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Agenda for our new Chief Minister: What needs to be done for our cities

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Now that we have a new goverement, let us make a vision document and send it to our CM.

Some things about this draft document -

1. It is city (urban) specific. I would like to say Bangalore specific, but strategy wise whatever is true for Bangalore is pretty much true for other cities in Karnataka as well. We will not cover rural problems or issues not directly about city governance (like judicial systems, this is a national issue)

2. We list the problem, but also explain on what lines the solution should be – for eg: suppose we complain that traffic is bad with too much of traffic jams, the goverment might actually listen and cut trees to widen roads. Now that may not be exactly what we intended. So there are a few lines that explain on where the framework of the solution should lie in.

3. Need to agree on the priority as well as on the strategy outlined to solve the problem. Number of items is limited to 10. It needs to be breif, clear and yet well reasoned. Also not too much specificity, maybe thats an additional larger document we can do where we go into a lot more detail into each issue.

4. We will never agree 100%, but it you somewhat agree, you sign on, with your actual names. If you disagree sufficiently you dont sign in.

5. This goes as a Praja document with all signatories equally prominent. For now, I will try to take it to its conclusion.

6. Listed below is a first cut, Comment, modify, agree, disagree and lets see if we can converge.


There is one more list for reference



1. Garbage(Solid Waste) management:

Problem: It might surprise many to see this as the top priority. The reason this comes in as the number one priority is this is a non-recoverable problem. The plastic, lead and the innumerable toxic chemicals of modern life that seep into our ground and water will leech back through the eco-system, either through the food we eat or water we drink and give us all kinds of difficult to cure diseases, like cancers, hormonal imbalances, auto-immune disorders, brain retardation etc. And there is nothing one can do at that time, because it is practically impossible to go and clean up once it is in the eco-system. The only thing we can do is stop it NOW, by ensuring that what should not reach the soil and water does not. That is the only way, we protect our own future, our children and their children from delibating diseases.


Solution: There are some things that can be done at an individual/citizen level and we will not get into those here. At the govermental level, thought and effort needs to be put in creating systems, which ensure that -

i) Full collection: There is no waste of waste, ie 100% or as close to 100% collection of all the waste that is generated is collected. It is collected in an efficient manner, and in a manner which makes it conducive to further processing (ie appropriate seggregation and recycling). Appropriate strategies need to be created for industrial, commercial, residential, public spaces(roads, parks etc) and hospital waste.

As an example, the strategy for residential collection of waste will include, among other things – a) standardisation of waste bins at residential levels as well as vehicles which come for collection b) adequate awareness and economic incentivisation of both the residents and the workers

ii) Maximise reuse and recycling: Incentives need to be created and processes in place to maximise reuse and recycling.

As an example, plastic bottles, covers, packaging could be good candidates for reuse. Wet waste of course needs to be converted to compost and manure.

iii) Safe and healthy disposal: So whatever waste cannot be recycled, needs to be disposed in a manner which does not create more pollution and does not damage the ecological balance of the surrounding.


2. Sustainable water supply:

Problem: The way the city gets water for its use is primarily through two means. 1 – is the river water which is pumped through pipelines for 10's of kms. 2 – through ground water, by digging borewells. Then once the water is obtained, it is used and becomes sewage, wherein an unhealthy mix of chemicals is added to human waste, which may or may not be treated, usually is partially treated, before it is allowed to go back to the eco-system. The issue with the improper disposal is the same as above (Garbage management) ... improperly treated water can become a breeding ground for diseases and chemicals can leech back into the food chain. The problem with the way the water is sourced is -1) precious water is diverted from agriculture and all that pumping needs a lot of energy – 2) ground water will exhaust and one has to dig deeper and deeper borewells.



