Sunday, November 28, 2004

Walking with women through Koramangala

Walking with women through Koramangala
Times of India

We want roads, screamed one; No more potholes, squealed another. Down with the government, all chorused; and waved flags and banners, as we marched in twos and threes across broken pavements and potholed roads.

We live in a suburb of Bangalore called Koramangala. Some 25 years ago when we first visited this suburb, it was not even considered part of namma Bangalore. Koramangala and similar suburbs were creations of a government agency called the BDA, or Bangalore Development Corporation, an oxymoronic title. Most of the proceeds of BDA’s development went into the pockets of bureaucrats and politicians. When by grievous mistake an honest bureaucrat (since there are no species known as honest politicians) stumbled into BDA, he would be swiftly shunted to the Minorities Commission or some such posting in the boondocks.

In the distant past, soon after Kempe Gowda erected his four pillars marking the boundaries of namma Bangalore, a community called Reddys bought up all the land outside these pillars. They farmed, raised cattle and children, multiplied and flourished in the salubrious clime of this great city. Fast forward to modern times, a group of smart politicians and their bureaucratic nannies decided that there was good money to be had by taking away all the land held by these Reddys in the name of the people and their government.

This became the preserve of the BDA; to notify, grab, acquire and sell Reddys’ land so that corrupt government functionaries and their cohorts get wealthy.

This land shark scheme with minor and major modifications has now successfully operated for over five decades in Bangalore, and has been now extended to other schemes of building highways and flyovers.

Once the land was sold to the public, the BDA washed its hands of the whole affair. To maintain the new layouts, as these developments were called, was the responsibility of the Corporation, whose keepers were better known for flying off to distant lands at the least provocation or without, than any capability to maintain assets. The Corporation, in turn, passed the buck on to alphabetical agencies that were supposed to provide power, water, good roads and so on to the general public.

The net result was chaos, compounded by perennially dug-up roads, erupting pavements, clogged drains and roads which as a local wag put it, were holes in the ground connected by strips of tar.

The worm had finally turned. Citizens of this suburb, who had meekly put up with all the shenanigans of BDA, Corporation, KSEB, BWSSB and many other selfserving government outfits all these years, are now revolting. So far, there have been more of threats than any physical action, which however may not be far off.

So I marched with the crowd, mostly women, holding a banner that said ‘Save Koramangala’. A kind lady offered to carry my banner for a while when my arms ached, and another pointed out when I was holding it upside down.

We felt uncomfortable most of the time, walking over pot holes and broken down pavements, and somewhat powerful when we blocked the traffic as we crossed the main roads. It was good activist fun that brought cheer to the soul.

I, for one, wanted to sit in the middle of the road and block the traffic, but the organiser said that I can only do that if Narayana Murthy joined us; since he was delivering a lecture in Tokyo he could not join our procession and help us sit in the middle of the road to block traffic as the IT guys do all the time. I have time on my hands; I shall wait and serve my turn.


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