Sunday, October 30, 2005

They created the mess, and now blame everyone but themselves

They created the mess, and now blame everyone but themselves
The Times of India

When sleepy Bangalore rose to become the hub of software technology, everyone basked in its glory. Successive chief ministers, from Deve Gowda to S M Krishna, claimed credit for putting the city on the world IT map. They invited MNCs and investors with open arms. The city flourished. Other cities looked at it with envy. Its share in the state GDP rose sharply. Now, when Bangalore is bursting at its seams, and its infrastructure crumbling, no one is coming to its rescue. And those who led the city to its present state are now blaming everyone but themselves.

The powers that be in the coalition government choose to blame the mess on the IT industry. They accuse it of congesting the city, grabbing land, and not contributing towards its upkeep. When the industry protests, they charge it with carrying on a whispering campaign to destabilise the government. They even play urban versus rural and language cards to divert the issue. When the industry offers to participate in public-private partnerships, they suspect motives. And when a well-meaning IT czar tries to bring about a rapprochement and makes suggestions to set things right in Bangalore, he is humiliated and forced to retreat.

It is sad that those who matter look at Bangalore with blinkered eyes. If Bangalore earns, the state progresses. Such is its status in the IT arena. The city’s contribution to the state exchequer is high. But it needs to be cared for. Its infrastructure has not kept pace with the city’s growth. The population has risen manifold. So too has the number of vehicles. Citizens go through a harrowing time everyday due to badly maintained roads, traffic jams, choked drains, waterlogging during rain, and erratic power and water supply. They do protest, but their voice is not heard. When the powerful IT sector protests, the authorities at least wake up and react, if not act.

Take the case of the downpour a few days ago that paralysed Bangalore. The entire city was waterlogged. Sewage and rain water entered houses. Buildings collapsed. Tanks and lakes breached. Roads were flooded causing traffic jams. Power and drinking water supply were badly affected. Many localities lay inundated for days. Civic agencies looked on helpless. The policemen did their best, but in vain, to streamline traffic. VIPs who visited the affected areas tried to derive political mileage by attacking their rivals, offered lip sympathy, made hollow promises, sought hefty compensation from the Centre, and disappeared.

Who then is to blame? Everyone. From political rulers, officials, builders, encroachers to citizens. Bangalore’s undulating topography prevents it from being flooded. But, the city was allowed to develop haphazardly, flouting all norms of proper infrastructure. Natural valleys and lakes, which took in excess rain water, were encroached upon. Most of the 2,789 lakes in and around Bangalore at one time were converted into stadia, commercial complexes, bus stations and layouts. Now, when Bangalore is in the pits, the very persons responsible for the mess are trying to pass the buck.

It is no use crying over spilt milk. We cannot turn the clock back. But we can certainly stop further deterioration, and make sincere efforts to improve infrastructure. Put politics on the backburner, identify problems, find solutions, fix deadlines and appoint go-getting officials to implement them. Encourage publicprivate partnership. Proceed fast on short- and long-term plans. Come down heavily on encroachers. Bangalore must be protected and developed at any cost for the good of the state.


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