Use a multitiered solution, ie so that there is as local a supply and as maximum a reuse at each level. And of course, what is given back to the eco-system is should be of the similar quality it would be if it were untouched by human intervention. We will look at three levels which seem most logical, individual residence/apartment, locality or community and third is city.

i) Encourage reuse at the residential or block/apartmental level where grey water with some treatment can reused for cleaning, flushing, gardening etc. Supporeted by workable rain water harvesting solutions, which reduce the dependency on city water supply.

ii) At the community level, water needs to be supplied by clean and pristine lakes which both harvest the rain water and treat the sewage in an enviorementally freindly way. This is critical in cities such as Bangalore today and there is an urgent need to revitalise our lakes and prevent encroachment.

Iii) At city level, ensure minimal wastage in transport and ensure policies which minimise wastage. As an example, use differential tariff to keep water free/miniminal cost for basic needs and which penalises waste, excessive usage.


3. Affordable and dignified housing

Problem: For a person to have a dignified life, he/she should at the minimum have access to basic sanitation facilities, a place where they can sleep peacefully without disturbance from the elements and cooking facilities. These are sadly missing for a section of the population, commonly referred to as slums. Neither are there good facilities, nor is there security in terms of possession of property. One never knows when the living quarters will be demolished.


Solution: There is no easy answer for this. However, it may be observed that today even basic manual laborers take salaries starting from Rs 5000/-. As a result, most people can afford a rental of Rs 800/- onwards for housing. To build rental housing with this amount and affords a decent quality of life is then a question of good design practices, supporting regulatory laws and policies. These could be

1. Earmarking areas in layouts and parts of the city where multistoreyed, low cost but with appropriate facilities and good quality housing can be built either by goverment or public-private partnership

2. Encouraging private investment and ownership in above mentioned housing by giving neccessary support, tax rebates and later ensuring there is no misuse or corruption

3. Encouraging apartment builders to build servant quarters. This can be a positive situation for the house owners as well as for the servants.

4. Improving designs of slums themselves. An example of this could be having reusable structures which can protect from the elements and can be transported at short notice.



4. Transport

Problem: The problem is rather well known. Frequent traffic jams, it taking hours to move from one part of city to another, large amount of pollution due to private transport and so on. Lack of pedestrian facilities, no usable bicycle tracks make it both risky for pedestrians/bicyclists and discourage use of public transport. One of the worst accident rates in the world.


Solution: In the densely populated, narrow road cities such as ours, good public transport is foundational neccessity. Every attempt should be made to encourage commuters to move to public transport, by making public transport reliable, cheap, ease of use, non-overcrowding, point to point seamless travel and so on. We will discuss the three commonly used modes, bus, at grade train services and Metro and discuss the road infrastructure seperately.


1) Bus services : Busses provide the bulk of transport infrastructure in most cities. They need low capital infrastructure and can have wide reach. To achieve optimised and efficient bus services which have all the above mentioned characteristics, the following needs to be done -

a) Information technology needs to be extensively deployed. This includes GPS tracking, smart cards and ticketless travel. This information then is available in a customer freindly manner, so that at his fingertips, he is able to know bus schedules, next bus, travel times etc.

With the extensive use of information technology, data regarding bus usage is collected. This data collected is used to optimise and decide on bus routes and bus frequency, using known optimisation techniques. That way, it is ensured that wait times are minimised, there is no over crowding, neither do buses run empty, thus maximising revenue and commuter satisfaction.

b) Intelligent bus route strategy.... Currently, bus routes are mainly point to point based. Ie they start at point A and end in point B and try to cover different areas along the way. This way, an attempt is made to cover the most travelled routes by a bus service and other destinations would require a change of bus. However, this need not be the only way, and in many cases need not be the best way to serve communters. Other methods are

i) high density arterial routes with feeder services: In some way's this mimics a METRO system with feeder services. In this system, a very high frequency of bus services is maintated along arterial routes which criss-corss each other and the city. Along these arteriral routes, feeder services are employed to collect and deliver commuters to their source/end points, ie this provides for the last mile connectivity. Each feeder services covers a certain area/locality and can be done by a smaller vehicle (depending on the requirement)

ii) Destination centric Office/ tech parks/ commercial and industrial for regular users. This is particularly suitable for office goers, schools and similar. In this a particular area which has a concentration of pepole, such as tech parks, offices come togheter and have a dedicated bus service which caters to that set of commuters. Since these have dedicated timings, this gives the commuters services optimised for them, there is greater comfort and saftey, predicatiblity, and no overcrowding. This can result in significant set of people moving from private to public transport, thus reducing road congestion, and giving office goers a stress free commute with increased personal time which can be used productively.


