Challenges for the incoming Karnataka State Government in 2018

Karnataka assembly election 2018 campaign is in full swing. Media and election pundits say this assembly election is a ‘litmus test for PM Narendra Modi’. From what I recall, every assembly & by-election since May 2014 has been seen as a litmus test for the Prime Minister.

We can safely ignore the Manifesto of all parties. Nobody ever visits it back after elections. Nobody questions the govt on election promises. However, there are some groups and individuals in Bengaluru who have “worked with” the elected government to draw its attention to infrastructure problems we face on a daily basis. Kudos to these volunteers.

Over decades every government (irrespective of the party) has contributed to the growth of the state, especially Bengaluru. We are a major Knowledge IT Hub in the world today. Govt’s contribution cannot be ignored.

Elections will be held on May 12, counting on May 15. For complete coverage of Karnataka Assembly Elections 2018, click here.

The incoming government, to be sworn in May 2018, have a lot of work to do.

  1. We don’t have a single tech center in our state outside of Bengaluru. Sorry, Mysuru is nowhere close to being labeled as an IT hub. In the same 5 years Pune, a city similar to Mysuru has become a substantial fin-tech center.
  2. Even if we could not build new roads, the govt has not worked on solutions to properly manage the key tech corridors. In Bengaluru – Silk Board junction (see this hilarious short movie!), Marathahalli, Graphite India Road, ORR near Manyata are all world class bottlenecks.
  3. Bengaluru lakes are in bad shape. Please see this excellent report from United Way Bengaluru (Disclosure: I am associated with UWBe).
  4. Failing infrastructure in Bengaluru has to be fixed. A short spell of rain floods our roads.
  5. Bellandur lake has to be fixed. We cannot have a lake froth on the streets! Lack of willpower and corruption is the only reason for this lake to be spewing venom for years.
  6. Solid Waste Management: Bangalore city generates around 5,000 MT/day of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW). Clearing of garbage is a huge problem. Dumping it to nearby villages is not the solution, villagers have been protesting.
  7. The rankings of the educational institutions in Karnataka are not that impressive.
  8. While the country can be proud about all villages being electrified, most rural parts and small towns in Karnataka still face power cuts. How will they fix this?
  9. MLAs should work with various NGOs to improve education, environment (lakes). There are many well-meaning NGOs which need to be tapped. I believe the Govt and MLAs need to take the first step.
  • Bellandur Lake froth. Image courtesy Earth5r

  • Bellandur Lake in Bengaluru on fire. Image courtesy Earth5r

A deep dive into few of the topics gives a clearer picture of the pending works.

An Unhealthy Bangalore Due To Traffic Jams

The government is missing the point, possibly they are not missing but don’t care – people spending endless hours on Bengaluru roads is a huge loss of productivity,

  • 1.18 million residents waste 600 Million hours per year causing a loss of Rs 3,700 crore [nextbigwhat]
  • Average speed of vehicles: 11 km/hour (6.8 m/hour)
  • Fuel loss: 2.8 lakh liters per hour, that translates to Rs 50 crore per annum. Click here for the cost of Petrol in Bangalore.
  • 1,500 new cars are added every day in Bengaluru.

But the most important point everyone is missing is – our health, it is deteriorating. Unhealthy people are less productive, we work less, we earn less, you spend less. Bad for the economy, period.

At the time of writing this post, many VVIPs have been visiting Bengaluru for the election campaign. You could get caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The companies on Outer Ring Road (ORR) had to form an association to get the government’s attention.

Lack Of Co-ordination Between Civic Authorities

Multiple departments are involved in the completion of most infrastructure projects. We repeatedly see how things fail during the implementation of the project. Solving this is not rocket science, it requires common sense.

The road is dug up for laying water pipes, but they manage to cut electricity or phone cables. Sewage pipes are accidentally broken. These are not intentional, but due to laziness.

