Monday, December 20, 2004

Bangalore's Bag Of Woes

Rewind to... May 2002.
I came to the "Silicon Valley" of India, at a time when rest of India-IT was undergoing a recession. Coming from Chennai at that time, I was in awe of Bangalore, particularly the sight of the impeccable International Tech Park in whitefield, the many gardens that graced the fast growing city and the presence of an open and cosmopolitan ambience. Also interesting and strange was the traffic flow management with electrnic signal timers and relatively clean traffic cops(I come from Chennai!! sigh!). Though the roads were narrower compared to Chennai, there were many fly-overs and underpasses like the sirsi flyover, the Richmond circle flyover and the majestic Mekhri circle where I am yet to witness a traffic jam. The air was relatively less polluted(breathable) and the numerous parks were well maintained and all this inspite of being a drought year! The infrastructure, was good with the private - public partnership effort BATF(Bangalore Action Task Force) championed by Jaykar Jerome and InfoSys going full throttle. Nothing could go wrong except for the yearly Cauvery fiasco and its associated political baggages(infact S.M.Krishna the then CM was on the verge of being arrested for contempt of court on this issue).
Back to the Present..
December 2004. Bangalore of the present is giving nightmares for people who want to travel, whichever mode they choose, the scenario is frightening!! The city has been growing monstrously, while the civic administration has been sleeping shamelessly. Pollution levels are at an all time high and as a result the summers are getting longer and hotter. The very charm of the weather which used to attract all the CEOs of major companies is slowly but surely withering away. Added to that the clogged roads, jammed signals are increasing the travel time manifold. The government which was responsive to the industry (IT and ITES) earlier has now grown indifferent. The indifference has effectively crippled the BATF and the infrastructure projects like various flyovers are lying in doldrums. Added to that the international airport project in Devanahalli has proven to be the ideal non-starter. All the outlying suburbs which were being developed with an eye on the future are now languishing for want of better infrastructure. Case in point is the Uttarahalli road (if you travel once, I bet you will not call it a road), a promising suburb with a huge Brigade residency apartments is having one of the busiest traffic for a suburb while the road looks like a NASA Marslander's snap of Martian terrain. The residents feel that the roads are a throwback to Satavahana era or the chalukya era(historians may dispute saying that even people of that time enjoyed flatter roads!!:-)). As the roads are getting bombarded with infinitely expanding number of vehicles and infinitely delayed flyovers, Bangalore Traffic police are rerouting traffic in the city in a manner that can be plausible only to the proponents of String theory!!! The Richmond circle rerouting clearly goes on to show that the life time worthiness of an idea behind a flyover is not even 3 years!!! Refer to this article which hails the Richmond circle flyover at the time of completion and contrast it with the current rerouting of traffic around it!!! There is a race going on between the Airport road flyover project and Bannerghatta Road flyover project (near Jayadeva Institute of Cardiology), as to which will finish last and let me tell you the race is very tight! I guess even snails would have completed the project by now. Industry tried cajoling the political bosses! It didn't work! Then they cried foul !! It didn't work yet!! Latest salvo fired is the threat to run away!! And early signs indicate that this missile is also way off target, for a government that is committed to non-improvement of everyone involved, including the poor farmers, whom they claim to represent. If the industry keeps up the threat, then it will be an irony of sorts for me, who left Chennai for better prospects in Bangalore, will be returning to Chennai, albeit with the entire industry floating with me!!!!
As a tail piece you can add the unbeleivable rowdyism involved in the display against other language films in Bangalore offlate, to the overflowing cup of woes of "Namma Bangalore". I do sympathise with genuine kannadiga displeasure over domination of Hindi in the local media (Listen to Radio city FM programs and you will think that it is being broadcast from Delhi rather than Bangalore!), the manner of stoning the theatres is in bad taste. I am an eternal optimist and I cannot do anything but hope that powers that be in Bangalore wake up and take note of the crumbling state of affairs. I think that with outsourcing being the mantra for global companies, cheaper cities like Chennai will soon overtake Bangalore. From problems of plenty to plenty of problems, From an overfilled cornucopia to an overfilled bag of woes, Bangalore is seemingly on the downward spiral to a state of destitution. But hope lingers on since for that to happen, Bangalore's bosses have to remain in slumber for a few more months. I hope they wake up!


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