Some of us used to plead that if we wanted Bengaluru to become a globally attractive city, then we must also create world class infrastructure. The decisions were influenced more by cost considerations rather than by the need for world class infrastructure which would meet the requirement of the city for the next over 100 years. In short, we had no realistic planned development of the city and allowed it to grow haphazardly in all directions and without creating the required supporting infrastructure.
Corruption and stranglehold of the land mafia and contractors over the government system and the political interference in administration at all levels has paralysed the entire civic and public services in the city. The result is there for every one to see. The roads are full of potholes, the ill-maintained footpaths have become parking lots for all types of vehicles and for vendors of all varieties of products. The avenue trees and electric poles are being covered with all kinds of ugly looking hoardings and, of late, many trees are being tortured by all kinds of illuminations.
There are hoardings at most of the important traffic junctions, which are traffic hazards; traffic moves at snails pace most of the times and traffic jams are everyday affairs. The state of other infrastructure like water, power, schools, hospitals, parks, playgrounds for the children, public transport etc, is no better.
The lakes and tanks, which gave the city its wonderful climate, have been encroached by the land mafia. All the major open drains are choked with the city waste and have become breeding ground for mosquitoes. In short, Bengaluru has almost become an unliveable city. It is already in the ICU and needs immediate major surgery for its survival.
It is unfortunate that we the Bengalureans are largely responsible for most of the chaos in the city. We violate the traffic rules; we jump the traffic signals, overtake from the wrong side and drive on the footpaths. We litter the roads, lanes and bye lanes. We are aggressive and do not respect law. We also indulge in corruption of all sorts. And we blame the government and its civic institutions for all that ails Bengaluru.
I am sure no Bengalurean wants the city to die. The challenge before all of us is how to save it. We all know it is not easy to change attitudes of the people. It will need sustained campaigning, stringent laws and iron will on the part of the government machinery, to improve the situation. No doubt it is a Herculean task but a beginning needs to be made in this direction. May I suggest the following measures for consideration of all stakeholders:
i. Create a high powered committee to be headed by the chief minister to coordinate, oversee and direct all the concerned institutions and ensure that necessary legislative, administrative and financial resources are made available to fix the problems of the city;
ii. The elected representatives should not have any direct or indirect interest/ role in the execution of the works, which should be left to the concerned departments;
iii. The city corporation should have elected representatives with a six year-term and one third of them should retire every two years like in the Rajya Sabha. Thus, the corporation will have continuity in its policies and programmes;
iv. The mayor should have a minimum tenure of three years and should have full powers over the employees of the corporation. The state government should have no powers over BBMP except when there is constitutional breakdown;
v. The businesses and corporates must contribute to the resources for the development and maintenance of city infrastructure. Their contributions should be decided by their own associations and they should get tax benefits for their contributions;
vi. The various civil society organisations should have well defined roles in policies, programmes and projects of the city;
vii. Have a sustained campaign to educate and sensitise the citizens, particularly the young, for their civic responsibilities;
viii. Have much more stringent laws for traffic violations and for defacing public places, including against littering. Hoardings of all varieties should be completely banned, except the commercial hoardings at designated places; and,
ix. Create a live, sensitive and effective institutional arrangement for redressal of public complaints as well as for looking into their suggestions/recommendations to improve the functioning of service providers.
I am sure many more useful suggestions will be forthcoming once the government puts these suggestions in public domain and seeks comments from the general public. The time is running out not only for Bengaluru but for Karnataka, as Bengaluru is the very heart of the state.
Author: J K Arora is former Additional Chief Secretary, Government of Karnataka
Credits Deccan Herald