Sunday, November 26, 2006

Chance to make a difference

Chance to make a difference
The Times of India

A turbulent five-year term of the 11th council of representatives of the Bangalore Mahanagara Palike has come to an end. During the period, the BMP received a lot of flak from the people for insensitivity towards their problems, inadequate civic amenities, poor maintenance of roads and footpaths, lack of space for parking of vehicles, choked and overflowing drains, inundation of low-lying areas when it rains, tardy garbage clearance, slow progress of infrastructure projects, corruption at all levels and an unholy nexus between corporators, officials and contractors. And when cornered by the public over shoddy work, both elected representatives and officials passed the buck without batting an eyelid.
There is breathing space between now and the formation of the next council, about six to seven months. It’s a good opportunity to crack the whip and put all projects on the fast track. Bangalore must get back onto the rails. Widen roads that are chocka-block with traffic 24 hours a day. Build more flyovers, roads on stilts, underpasses, subways and skywalks. Speed up work on approach roads to the upcoming international airport. Put the Metro Rail work on the fast track.
Greater Bangalore must become a reality. Seven CMCs and one TMC, often referred to as ‘poor cousins’ on the periphery of Bangalore, are crying for attention. Civic amenities are pathetic, roads are not motorable, government land has been encroached upon and illegal buildings have sprouted. With top companies located in and around these areas, the demand for good infrastructure and connectivity has increased.
An administrator is in place. He and the commissioner must put their heads together, take quick decisions, select a team of efficient, upright and go-getting officials, put them in key areas, shunt out corrupt and lethargic staff to places that do not entail dealing with the public, encourage private-public participation, involve resident welfare associations in decision making and impose strict deadlines on all works.
The general impression among the people as well as bureaucrats is that corporators act as impediments. Now that they aren’t around, the administrator-commissioner duo must get things moving. And they should keep in constant touch with residents’ associations to dispel the feeling that bureaucrats, unlike elected representatives, are not responsive to people’s problems. The government, on its part, must give them a free hand and adequate powers, protect them from political interference and give them adequate funds. Providing civic amenities to CMCs on par with the existing city areas is a herculean task. Merely bringing them under BMP will serve no purpose.
This comment is doing the rounds — ‘When the BMP’s record is already bad, how can one expect it to do justice to an enlarged Bangalore?’. The onus of dispelling this cynicism lies with the government. A fast-growing and revenue-generating metro like Bangalore must imbibe corporate culture. The administrator and commissioner must act like CEOs. Prepare time-bound projects. Reward the efficient and show the door to the inefficient. Now is the time to restore the past glory of Bangalore — the glory that put the Garden City on the global map a decade ago.


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