road (the name so redolent of earlier times when some roads seem to have always been there) becomes a dream. I have traversed a fair stretch of the country’s highways and can vouch for the fact that this must be one of the loveliest in a classical old-fashioned way.

It is mostly a two-lane road, immaculately topped, without so much as a single pothole. It winds its way through gentle undulating country turned green by good rain, which must have carefully avoided the road so as not to give it potholes.

The hillocks with their rocky outcrops remind you this is not far from the Sholay country. For the most part, the road passes through sparsely-populated areas and so there are no scurrying children or stray dogs. All of this allows you to do a comfortable 100 km an hour.

But for two small stretches in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, the road is mostly in Tamil Nadu, signalling a clear omen that Jayalalithaa has still a good part of her term to complete, which in all likelihood she will.

Closer to Chennai is a stretch of the Vajpayee road — six lanes with median and a hard shoulder to boot — allowing cars to whiz pass slow coaches such as mine lumbering along at a safe 110 km an hour. Thereafter there is the ravaged inside-out stretch where the expressway is being built and finally, of course, the classical crawl from the outskirts into the heart of Chennai.

Considering the tough time that activists have while trying to ensure the preservation of heritage buildings, it seems absurd to imagine there can be a campaign to preserve old beautiful roads.

This is because a road is not simply a road but a part of the surrounding country that can easily get overpopulated and lose its green and load the road with too much traffic.

Or the gods can pour down rain carelessly and indiscriminately, without leaving aside the road as they have been doing in Bangalore, intended, no doubt, to signal an omen that the government will ignore only at its own peril.

Subway project stalled due to funds shortage

Subway project stalled due to funds shortage
Deccan Herald

Motorists jostling their way through the dusty and pothole-ridden Modi Road-Chord Road junction in Rajajinagar (near the subway construction), may have to put up with the bumpy ride till the end of next year.

For, the Bangalore Mahanagara Palike’s (BMP) ongoing Modi Road-Chord Road subway project has hit a roadblock and the project will be delayed by several months. The subway work has come to a grinding halt since the last two months, with the BMP failing to clear the contractor’s monthly bills.

According to an agreement between the BMP and the contractor — East Cost Construction and Industries Limited (ECCIL), the former should clear bills towards works implemented on a monthly basis or as and when the bills are submitted. The latter has agreed to complete the project within 18 months at an estimated cost of Rs 11.4 crore.

But BMP has so far paid just Rs 33 lakh against bills worth Rs 1.79 crore submitted by the contractor. “How can we implement the project if BMP keeps the bills pending. If dues are not cleared soon, the project implementation will no doubt be delayed,” ECCIL Project Manager Dhirumani told Deccan Herald.

The proposed subway is envisaged to clear the traffic bottleneck at this busy junction. The project, once completed, will enable motorists (on both West of Chord Road and Modi Hospital Road) to pass through this junction without any hindrance.

Besides, the contractor has been able to implement just over 15 per cent of the project in the last six months. “We are awaiting a green signal from the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) and the traffic police to carry out the work. While BWSSB has delayed shifting its water lines, the traffic police has sought more time to make arrangements to divert the traffic,” Mr Dhirumani said.

No allocation of funds
The subway project seems to have become an orphan as far as allocation of funds is concerned. Initially, BMP had planned to fund the project by availing itself of a loan from the Karnataka Urban Infrastructure Development Finance Corporation (KUIDFC). But KUIDFC had put the request on the back-burner citing technical reasons. In the meantime, BMP went ahead with its plan on the project, hoping that funds could be mobilised in the due course, and issued the work order to the contractor.

“This, as a result, has crippled the BMP from clearing the bills and has forced it to keep them pending. BMP has no other option but to divert funds earmarked for some other plans towards the subway project,” BMP official sources said.

Some hope for Bannerghatta Road

Some hope at last for ‘hell of a road’
Deccan Herald

The Public Works Department (PWD) on Tuesday kick-started a ten-month-old project to convert the existing Bannerghatta road into a four-lane route between J P Nagar outer ring road and Meenakshi Temple, DHNS reports from Bangalore.

Estimated to cost around Rs 9 crore, the PWD has taken up the project in partnership with Mantri Associates. The four-lane road is aimed at smoothening the traffic flow on this stretch, and it is expected to be completed in four months.

Though the PWD launched the project in January, it could not take up the work, owing to “non-co-operation” from utility providers like BWSSB, Bescom, BSNL and others in shifting their service lines that were coming in the way of the project, sources in the PWD alleged.

Recently, residents of HSR Layout, J P Nagar and other surrounding areas, along with hundreds of Indian Institute of Management (Bangalore) students protested against the delay in implementing the project.

Even after re-commencing the work at full-swing, the PWD is not sure of meeting Chief Minister N Dharam Singh’s deadline of January 15, 2005 to complete the project.

According to PWD officials, all the stake holders — BWSSB, Bescom, BSNL and BMP — have almost shifted their service lines to pave the way for implementing the project.

The PWD plans to implement the project in four phases, one km in each phase. “As and when they completely shift their service lines, work will be started in those stretches,” officials said.

