By K Raveendran
Silicon Valley is renowned for its innovative and entrepreneurial spirit, and its infrastructure has been a major factor in the region’s success. The Valley’s infrastructure has enabled businesses to grow rapidly, and has helped create a vibrant and dynamic business environment. The region is home to a number of world-class universities, research centres, and technology incubators, which provide businesses with access to the latest technologies and research. The region is also home to a number of venture capital firms, which provide businesses with access to capital and mentorship. No wonder, it attracts the world’s best talents and innovators. All this has been supplemented by efficient transportation networks, enabling businesses to move goods and services quickly and cost-effectively.
Now let’s consider the case of Bengaluru, Silicon Valley’s poor cousin in India. It has many of the characteristics of the high-profile US technology hub, including premium universities, some of the world’s best talent pools, backed by spirit of entrepreneurship and innovative thinking. But when it comes to quality of life for the city’s residents, it is a real distressing scenario. Lack of adequate roads, public transportation, and other infrastructure has made travel a nightmare. Traffic congestion on the poorly-laid roads of Bengaluru is notorious, causing delays in people’s movement as well as in the delivery of goods and services, leaving a negative impact on the city’s economy, adding to the cost of doing business, irrespective of what kind.
One of the primary causes of Bengaluru’s infrastructure issues is the rapid population growth that the city has experienced in recent years. The population of Bengaluru has grown from 4.3 million in 2001 to an estimated 11.2 million by 2021. This rapid growth has put a strain on the city’s infrastructure, leading to overcrowding, traffic congestion, and inadequate public services. Lack of affordable housing has led to an increase in slums and informal settlements, which further constraints city life.
Despite the city’s growing population, the government has not invested enough in infrastructure projects to keep up with the demand. This has resulted in a lack of adequate roads, public transportation, and other essential services. The city’s infrastructure projects have often been poorly planned and executed, leading to delays and cost overruns. Corruption has been the bane of Bengaluru’s development.
Successive governments have promised steps to address the issue of corruption. However, these efforts have not been successful in curbing the problem. This is largely due to the fact that corruption is deeply entrenched in the city’s political and economic systems. It is estimated that over the past decade, more than Rs 10,000 crore has been lost to corruption. This money could have been used to improve infrastructure, create jobs, and provide better services to citizens. Instead, it has been squandered away by corrupt politicians and bureaucrats. Government officials, politicians, and developers have formed a nexus for corruption, leading to lack of accountability and transparency, which constraints investment in infrastructure development.
With Karnataka going to the polls soon to elect a new government, the city’s population is least enthused about it and there is no change in their fatalistic view of their future, the reason being that past changes of government made little difference to the quality of life in the city. On occasions when the technology majors have complained about lack of infrastructure and other constraints, local politicians have come up typical chauvinistic response that they are free to leave if they are not happy.
The voter turnout in Bengaluru has been quite low in the previous assembly elections, with reports from the Election Commission indicating that there was only 55 percent polling in Bengaluru South, North, Central, and Urban. This was much lower than the voting percentage of 72.44 percent across the state in 2018. The primary reason for the low voter turnout is that most IT professionals are not registered as voters in the state as they are too busy with their work and consider registering as voter a trouble that is eminently avoidable. On the other hand, many of those who actually vote stay outside the city limits. Former Infosys director and IT industry veteran Mohandas Pai has suggested portability of voters ID as a solution to the problem of voter apathy by Bengaluru residents, but that requires greater proactive approach from all concerned, including the Election Commission.
Bengaluru’s situation is very similar to that of the national capital, where the Delhi government and the Union government are always at logger heads. The local civic body, Brihat Bengaluru Mahanagar Palike (BBMP) which is in charge of managing the city is least equipped to do that and the people in the state government call the shots. Elections to the civic body are never held on time.
Mohandas Pai explains that the government that sits in the Vidhana Soudha does not want reform but wants to sit there and govern Bengaluru, because it is a rich city. They are scared that if Bengaluru becomes self-sufficient, the person who runs it as mayor will become powerful. The political class does not want reforms and it also diverts the funds that come to it for the development of Bengaluru to other places to win elections. Also, because Bengaluru is politically insignificant, though the city contributes close to 60 to 65 percent of the state’s taxes. The city accounts for 16 percent of the state’s population but has only 12 percent of the assembly seats, which explains the real disconnect. (IPA Service)