Bangalore Metro

We are proud of our Namma Metro. The management and Metro team has done a great job in running it. Let us not forget to thank the commuters who have ensured the station and the bogies have remained clean. We don’t see graffiti anywhere. Hope it remains this way.

Metro construction due to expansion will go on in Bangalore for more than a decade. During construction, which takes 4-5 years, the traffic is bad because only one lane is made available for vehicles. Heavy vehicles ply on these roads to deliver material to metro construction workers. Roads get damaged very quickly. We cannot avoid this, but why can’t we ensure the road is well tarred by which vehicles can move faster?

When you question the contractor about the road condition they say, “Maintenance of the road is done by BBMP, we are only building the Metro”.

Other things needed are,

  • Parking place near Metro stations
  • Far better bus connectivity to Metro stations. For this to succeed commuters too need to use these buses a lot more.
  • Need Metro to reach major railways stations in Bengaluru
  • Need a metro line to Bengaluru airport (cabs are getting expensive by the day)

Relaying of Water & Sewage Pipes

Authorities tend to give contracts to various contractors for completing the job,

  1. To dig the road
  2. To clear the soil which was dug out
  3. To lay the pipes
  4. To clear the old pipes
  5. To retar the road (if it all!)

During digging the JCB can ruthlessly cut thru the telephone, power cables. The contractor doesn’t take the responsibility of getting it fixed. Residents have to run around to get them fixed. Shouldn’t the roadworks contractor be responsible for the end-to-end implementation?

  • Road Before Digging

  • JCB digging the road, usually cut the cables ruthlessly

  • Sewage Pipes to be relaid

  • After repair work the road is rarely fixed in a timely fashion

  • Who will clear this? Not me says the main contractor

I would like to believe the government wants to get the job done without troubling the residents. The government needs to inform the residents on who we need to contact in case we need help. It needs to be communicated in a professional way.

Are Major Tech Companies Coming to Karnataka?

Few important statistics of IT/BT in Karnataka (numbers could be a bit old),

  • Bangalore contributed $45 billion, or 38 percent of India’s total IT exports.
  • By 2020 Bengaluru will be employing the highest number of IT professionals.
  • By 2020, Bengaluru will employ 8 million (direct and indirect).

We have a sufficient number of tech companies in Bengaluru.  Let the new ones go to other parts of the country. Bengaluru cannot handle additional traffic and people. However, for now, we should have attracted corporates to Mysuru. We have failed miserably in our Mission Mysuru.

Andhra Pradesh & Telangana states have been proactive in attracting new corporates which could translate to a loss of thousands of jobs in Karnataka. A premier mobile company decided to start their factory in a neighboring state because of the red tape in Karnataka. Sad. This is the case irrespective of which party is in power.

Bangalore stands 13th in terms of doing business whereas Andhra & Telangana occupied the first place. Clearly, Karnataka is unlucky.

The present government has launched few good schemes for startups. It would be a lot more useful if the products being developed in govt sponsored incubators can be put to use in the real world. They should discourage startups which are full of buzzwords (AI, ML, Blockchain) and have nothing to show. Reason: Not all startups can expect to be a Unicorn, very few get funded.

Conclusion

It is not just ease of doing business not handling basic infra issues like waste management and lakes catching on fire having significantly impacted Brand Bengaluru. Having a logo for Bengaluru is nice but we need to move beyond that.

Bangalore has several Residing Welfare Associations (RWAs). Corporators, MLAs need to work closely with RWAs for building a better surrounding. I always say we cannot shift the onus completely on the government to keep our locality clean. We residents too should not throw things around.

Brand Bangalore is living on past laurels and confidence is eroding rapidly. We cannot live in the past glory, we got to make Bengaluru a better place to live in. And we should apply the learnings in other cities of Karnataka too.

A humble reminder to the party (or parties) forming the government in Karnataka in 2018 – general elections is in 2019. If you don’t show the intention to deliver in the next 8-10 months, your party will not win sufficient Lok Sabha seats from Karnataka.

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