2) At grade train services (Commuter rail systems, local trains, Light rail transit): This is an often missed alternative by the goverment. The at grade (on ground level) can be in different forms and names, such as called Local trains in Mumbai, or (CRS)Commuter Rail Service or in a smaller scale has been called LRT(Light Rail Transit). The advantage of this it is relatively very cheap ( a fraction of the cost of a METRO), can transport similar bulk of people, robust, envioremetnally freindly and relatively easy and simple technology, as well lower operating cost than METRO. So why is it not used extensively ?. The main reason is that it cannot be implemented in already developed areas, as it needs the land space and road crossings.

However, it is indeed the best alternative in areas which are not fully developed, ie tier 2 cities and tier 3 cities, as well as peripheral areas of metropolitian cities and to connect meteropolitan cities to the outlying towns. This needs upfront planning, to earmark land and cross over points. Existing intercity rail networks can also be reused for this and incorporated in such a land based rail network.


3) METRO : By this time it is a well understood and a sought after choice by many cities. The plus points are it can be used to transport bulk of people quickly, without stoppages and at high frequencies. However, the main negative is the extremely high cost involved, both for elevated and even more so for underground sections. Not only in terms of capital cost, but even in terms of operating cost, need for quality maintaineance etc it is an expensive option. The real question is, is it the best use of money ?

As best, it is suitable for heavily developed and densly populated areas only, with heavy moment of commuter traffic. (inner cities only, with no access to ground level tracks). This should be initiated only after the maximum has been squeezed out of the first two options.


4)Integration: Needless to say, if each of them is done well, it is not sufficient to give a satisfactory service to commuters. Well planned and well thought through integration of the services would render each more effective as well as make the combined solution a very effective one for the city transport needs.

As a simple example having a bus stop at every METRO and commuter rail station, will increase not only METRO usage but also the bus usage. Commuters will get an efficient end to end solution for their travel needs.




Problem: We know this only two well. No real footpaths to walk on, adhoc traffic movement, no clear lanes, speed breakers of arbitrary shapes and sizes, the highest rates of accidents and road deaths in the world. For those of us who have travelled around the world, the look/feel of our roads are relatively disgusting, compared to the neat well laid out pretty sights we see elsewhere.


Solution: Its actually not all that difficult to transform our roads. But for that it is neccessary to have a clear perspective of the problem. There are two aspects, one is the quality of construction and the other is the design (usually referred to as geometric design in the standards manual). The construction qualty is simply a question of setting the right standards and then enforcing them. We will focus on the other aspect, the geometric design.

Simply put, the geometric design deals with the layout of the road. For eg: how wide and where would the footpaths be, placement of lampposts, bus stop, trees, whether a median is needed for the road, if yes how wide and how tall etc. Now this is where there is a issue. As an example, some place is kept for a footpath, then somebody else goes on a tree planting drive and puts trees right in the centre of the footapth. Then somebody else puts a bus-stop closing the footpath in that space. The pedestrian faced with a choice of a thin narrow inconsistent footpath which is present only in some spaces and instead prefers to now walk on the road. The next part of the road is taken by parking so he is pushed even closer to the heavy traffic thus endangering both himself and slowign the vehicles. Many such examples can be taken, including turning lanes (seperate lanes for vehicles to turn so that straight traffic is not obstructed), parking in neat designated spaces, spaces for vendors etc.

The way out ? There are at the end of the day, only so many kinds of roads in an urban enviorement. One needs to list them down(such as arterial roads, commercial roads, road with street vendors, residential roads ie depending on road width, traffic and usage ) and build layout (gemoetric design) templates for each of them. The templates should take into account all possible uses of the roads, check Indian and other relevant standards and come up with the optimal layouts. Once this is done, new roads should be built only as per these templates and old roads need to be slowly converted to these standard templates.



