Thursday, February 24, 2005

Speaking of governance

It appears the author can't recognize English when she sees it

Speaking of governance
The New Indian Express

I am settling down in Bangalore, I told them with pride brimming in my voice. Ah, they said wiping their streaming sweat with unmistakable envy. Nice weather. A very civilised city. Lucky aren’t you?

I am in the midst of a traffic jam that Bangalore has become notorious for. Traffic jams in fact have become part of a Bangalorean’s life. It is amazing how the average Bangalorean has reconciled to his fate. It is amazing too how the government thrives in a blissful state of ignorance (there are 5,460 English pages on Bangalore’s bad roads in the web) and ineptitude.

It finds attending prayer meetings organiSed by shady American evangelists more important than attending to the repeated prayers of the locals to redeem the city’s roads. The evangelist boasted of curing incurable diseases with just hand push. I would have been happier if he had used his persuasive powers with the Lord to heal the heaving roads of Bangalore. I suspect all the top brass politicians that attended the mammoth meeting were in fact hoping for a miracle.

What Bangalore needs now is nothing short of a miracle. The name Bangalore no longer invokes images of lush green lawns and riotous flowers. At least that was the image I had as part of my childhood and adolescent memory, having grown up here. Six months’ stay was enough to bring about a disillusionment that I have never before experienced in my life. I am haunted everyday by nightmares even during my waking hours — of getting caught in traffic jams that are chaotic; my senses getting numbed by the crazy noise pollution that I am unable to escape from; of having a fall as I walk in the street and breaking my hip on the incredibly shameful potholes that never get repaired.

Visitors, if they are not already dead choked by air pollution and bumpy roads, are always nervous and edgy at the thought of the traffic jams and missing a flight or a train. The tourism brochure still calls it a Garden City. There cannot be a crueler joke than that. Do you say the colour of leaves is green? Think again. They are all muddy here with dust and virtually merge with the unkempt roads, having lost the chlorophyll-their identity.

And where have the flowers gone? They seem to appear only at Lal Bagh’s annual flower shows. There are no flowers on the round-about circles at cross roads that Bangalore was famous for. Even the road from the airport leading to the city has no flowerbeds on road dividers. Nor is it the retired peoples’ paradise. The poor old ones dare not take a walk like old times. With innumerable potholes on every road, the dust that emanates from traffic and ah, the killing noise of the speeding vehicles- you are bound to reach vaikundam earlier than you were destined for. I felt ageless six months ago; I now feel like an ancient.

Every time I visit Chennai, I undergo a metamorphosis. I become young again; life seems full of hope. As the cab glides smoothly on the roads from the airport or the railway station, I draw a deep breath and suck in the air as if I had been deprived of it all my life. The huge hoardings and posters with Jayalalithaa’s smiling face and words hailing the tireless work that she does for the welfare of the Tamil people no longer seems to me an exaggerated encomium of the party sycophants.

My heart fills with parochial pride and by the time I reach my destination I become a fan of the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. Look at our Chennai I want to tell my co-traveller. Look at the roads, how even and satin-smooth they are. Look how well the traffic is controlled. Look how clean the atmosphere is. Is it not wonderful to see that the leaves are green and there are actually flowering beds on the road dividers and traffic circles?

Do you see the flyovers? They may not be world class; they may have been built across roads that were not designed for flyovers. But you will surely agree that they have eased the traffic to a considerable extent. Remember they were built in record time during the previous government.

As the cab moves on I find it amazing that all the roads, even by- lanes, are smooth without potholes. The boards and signals indicating the names of the roads are bold and big and mercifully in English too, that will relieve an outsider. Oh, by the way, you have to know the Kannada script to travel in Bangalore. If you are lost, it is your problem. The road signs on the roads and on the buses are written in Kannada only.

My heart becomes heavy with regret for having left Chennai. After moving to Bangalore I had almost forgotten that roads could be without potholes. That any flyover started by the government would ever be completed. BSP — Bijili (electricity), Sadak (road), Paani (water) — still remains the slogan of all elections. I think it is only Tamil Nadu that is focused on fulfilling the promise among the southern states.

The detractors of Jayalalithaa have only to shift to Bangalore to turn into her ardent supporters in no time. At least regarding matters of governance. Governance — the most sustaining factor in the relationship between the State and the public. What is governance? It is something not covered by the traditional term ‘government’. It springs from a genuine desire to improve the living conditions of the public; to respect the rights of the people for better life, enhance environmental protection and deepen confidence in government and public administration.

What is missing in Bangalore as it fights to retain its India’s Silicon Valley tag? Good, smart governance. Bangalore, we are told ‘‘became a victim of its own success’’. The exploding growth of Bangalore as an IT hotspot has not gone hand in hand with infrastructural facilities.

Whose fault is it? What measures did the State government devise to tackle the situation when Bangalore was bursting at the seams? Why do we not see any one with a vision or even dedication to duty and commitment to the taxpayer? ‘‘We believe the problems are serious,’’ said Azim Premji, Chairman of Wipro Ltd, three years ago. The situation is worse today as the problems persist and the IT companies are seriously thinking of moving house. They even want to look outside Karnataka for expansion, sick of the lack of smart governance here. The PWD Minister can only blame the IT industry for the chaos. And the Chief Minister is always on the defence with — ‘‘Bangalore cannot become Singapore’’.

Why can’t it even compete with Chennai?



At Friday, February 25, 2005 at 12:05:00 AM GMT+5:30, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Vaasanthi, Please go back to Chennai and take other Chennai lovers. Go back to the can't live without AC, garbage smell all over, buy your drinking water city. Thanks.

At Friday, February 25, 2005 at 9:50:00 AM GMT+5:30, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well said guys.
Vaasanthi madam, bangalore is the only city where you can find people talking in all south indian languages. Its not only because of outsiders, even kannadigas speak telugu, tamil, hindi and obviously english and we bangaloreans are atleast proud of that. But not the same in case of chennai. Our city creates such a atmosphere that you wont feel alienised. And one thing you cannot compare one indian city with the other, as all the cities in india are facing these basic problems like infrastructure, transport etc.

At Friday, February 25, 2005 at 9:57:00 AM GMT+5:30, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excuse me vaasanthi, please behave like an indian. I think you would make similar comments on chennai if you move to some other countries like US, UK etc.


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