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George Iype in Bangalore |
January 20, 2005
The infotech boom that Bangalore witnessed has made it India's Silicon Valley, but this high profile tag has come at a very high cost. The boom has brought with it acute chaos on the roads making commuting a nightmare, and life in general miserable for those who work with hi-tech global companies in and around the city.
So what is increasingly missing in Bangalore as it fights to retain its 'India' s Silicon Valley' tag?
A few years ago, it took only 20 minutes to reach the Electronic City, on the outskirts of Bangalore, where campuses of leading technology behemoths like Infosys and Wipro are located.
DON'T MISS! - Bangalore, still hottest for IT firms!
These days, it takes more than 90 minutes to travel to the Electronic City, with techies, IT entrepreneurs, managers and venture capitalists, caught in traffic jams, frantically checking the time on their wristwatches.
Many roads that take the technocrats to their offices are in a shambles; pavements are dug up across the streets by various government agencies; at least three flyovers work for which started more than three years ago have been left only half complete.
Adding to the misery of Bangalore is the 'ineptitude' of the new state government headed by Chief Minister N Dharam Singh, claim managers in top IT companies.
Look what the chief minister proclaimed when Bangalore's sorry state of affairs was brought to his attention: "Bangalore cannot become Singapore."
Public Works Department Minister H D Revanna claims Bangalore is now unable to cope with the huge load on its groaning infrastructure. At a recent public meeting, Revanna blamed the IT industry for the city's woes, saying that the industry representatives should help the government fix bad roads.
Many say the biggest casualty that Bangalore has suffered is the unceremonious exit of former chief minister S M Krishna, who was the driving force behind Bangalore's explosive growth in the IT sector in the last few years.
In year 2000, Krishna took the pioneering initiative to set up the Bangalore Agenda Task Force. All top technocrats and industrial captains were members of this task force.
The BATF successfully created a platform for all key civic organisations to develop and integrate their short-term and long-term work plans for Bangalore.
And what was the BATF motto? Make Bangalore the best city in India by 2004.
How? By upgrading and enhancing the managerial and administrative capabilities of various civic and administrative stakeholders; enabling provision of citizen-oriented, high-quality public services to improve the physical quality of life for individuals and communities; and augmenting the financial resources and revenues of stakeholders to enable them to perform at world-class levels.
The BATF brought about a sea change in the infrastructure and utility services in Bangalore. Among the notable projects that it executed were Swaaccha Bangalore; Fund Based Accounting System; Self-Assessment System of property tax collection based on rateable value; and Nirmala Bangalore.
But sadly, the ouster of the Krishna regime led to the demise of BATF. A senior Karnataka government official now says that BATF is 'as good as dead these days.'
Many point a finger at Chief Minister Dharam Singh for BATF's ruin. They say he did not show much interest in continuing with BATF because 'it was Krishna's brainchild.'
So will the harassed Bangaloreans, particularly those techies working with hi-tech global companies in and around the city, continue to be caught in traffic jams on potholed roads?
Officials say it is naïve to write any obituary on Bangalore's infrastructure developments. They point out that some of the ambitious ongoing projects could still make Bangalore the best city in India in the next three years.
What are these projects?
1. First, the biggest flyover. Technocrats in Bangalore have joined hands with the government to launch a unique flyover project, from the Hosur Road to the Electronic City. The length of the flyover -- nine kilometres -- makes it the largest ever infrastructure project that IT companies have decided to execute with government help.
Occupants of the Electronic City-that include Infosys and Wipro -- have contributed Rs 100 crore (Rs 1 billion) for the construction of the flyover. The total cost of construction to be undertaken by the National Highways Authority of India is pegged around Rs 450 crore.
NHAR officials say 'it is the most marvellous flyover project in the country.'
The huge four-lane flyover will be built on a steel girder high up in the sky, even as traffic flows uninterrupted on the road 10 metres below.
2. The Bangalore Metro. The Metro Rail for the Silicon Valley is another grand project that global firms are pushing for. Already, the Central government has given a green signal for the Rs 6,207 crore (Rs 62.07 billion) project.
The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation has been appointed consultants for the project, and the state and central governments are to share the cost on 50:50 basis.
3. There are a number of other upcoming road projects across Bangalore and its outskirts. They include a four-lane stretch of 74-km Kundapur-Suratkal road to be built at a cost of Rs 500 crore (Rs 5 billion); the 85-km Bangalore-Mulbagal road; the six-lane road between K R Puram and Hoskote; a four-lane 157-km Nelamangala-Hassan road; and a 131-km peripheral ring road, critical to decongesting the city.Plans for all the road projects are ready. The only lingering worry is whether they would be delayed forever.