September 21, 2005


Bangalore’s gone bust. And people are losing patience over the government’s apathy. Will it ever do anything about it?

Times News Network

THE city’s crumbling. The roads are full of potholes; when it rains, the drains overflow; the traffic’s a nightmare. The World Bank report has slammed the city’s inadequate infrastructure. The governor too has said he’s worried about the state of infrastructure. Frustrated with the government’s inertia, Bangalore’s woes have triggered negative responses from all sections of society: IT czars have decided to boycott the forthcoming mega IT event; housewives in JP Nagar and Puttenahalli have stopped the CM’s cavalcade, demanding action. Is the government listening? Or sidestepping issues by playing the political card?

Is this government really going to do anything about infrastructure problems? BT asked those concerned about the city this question. The answers:

Bob Hoekstra, CEO Philips India Software:

I think without fundamental change in the governance of Bangalore, nothing much will happen on the infra
structure front. The World Bank report mentions improper planning and lack of coordination between agencies, among other key issues — this has to be looked into. The city needs strong, motivational leadership and a comprehensive co-ordinated effort between all the agencies associated with infrastructure. The problem is that all agencies here are doing their own thing — in the absence of an orchestrated effort by them, the outcome is something that sounds like a huge din, it’s discordant. Stability in leadership is also the need of the hour.
   However, one good thing is that the government is slightly changing its position. Earlier, when they first came into power, they would not even mention certain issues. Now, they’re at least looking at addressing them.

Kalpana Kar, former BATF member:

Any government needs to do two things — immediate, shortterm measures, and long-term
planning. The government is responding to long-term needs such as the Devanahalli airport and the Metro rail. But I don’t think the city has the patience for these. Citizens are frustrated because the government has come to a standstill with existing projects. Earlier, these projects had been carrying on with the people’s involvement, and the city had got used to being involved, not any more. Things were moving. Now people have to be pacified by meeting their immediate needs.

Prakash Gurbaxani, CEO TransWorks:

This is a constant issue, it’s been around for years, irrespective of the government in power. It would be unfair to blame this government alone, as this situation has come about after years of improper planning, lack of long-term strategies to tackle infrastructure problems and poor implementation. This government has been around just for a year, they don’t have a magic wand. However, the existing mess still has to be taken care of. The solution is not a band-aid approach but brain surgery. Those responsible must go back to the drawing board, re-strategise and see how things can be done differently to make our infrastructure better. These are problems
which any city can have, tackling the problem effectively is what can give us the edge.

Swati Ramanathan, co-founder, Janaagraha:

Will the government ever do anything about infrastructure problems? Certainly. I’d like to believe so. Otherwise all of us will suffer constantly from road rage, and all of us will be killed by cars and two-wheelers. Our productivity’s dipping because of traffic jams. The government must get its act together. But the infrastructure expenditure is huge — Rs 28,000 crore. And, planning must be longterm. Short-term solutions will quieten everybody, but the problem will get repetitive. So far, decision making has been unilateral. It must be consultative. I’m a die-hard optimist. Definitely, the government will do something, but it’s a question of political and bureaucratic leadership.

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