Thursday, August 31, 2006

Times Now takes the city a step forward

Times Now takes the city a step forward
The Times of India

Bangalore: From corruption to illegal marriage halls, from terrible traffic to cultural divides — the Times Now panel discussion, organised as part of the Bangalore Tomorrow initiative was crisp yet comprehensive. Held at the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) campus, with the help of the institute’s Centre for Public Policy on Wednesday, the discussion aimed at looking at a solution for the city’s problems for a better future.

The panelists were a mix of Bangalore’s bureaucracy, concerned citizens and active social participants — MLC B K Chandrashekhar, BMP commissioner K Jairaj, JCP (crime) Gopal Hosur, singer-actor Vasundhara Das, environmentalist Leo Saldanha and Vrinda Bhaskar from Children’s Movement for Civic Awareness.

Moderator and Times Now editor-inchief Arnab Goswami kickstarted the discussion with the increasing crime rate. “Our crimes are lower than any other city and BPO crimes are an abberation and not a trend as the media has portrayed,’’ defended Hosur.

The next pointer was the lack of planning in the city that was made by Chandrashekhar. Blaming BMP, BDA and the government, he said, “The mythical Slum Clearance Board should be wound up.’’

Jairaj cited the infrastructure provisioning as inadequate for the city’s expansion rate, while Saldanah blamed BDA for Bangalore being an “encroachment galore city.’’

However, it was Das and Bhaskar who pointed out that the city lacked citizen participation. “In civic awareness surveys conducted by our organisation over the past four years, over 50 per cent of the population is not even aware of the concept of wards, let alone knowing which ward they come under,’’ said Bhaskar.

A member from the audience made a point about the illegal commercial encroachments in basements, while another lamented on the number of illegal marriage halls mushrooming in all corners of the city sending the traffic haywire, but Jairaj offered no concrete solution.

Bangalore versus Bengaluru was a subject of discussion, where a majority of the audience disagreed that the change would help bridge the widening cultural and economic divide.

The topic of corruption saw heated participation and while Jairaj said that people should stop paying bribes, the audience retaliated saying that the bribes were demand-driven.

But on the optimistic side, the audience agreed that despite all its problems and unpreparedness to face the boom, they wouldn’t shift out of the city. Love it or hate it, you can’t leave namma Bengaluru.

(Watch out for the telecast on September 9 and 10 at 9.30 am and 6.30 pm on Times Now)

Famous last words
Chandrashekhar: We must introduce at least functional Kannada so that citizens feel a sense of ownership towards the city.
Jairaj: We must be optimistic about the active citizen civic participation and recognise Bangalore’s potential.
Hosur: We must be prepared to resist terrorist attacks. The nature of crime is going to change and will become more organised and cyber-driven.
Das: How many of us would actually get up and do something? How many students opt for politics as a career?
Saldanha: I see no space for the poor in the expansion plans of Greater Bangalore. And there’s no space for citizen participation.
Bhaskar: There is space for a citizen’s forum, which we must make use of and be more aware.


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