Thursday, September 29, 2005

Government silent on reviving BATF

Government silent on reviving BATF

The Hindu

IT industry keen on reviving `private-public partnership'

BANGALORE: The information technology (IT) majors may have called a truce and ended their threat to boycott the Bangalore IT.In, the annual event sponsored by the Government.

But underlying tensions still linger; one demand of the industry to which the Government has not responded is the revival of the Bangalore Agenda Task Force (BATF).

The BATF, considered a brainchild of the former Chief Minister S.M. Krishna, was a public-private initiative, which over four years monitored the functioning of the civic body and public utilities and pointed out lapses. A beneficial fallout for the citizens were projects partly funded by the IT industry.

The Nirmala Bangalore pay-and-use toilets are an example of this. Twenty-seven of them were funded by Sudha Murthy's Infosys Foundation and 52 were built by the Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BMP) to high standards of cleanliness. More were to come up but suitable land was not available.

The BATF annual event became a part of the city calendar with the Bangalore Forward tagline.

The BMP, the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA), the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB), Bangalore Electricity Supply Company (BESCOM) and the police presented "progress report"' on their performances and these were discussed in depth. Suggestion to improve their functioning was made and taken seriously. The corporates helped out by sponsoring parks, playgrounds and by beautifying barren traffic islands. The Lake Development Authority (LDA) rejuvenated some of the lakes in and around the city. Some lakes were reclaimed by the BMP and the Forest Department.

Ever since the Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) coalition came to power, voices were raised against the BATF on the grounds that the corporates were dictating terms to the Government. The IT industry cannot claim to represent all sections of Bangaloreans was another charge. Although Chief Minister N. Dharam Singh hinted at reviving the BATF, no step was taken.

The Janata Dal (S) leadership is reported to be against the idea. Its pro-rural and pro-poor slant may not fit in with a voluntary body which is largely represented by the IT and biotechnology sectors. When the boycott threat was called off, Infosys Chairman and Chief Mentor N.R. Narayana Murthy said "the public-private partnership should be resurrected so that infrastructure works can be expedited and their progress monitored." Biocon Chairperson Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw has expressed the same sentiment and said a partnership between the Government and industry will certainly help and refurbish Bangalore's image.


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