5. Land and building regulatory bye laws

Problem: One of the common dreams of the common man is to own a house of his own. In this respect, he or she puts his/her life investment in a piece of land or apartment. However there is a constant stress on how “good” the papers are, whether they will be stuck in some court case or worse, evicted. When land is stuck in courts, neither party can use it for decades. Lack of clarity on type of land or ownership also results in encroachment and loss of quality public land.

The second issue are the regulatory bye-laws and their enforcement. If one observes, greater than 95% of the houses violate some bye-law or the other. Why is this the case ?


Solution: The solution to the first problem is obvious. There needs to be clear and precise documentation of ALL land, to emphasise every inch of land needs to accounted for. Latest technology such as GPS and satellite mapping needs to be used as well as information technology so that records are accesible on the fingertips. Every piece of land should be recorded and change in ownership tracked so that there is no ambiguity. The cost to benefit to doing something such as this is enormous., given the high cost of land and the relative low cost of doing this.

For the second issue, the bye laws should be continously rationalised and simplified. Complexity lends itself to misuse and corruption. The margin for violation itself should be reduced. As a simple example, say instead of asking for a 5ft setback on the behind, between two back to back house rows, a 10ft wide mud street can be made and the land owner given rights for end to end construction. This street can be used for tree planting, kids playing or cycling etc.



6. Goverment services:

Problem: The plight of common man in running from pillar to post for basic services is well known. The lack of accountability and transparency adds to the frustration of the common mans woes.


Solution: Simplify, use information technology extensively for application and tracking, availability of records on websites, finanancial transparency. This can be inrespect to all goverment services such as ration cards, ID cards, birth/death/marriage records, land records, filing FIR and a host of other services given by the goverment.


7. 24/7 quality electricity

Problem: Lack of regular power supply as well as power supply which is of good quality (voltage, frequency) hinders development and economic activity. Not only do the alternative diesel generators that people put up are prohibitively expensive, they also affect the enviorement adversely.


Solution: Sufficient generation of electricity is a complex problem that cannot be dealt with here. Meanwhile solutions such as a minimal capacity during load shedding, which will enable say lights and fan but not the high power requirements such as AC and heater can be thought of. This will also encourage consumers to look at power efficient solutions


8,9,10: Space for additional points


Moumita's picture

With the city lines

74 users have liked.

With the city lines expanding, the bulk of the bangalore populaton are now turning towards the suburbs. This will ( and have) pave the way to another chaotic whitefield. It is imperative to also include the suburbs in this agenda. ( Sarjapur-Atibele area is one such example.)

My suggestion is to put the onus on the builders ( the dream sellers) and make it compulsary for them to initiate and practice corporate social responsibilities. 


n's picture

Some additional items are

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Some additional items are included here

kbsyed61's picture

Affordable Housing!

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Your suggestion of building exclusive conclaves of multistory buildings for low cost housing is not the way to go. The practical way to go about is bringing suitable laws to mandate that all the new developments of all kind must build certain % of housing for poor and low income. All private builders must reserve certain percentage of housing for low income groups.

The private builders can not escape their social responsibility of building low cost housing and moreover it is in their own interest. By doing so they could be stopping many slums sprawling in the city and avoid the cost of their eviction later.

I agree with your suggestion for servant quarters. Here also it should be mandated that a dwelling with more than certain square footage must include a structure for servant quarter.

srkulhalli's picture

@ Moumita

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That is already intended, saying that suburbs should be considered part of the city. Am not sure if I need to add that line specifically.

Also when you say CSR for builders, I think you mean what kbsyed has mentioned in his most.



srkulhalli's picture

@ kbsyed

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Thanks for the well considered comments

We basically agree -

o For new apartment complexes, alternate housing for the labourers which is owned by the society ? Else it can result in another black market with the "poor" people selling it away at a premium. So this is rental only for the laboruers/maid servants working there.

Do you think the people buying the apartments will like it ? Their kids mixing with the slum kids. Personally I think its a good idea but am looking at practicality.

o Multistoreyed buildings is alternative for the already existing slums

o For individuals, Am not sure one can dictate the design ( I wouldnt like that for myself) plus its easy to cheat. Probably tax incentives would do.


srkulhalli's picture

Thanks n

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Good list. I will see how it incorporate it.