Highway standards
In view of heavy traffic flow — around 84,000 passenger car per unit — the PWD has decided to implement the project on National Highway standards. In other words, the proposed road will be of much superior quality, as per the guidelines of Indian Road Congress. Besides, the PWD has decided to lay new roads, replacing the existing two-lane route. “Mere widening of the existing road would not serve any purpose as the traffic flow is very heavy. So, we decided to lay new roads,” PWD Chief Engineer Muninarasimaihswamy told Deccan Herald.

Corporators defeat Mayor's move to convert parking complex to shopping complex

BMP will manage K.G. Road complex
The Hindu

BANGALORE, OCT. 26. The Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BMP) Council on Tuesday shot down a proposal to let the builder of the shopping zone-cum-multi-storeyed parking complex on Kempe Gowda Road manage the complex.

Members, including those from the ruling Congress, opposed the proposal to award the management contract to Maharaja Buildtech.

The Mayor, P.R. Ramesh, was forced to drop the proposal.

The ground-plus-four-floor building, situated on Kempe Gowda Road (in front of Sagar cinema) can accommodate over 400 cars at a time.

Built at a cost of Rs. 10 crores through a joint venture between the BMP and the builder, the agreement entails BMP to an 83 per cent share of the parking space there. B.K. Hariprasad, MP, and R. Roshan Baig, Jayamahal MLA, supported the members.

The proposal was placed before the Council without the knowledge of the Standing Committees on Taxation, Finance and Works.

B.T. Sreenivasa Murthy, Azadnagar corporator, said the BMP would be the loser in the deal. "It will allow the builder all the profits if he pays a stipulated amount to the BMP," he said.

"You want to allot it for a meagre Rs. 30 per sq. ft. when the market rate is thousands of rupees. Besides, the builder will get the right to rent out the 270-odd shops in the complex. Apart from the hefty advance and rent, he will get substantial goodwill amount for each shop. This is a conspiracy to loot the BMP. It must be dropped," Mr. Murthy said.

Padmanabha Reddy, Janata Dal (United) leader, ridiculed the move.

He pointed out that even land on the outskirts cost Rs. 90 per sq. ft. The ruling party and the Opposition leaders, H. Jayaram and B.R. Nanjundappa, joined him.

When the Mayor wanted to defer the proposal, the members demanded that it be dropped the same day.

K. Jothiramalingam, BMP Commissioner, said the BMP had a bitter experience when it tried to sell its Madivala and Siddaiah Road shopping complexes.

"Despite inviting tenders thrice, there are no takers. Besides, the rent we get from shops in the Public Utility Building on Mahatma Gandhi Road is nominal. So, we felt it is better to give the builder the management contract," he said.

He said the subject would be referred to the Standing Committees if the Council wanted it that way and that "there were no ulterior motives behind the move."

When members accused the Commissioner of "misguiding the Council," Mr. Jayaram read out a resolution condemning the move and added that the file would be sent to the committees concerned for a decision on inviting tenders.

The Council approved the remodelling of 41 roads running up to 139 km. under its Medium Density Corridor project.

The project, to be taken up with World Bank funding, involves upgrading roads, drains, pavements, streetlights and bus bays.

Some 30 other resolutions on road renaming, land lease general administration, advertisements and work were approved.

Govt. lifts entry tax partially

Chambers hail Karnataka Govt move to lift special entry tax
The Hindu Business Line
The Government's announcement came hours after the CII had held a press meet on Monday to express the industry's resentment at the punitive tax extended to 23 items.

CHAMBERS of commerce today heaved a sigh of relief at the Karnataka Government's decision to lift the special entry tax on some goods, which was enforced from October 1 following a Budget proposal.

The decision has been welcomed by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the Bangalore Chamber of Industry and Commerce (BCIC).

In his statement, Mr K.K. Swamy, Chairman of CII (Karnataka), said the move would go a long way in reinstating faith of industry in the Government.

The Government's announcement came hours after the CII had held a press meet on Monday to express the industry's resentment at the punitive tax extended to 23 items. Mr Swamy had said the items, which formed part of the industry's inputs would have pushed up the manufacturing cost considerably.

Karnataka would have become a high-cost manufacturing centre in the southern region, he said pointing to steep increase in taxes on cement, paints, IT hardware and software and parts of construction equipment.

Mr Swamy expressed hope that the Government would similarly address other concerns of the industry, particularly with regard to infrastructure, tax hike on diesel used for captive power generation and that of the deemed EOU.

Mr S. Chandrasekhar, President, BCIC, welcomed the State Government's response to the Chamber's plea to withdraw the special entry tax.

However, he added, the notification has caused much concern to industry since the bulk of critical commodities such as capital goods deployed for infrastructure projects and petroleum products, an essential input in manufacturing, had been left out.

"This will be a big blow, particularly, to advanced industrialised States like Karnataka where investments, new projects and expansion programmes of companies will be severely stymied.

"We are amazed that the Notification specifies that documents have to be necessarily produced at the check post which is bound to increase detention costs, leave alone traffic bottlenecks. We strongly feel that this condition is uncalled for as the dealers in any case, file this return."

BCIC appealed to the Finance Minister to review the Notification and extend the relief to all registered dealers in the interest of investment flow into the State as well as competitiveness of the existing industries vis-à-vis neighbouring States.