Sunday, June 05, 2005

Bangalore - I

A few days back, I, along with two very close friends of mine made my way home in an autorickshaw from work. It was raining, and naturally, we had the time of our lives trying to get an auto, get in it, and get back home. While the journey itself was uneventful, we got into an argument (we always do, only the topic differs) about Bangalore's condition. While I was arguing that the problems of Bangalore are due to imbecilic politicians and bureaucrats, and generally lower expectations of the people, my friends argued that there were resource constraints, and more importantly, too many people.

So, who is right? I don't deny that Bangalore is no Boston which can throw 80billion US$ at the Big Dig. But how much money does it take:
  • to have motorable roads that are straight, with clearly marked lanes, reflectors and slopes for drainage?
  • to have storm water drains that are clean, closed and that can take the load of the monsoon rains?
  • to have footpaths that don't require mountain-climbing skills to walk on?
  • to have sewage connections for every home, so that they don't let out sewage water into the storm water drains?
  • to have proper lighting for the entire city?
  • to have adequate green cover for all our roads?

Now, all of these are easily affordable by our very own BMP. But why is it that none of these happen? You all know the answer - corruption. How can the officials give out contracts if the roads remain in good condition? How can you spend 60cr on removing silt from storm water drains if you have closed drains?

So, what is the answer? I don't know.


kattricker said...

Yes, corruption is definitely the reason. Its a dangerous concoction of greed, inefficiency and lack of any bit of quality sense. Even if we assume that all our corrupt authorities were to get enlightned about their duty, their sense of quality completion of a job would be abysmally low. Go to any government department, you will meet a stereo-typical example of this potion rampant in everyone.

One solution that has shown some relief is government dis-investment and private participation with strong market forces. But with coalition governments everywhere, any kind of ambitious reform is gonna be shot down like we've seen it happening.

Vikram said...

Its easy to blame it on corruption, but there are umpteen instanced where we fuel it ourselves - knowingly or unknowingly. I hope some of us are 'enlightened' enough to understand and avoid fuelling corruption.

On the brighter side, things have been changing off late. or at least corruption is less obvious than it used to be.

Reforms cannot happen overnight - its like trying to turn around Titanic. If you try to do it too fast, the ship will break. I personally believe things are improving and I think we should be patient enough for another 10 years to see more effective functioning of government machinery.

Take a look around in Bangalore for instance - touts no longer infest RTO as they used to, the face of Bangalore Parks has changed quite dramatically in the past 2 years, the ring roads, fly-overs, underpasses...

Of course, we could have done without delays in fly-over construction, a faster decision on international airport, the messy Banneraghatta road etc. But hey! its happening, and lets keep some faith.

But the question still lingers - how much are we responsible for it?

H said...

I think it is mainly due to the mediocratic nature of the people which is ingrained in our culture. We do'nt expect the best out of our Govt. We have taken it for granted that this is the best which can happen in our country. One cannot blame the people for most of them would not have seen any other place other than their own city/village.Things are slowly changing now due to more and more people getting exposed to Cable TV and more and more people travelling to different parts of the country and some to different countries.
Insufficient resources is not an excuse, it is more of
mismanagement of existing resource. If the exisiting resource is efficiently managed, I do'nt see any reason why the living conditions cannot be improved.
The greatest problem is our Govt, but then in a democracy , it is us who have elected our MLA's and MP's, so there is something wrong
then with our education system which empowers such non performing
I can't think of an imaginative solution for these other than increasing the literacy level, so that people can at least know what is good for them. There should be some way of holding referendums and making the ministers and bureaucrats accountable for non performance.
Another solution which I can think of is outsource the entire civic work maintenance for a couple of years to some global consulting firms, (something like McKinsey) with a simple goal of creating the best of inrastructure , the ways and means of doing it is upto them. This can be expensive, but in the end at least whatever needs to be built gets built.

Gops said...

Karthi, Harsha, I agree with you totally.

Balbir Singh said...

Good points all of you, but I would like to bring in another factor, our HUGE population.

We have so many people that people think that it does matter if someone gets hurt. Which is completely wrong. If you go to any public office, you will find a big queue of people, so the officer does not give a damn about public service. Our resources are over burderned with people

The problem is that the people in control are under paid and looks for alternative means of making money. This needs to be fixed as a first priority with stricter norms for public servents and an a special judiciary for punishing the defaulters quickly.

kattricker said...

I think people are our greatest asset. The western countries with thin populations have turned towards mechanization and automation to counter lack of human resources although machines cant replace humans in many fields. Its left to us to convert this burden into an opportunity.

Vikram said...

Katrik, you are heading for (kat)tricky waters! "people are our greatest asset" is what Nehru said and here we are today - at 105 crores! we don't know what to do with this population. We still have a long way to go to make our population an 'ass'et.

We have had this oppurtunity since the past 20 years and what have done? If historical trends are anything to go by, I don't see us doing much with this population in the near future, except increasing it.

kattricker said...

Isnt that what fortune at the bottom of the pyramid all about? Numbers. India's middle class population is pegged at 300 million (although this isnt middle class for developed country standards). It compares to approx the population of north america. Manmohan Singh's liberalization of 1991 although a small start in economics could result in a significant rise of purchasing power - a definite step in the right direction.

With today's economies being more and more consumeristic, investors will put their money where the consumer is. India is the fourth largest economy in the world in terms of PPP (after US, China and Japan). Developed countries such as Germany and UK figure below. With GDP growth at 6-7%, its one of the fastest growing nations today. India is the destination for many industries not just because its cost effective, but because of availability of large pool of skilled manpower. Compare India with other low cost destinations such as Philipines, Indonesia, Vietnam and other south east asian nations. It has an edge because of sheer numbers. India also has strong institutions - educational, governamental and to a good extent judicial (compare that to China).

I think we know what to do with our population - create more opportunities (textiles, software, pharma are big - focus on manufacturing, hardware, auto, agri industries by cutting more duties and making SEZs), dont over-employ (improve productivity), divest public and government investments and regulate as little as necessary. We also need to make today's population skilled in tomorrow's industries. Make India a "fair" state and not a "welfare" state. In short - convert the burden into opportunity. QED!

Anonymous said...

Wow! That is quite a response! Thanks guys! Makes having a blog worthwhile...I'll post my comment in a day or two...