Sunday, January 23, 2005

Good tidings are welcome, but address key issues first

Good tidings are welcome, but address key issues first
H.S. Balram
The Times of India

A mix of good and bad news for the people of Karnataka. The Planning Commission has approved an allocation of a whopping Rs 13,556 crore, the highest for any state for 2005-06. The state government, through the governor’s address, has announced development of secondary cities, putting Bangalore back on the rails, and setting up of agri export zones, but warned of another drought and fall in foodgrain production.

The central government has developed cold feet on the promised legislation to regulate fee and admissions in professional colleges. The muchawaited international airport for Bangalore is all set to take off, but a few clearances are still due. Paperwork on the metro rail project is on the fast track. Additional taxation awaits citizens as an infrastructure cess and a Solid Waste Management cess are to be levied from April 1.

The good news is only on paper, as of now. Only if and when it translates into action, the government can hope to receive accolades. The bad news is there for all to see. The government will have to work hard to erase it. A look at three key issues:


With the HRD ministry backing out on enacting a legislation, the issue of admissions to professional courses is back to square one. The ugly scenes witnessed last year are sure to make a comeback this year. Students appearing for PUC or Std 12 examinations and hoping to get into medical, dental and engineering colleges are a worried lot. The bright ones among them are already looking beyond the state’s borders. And, non-Karnataka students who made a beeline to the state every year to appear for the CET are confused. The trauma that their seniors went through last year is still fresh in their minds.

Now is the time for the government and private college managements to shun their rigid attitudes and make a sincere effort to arrive at an amicable solution. The only other hope for the harried students is the Supreme Court, which is seized of the issue. If it prescribes a formula, everyone will fall in line. Let there not be a repeat of last year’s chaos.


Agreements to flag off the much-delayed international airport project for Bangalore appears unending. Every time a hurdle is cleared, many more crop up. Two agreements were signed a few days ago. One, the land lease agreement handing over of 4,000 acres of land for the project. Two, the state support agreement pledging a soft loan of Rs 350 crore.

We are told now that few more clearances are due. Engineering and procurement contract (renewal), operation and management agreement, financial closure, shareholders’ agreement (renewal), and coordination, navigation and air traffic management agreement with the Airports Authority of India. The government says the construction work will begin in March, by which time all these clearances would have been given. One hopes it sticks to its word. The wait has been too long. Bangalore badly needs an airport of international standard.


The people of Karnataka are among the highly taxed in the country. They have been paying what is called a ‘mega city cess’ for the last several years. But they have no idea where the money has been going, even as civic amenities are crumbling all over the state. Now, another shocker awaits them — in the form of infrastructure and Sold Waste Management (SWM) cesses to be levied from April 1. The infrastructure cess, ranging from Rs 50 to 500, will be levied on motor vehicle owners for use of roads, flyovers, underpasses and subways. The SWM cess, from Rs 10 to Rs 600, will be collected from residential houses, commercial establishments and hotels towards garbage disposal.

The citizens are not averse to paying these cesses if: (a) They are provided with basic necessities like motorable roads and walkable footpaths, unclogged drains, efficient garbage collection and disposal etc.; (b) The contractors, who are hand in glove with corrupt politicians and officials, are not allowed to get away with substandard work and (c) Elected representatives are held responsible for the lapses in their constituencies. And, what about the lifetime tax that vehicle owners pay. Or, the property tax collected from house owners? Aren’t they supposed to be used for the upkeep of the city? Is there no accountability?

Spare Bangalore

Every time a controversy erupts, life in Bangalore is thrown out of gear. Thanks to demonstrations and protests, traffic movement comes to a halt. If violence erupts, public buses are damaged. Shops are forced to down shutters. Officegoers, school children, the aged and the sick bear the brunt. We saw it happen during the ‘gopura’ controversy a few weeks ago. And now, over the Benny Hinn show. Is there no other way of protesting? Like staging a hunger strike. Wearing of black badges. Or, if a show of strength is required, holding a huge rally in a maidan. Why put the general public to hardship?


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