Friday, 17 June 2011

Bangalore is Already saturated its loses charm

LIVING next door, Sanjeet, a senior manager in a tech firm, had the best collection of movies in the entire apartment block and a beautiful home theatre system.

Sometimes men from the neighbourhood would drop in at his place to watch a film or a cricket match, but the real pull factor was his collection of single malt.

To the disappointment of the crowd, Sanjeet has now shifted to Gurgaon — for greener pastures. He presumably has an even better home theatre system and a bigger bar now. He surely has more free time.

His drive to work takes precisely seven minutes. In Bangalore, it was an hour's ordeal to reach Electronic City, where his office was located.

" I left for better opportunities," he said. " From an IT industry perspective, there are not enough ( new ventures) there. There are flagship firms, but new developments are elsewhere." There is a growing feeling among the tech crowd that Bangalore has now grown enough. There is even a vague sense that the Garden City for all its glory is perhaps imploding. There are tell- tale signs of breakdown all around. People love to chant litanies of woes about broken sewage lines, garbage, traffic snarls and congested industry clusters. Adding credence to such a grim view is a recent report of the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India. ( ASSOCHAM). " If trends are anything to go by, Bangalore, also known as India's IT hub might lose its crown of ' India's Tech Eden' to Gurgaon and Noida which are steadily becoming preferred destinations for companies," The report said.

In what appeared to be bit of an exaggeration, ASSOCHAM noted that Bangalore is losing its sheen thanks to its ' dismal infrastructure' and companies were moving out. The findings came from a sur- vey of 800 top industry bosses from sectors including IT, biotech and outsourcing.

ASSOCHAM Secretary General D S Rawat has spelt out what he described as a ' serious crisis' — " Choked roads, power outages, an erratic water supply, poor sanitation together with perennial political turbulence and confusion…" A section of industry leaders and observers in the city whom M AIL T ODAY contacted for response politely kept quiet about it. In Bangalore, we don't raise a stink about issues — garbage or politics. However, Kiran Mazumdar- Shaw, the CMD of the biotech major Biocon, spoke out, saying Bangalore's quality of life is dipping. She has seen the city growing from a cantonment town. And she has been part of an initiative called the Bangalore Agenda Task Force ( BATF) that contributed to good governance at the local level.

When External Affairs minister S M Krishna was the chief minister of Karnataka (1999— 2004), BATF forged a partnership between the citizens, corporates and administrative agencies to ensure better civic amenities. Later it got entangled in red tape — but left a lasting impact.

I NFRASTRUCTURE development in Bangalore is too tardy and often an afterthought or a retrofit, which is suboptimal to what the city needs," Mazumdar- Shaw said. " Power shortage, water shortage, poor road infrastructure coupled with traffic congestion is making us an inefficient city with a deteriorating quality of living." She is convinced that Karnataka is now losing industrial investments.

" Bangalore must desist from further industrialisation and shift out industrial development towards Mysore, Hassan etc," she added.

TV Mohandas Pai, a cofounder of BATF, agreed that the city is slowly losing its charm.

" But Bangalore is still the best place for technology companies and good talent in India," he said. " Good leadership can regain the status." Perhaps this is the way forward — that magic has worked for Delhi as well as nearby Noida and Gurgaon . In Bangalore the scenario is rather schizophrenic. Parts of the city look like Singapore and others like dirt heaps of any poor country. An example is a road on which Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa has a private residence, where he spends time often. His side of the road is well- lit with European- style lanterns and ornate benches on a smooth, tiled pavement. The other side is all dug up with stinking garbage dumps all over. Still Sanjeet is now looking for a come- back. " The weather is lovely there and my family is missing the place," he said. The lesson is that in Bangalore we crib endlessly about its shortcomings, but we just love the city!


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