Sunday, December 04, 2005

Namma Benguluru..

Bangalore is known as the Silicon Valley of India, well at least we Bangaloreans like to pamper ourselves everyday by reminding ourselves that all big IT and BPO companies are in Bangalore. Infact many argue that the roads have deteriorated after the BPO Qualis-Sumo army have been parading on Bangalore's roads 24x7 to spoil our roads further. It is time we Bangaloreans come to terms - our roads have valleys all over Bangalore. The city with its cosmopolitan crowd of late has been facing a lot of negatives because of the falling standard in infrastructure. Its high time that something needs to be done else the city will loose its sheen as the one of the “knowledge capital of the world”.

The city has lots of these: narrow bridges, dangerous curves, abraded surface, potholes, cracked cement, collapsed culverts, bulging parapets, uneven or missing sidewalks, bumps and caving, poor or absent lighting. That's what its citizens endure everyday and still life goes on. But the question till how long?

The outrage is masked in a paradox. Today, India 'tops' in the IT and pharmaceutical sectors and a major share is shipped from Bangalore. It makes software, computers, cars, chips, garments, bio-products and what not, yet the city at the threshold of the 21st century cannot make decent roads for its own people. A simple drive to office which used to take earlier 10 minutes now takes close to 45 minutes if all goes fine and you are able to snake through the long chains of traffic and through the bellies of half constructed fly over.

I sometimes wonder that the city, which has the highest concentration of, educated people in India from all streams such as technology, science, medicine, administration, etc etc still follows the primitive methods of edge road repair technology. The streets of which were laid one-year back get worn out soon and one can find a carpet of potholes. This is not the case with all the roads but with the ones, which have come up new to cater to the teeming population explosion in the city.

Bangalore is today the one of the fastest growing cities in the world and every day close to 200 individuals migrate to this city. In the global village a nation is judged by the roads it keeps. It cannot pretend to have both ways: bad roads and prosperity. Of late few delegates from the tech/banking/consulting firms based in US and Europe came to Bangalore to start their operations here. They were overwhelmed by the intellectual capital, knowledge base and the entrepreneur skills of Indians (apart from the main factors like cost effectiveness and round the clock 24/7 business). But what left a bad mark on most of them was the poor state of infrastructure, especially the roads and the traffic jams.

It's a bogus excuse to say that Bangalore cannot make good roads because of the lack of funds and monsoon and blah blah. The inhabitants of this city pay income taxes regularly and so this clarifies for the first reason and temperature in Bangalore is around 20 to 25 degrees centigrade all round the year with its regular share of monsoon for a short while and this clarifies the second point. The major problem is the lack of planning on the part of the government and most importantly the entire ruling machinery is devoid of people who lack foresight. They are good in raising voices when someone does something good, take for instance the NRMurthy and Deve Gowda episode. It is sad that NRMurthy, the doyen of Indian Tech and Software Industry responsible for driving the new age knowledge economy was questioned about his integrity and actions.

I have a few points, which can be implemented in a simple and lucid way, (am no hi-fi management guru or city planner but a simple engineer making the margins of a US based firm keep ticking :-)) and all it takes is a little change in the cushioned chair we all sit in Bangalore. Lets get up for a while and do something in our small ways, I feel can be done.

1. The city is home to one of the best Business Schools in the world, IIM Bangalore. I feel that a group of smart brains in these campuses instead of going to other places for summer internship can take up city planning and management for a short stint of 3 months. For their thesis topics, let the MBA and civil engineering students (again make use of IISc, which is of the league of Stanford and MIT and the 40 engineering schools in the city) choose lengths of some crucial public roads and pore over the records: the money spent, materials used, work quality, repair frequency, travel hazards and so on, to highlight the city's roads

2. The city has numerous firms from all over the world (you name it and you have it in Bangalore) and these firms have many smart managers. These managers can form small teams in the area where they live and on a routine basis work towards the civic and infrastructure development . They should execute this as a project with the same mindset and the dedication the way they work in their offices. Consider it as another time bound project. The point is our job doesn’t end by paying taxes only in the present scenario as we have seen that the government works in a tortoise like speed when the world is moving at a hare’s speed. So if we can take some extra responsibility then it can work out fine.

Outcome: Serving the society and teamwork is exhibited at its highest level as you get to interact with a wide spectrum of people.

3. NGOs can undertake projects like “adopt a road “ and enhance public awareness about roads. They should insist on a partial privatising the road building business. Some talented and foresighted people movement like “Janagraha” of course does this.

4. “Citizens Committees for Better Roads” can help manage the public road system. Spare two hours of your weekends to question the government body about the progress and the expenditure of the funds. All it needs is teamwork as it is done in office and shop floors. If a good chunk of people comes forward to work in this direction, one need not spend more than 2 hours a month that too on a weekend to make a change, since the responsibilty gets distributed among all.

So if it’s Amchi Mumbai, I should always feel proud to say “ Naama Benguluru”. So stop honking at the road junctions and cribbing while waiting for long queues at traffic signals and make a difference in your small way.

2 Comments:

At 10:06 PM, Blogger sanchapanzo said...

Tanay,

Guess, all these volunteerism wont really work. I think 'privatising roads' also wont work. Better alternative is to employ professionals like L and T or other major road-builders and ask them to chalk out a plan for better road-management. This has to be done in Build Operate and Transfer basis. It is important roads are government's(people's) property rather than some private enterprise. Government should just do the role of choosing the best among the plans and fund it handsomely for wrapping up this task asap. If Government says 'no funds' then guess IMF/World Bank should step-in.

It is crazy if Government actually steps into domains where they have no expertise.

 
At 7:47 PM, Blogger Sujatha said...

Tanay, wow! this is a long post. Thanks for your e-mail and for visiting and reading my blog. I will certainly read your posts.

A bunch of us Bangalore bloggers are planning to volunteer at Akshara. If you are interested or if you have friend who might be, please ask them to leave a comment on my posts either on Blogpourri or on http://everymanscity.blogspot.com/2005/12/akshara-volunteer-meeting.html.

Thanks again,

 

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