Bangalore! Just a few years ago, the very name conjured up images of gardens, salubrious weather, elegant layouts and old Mysore charm, which evoked and still evokes a nostalgia for Mysore masala dosas in small Udupi-style hotels like Vidyarthi Bhavan, where great writers, playwrights, civil servants, journalists gathered over one-by-two coffees, a city known for pure science and research and great scientists like CV Raman and CNR Rao. And now in the last two decades, the city has become renowned for its culture of innovation, progress of IT, bio-technology and entrepreneurship, and a modern, pluralistic, tolerant and cosmopolitan culture. In short, a great city to make it your home—gracious, rooted in old-world charm and yet modern and upbeat.
Today, alas, it has lost most of its sheen. The first impressions of Bangalore for any new visitor is that of a city which looks as though it is ‘bombed’—ravaged and deeply scarred with its lush green cover mostly depleted barring islands of defence properties . Broken roads and unsafe side walks in disrepair, mountains of debris and piles of garbage wherever one casts a glance and with cows rummaging in the pile not an uncommon sight, run-down parks, elegant houses and charming residential areas devoured by ugly high rises, mindless flyovers and badly planned metro lines, which have destroyed the pleasing landscape and heritage areas of the city and a noisy, polluted, burgeoning city choking in its uncontrollable traffic and garbage and bursting at its seams.
The hapless city fathers and administrators at their wits’ end seem helpless, overwhelmed, and unable or out of depth to tackle and manage the frenetic growth of the city. In spite of the crumbling infrastructure, woeful civic services, surprisingly the city is still a magnet and a lode star amongst all the cities in india and beckons the ever-increasing and unstoppable influx of migrant labour along with young, unemployed educated youth from rural Karnataka in their thousands, pouring into the city every day with dreams in their eyes and hopes in their heart to seek a better future in the famed city of opportunities. And the city continues to attract new multinationals eager to invest millions of their dollars to tap into the relatively cheaper but bright educated IT professionals and venture capitalists to keen to fund start ups with hopes of raking in millions.
With more and more cars being delivered every day by a plethora of automobile manufacturers in an array of dazzling colours, models and features and coming within easy reach of the millions of the new emerging aspiring middle class as a result of creation of wealth in the wake of reforms and successful careers and businesses, and owing to the inexorable migration of hundreds of thousands of rural population every day, Bangalore’s inadequate and dismal infrastructure and acute scarcity of drinking water, lack of sanitation etc, a crisis and disaster is looming on the horizon and the city may become a living hell soon if corrective steps are not taken.
Like many great cities that saw their glory days, rose to great heights, crumbled and re-built, it is not late and is never too late to arrest the decline and with foresight, good city planning, combined with integrity and able administration, along with efficient mopping up of revenues and resources, use of technology and innovation. Bangalore can once again a lovely city to live and work not just for the retired bureaucrat or the new rich of society or the booming middle class but more important for the large teeming millions who are the largest part of the population at the lower end of the economic spectrum.
The elected representatives and the bureaucracy must deliver on drinking water, sanitation and sewage, collection and disposal and recycling of garbage, good roads and pedestrian paths and power. Back to the basics. It is not rocket science that India needs to fix these as a visiting American team noted recently when they saw half the street lights without bulbs on the new road to the International airport or uncollected garbage in many parts - it is because of lack of good governance and planning and as Anna Hazare says it is because of corruption in successive governments and city corporations.
Bangalore and Karnataka can boast of the greatest Dewans and administrators this country has ever seen starting with Sir M Vishweswarayya, Sir Mirza Ismail, Dewan Sheshadri Iyer and more recently people like Lakshman Rao. So let us bring the glory back to Bangalore and make it a great city once more.
Founder of Air Deccan