Will release a ver 2.0 at a later date



srkulhalli's picture

@ Murali

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I was going through your previous post (2008!)

Can you add some points like Policy reforms, healthcare ... in a similar format to the post (ie problem solution)

Most of hte other stuff is covered in this post, but I will go through it and update to a ver 2.0. See if you have any specific comments to the above post since you are the most prolific writer :)


Vasanth's picture

Intelligent Transport System or ITS like Mysore for Bangalore

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ITS is a very good option. If we all remember those YI days of Volvo, it was very good. Mysore ITS with SMS, IVRS, Mobile and Web based solution has already won many awards. Such a facility needs to be started in the capital city of Karnataka to attract more people to public transport.

murali772's picture

a different take

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@ Suhas - I am sorry to say that I don't find your agenda points exactly earth-shaking. The assumption you are making is that the neta's and babu's in-charge want improvements, which is where the problem lies, in the first place. If they want improvements, the routes are obvious, and the solutions can happen in no time. In the earlier ministry, I can't think of any neta-babu combo, with the exception of Shobha Karandlaje-Manivannan two-some, who were genuinely looking for solutions. And, there were severe limitations to what Manivannan could do because of the perennially broke position of BESCOM (check this), about which neither could Shobha Karandlaje do much, because it would have been difficult to get the support of the cabinet.

The point I am making essentially is that, though these government service providers are referred to as "stake-holders", the term is a total misnomer. The neta's, babu's and unionists, who control these organisations, have actually no real stake at all in them. As compared to that, in a Tata Power Delhi Distribution Ltd (TPDDL), which supplies power to about one-third of Delhi today (check this), a large part of the stake (shares) are held by the public of Delhi, who are besides the consumers of its services, providing for an excellent check on its performance. The regulator is there besides to keep an overall eye on the goings on. If you ask me, that is the perfect model for the future, for power supplies. However, since these are largely natural monopoly areas, perhaps they need to be tweaked a bit to make for well-structured PPP's, in which case, they can take care of water supplies, bus services, and very many other services too. And, in cases where municipal functions have essentially to be under the control of the elected bodies, the back-end work can be outsourced to reputed organisations like TCS and Infosys (which are already doing such work for Passport and IncomeTax depts resply), benefitting everybody in the process, besides providing for a check on the babu's involved too (check this).

Once these are done, the government's job will shift to governance proper, which will not be of interest to the contractor types, who will slowly ease themselves out of politics, leaving it to the representatives of genuine stake-holders. You'll then also have enough and more money to take care of the needs of under-privileged too. That should plainly be the way forward.

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

no comparison

81 users have liked.

@ Vasanth - YI cost in tens of lakhs. This ITS package cost some Rs 20 cr, if I understand correctly, whose actual worth to the users is yet to be properly assessed.

And, awards for government organisations is a full-scale racket in itself.

Muralidhar Rao
silkboard's picture

Suhas, good thoughts, building on it

80 users have liked.

Suhas - the thought is nice, and you have documented a good summary of many things we discuss here and elsewhere.

Thinking of ways to build up on this concept (group creating a vision, collaborating on it, then floating it for anyone to take and "sell" around), some of us have started on approaching this from a slightly different angle.

  • Your post and ideas - both are very nice, but a picture is worth a thousand words as they say. And all of us combined have already typed more than a thousand here.
  • The opearative thing about word vision is "seeing".
  • A vision should be painted, not worded
  • So why not take a few tracks - like say mobility as its a popular topic, or water, as it is not as popular but a more severe issue - and produce a few videos (animated, or real shots+animations, or whatever best a creative studio would suggest)
  • Float these videos as "vision"

The thought further is to

  • produce first cut videos fast
  • float them around, collect all feedback criticism
  • produce a second round
  • allow everyone to build lots of evolved content from these base videos, think of annotations at every second describing how X or Y could actually be done.

Besides being better tools to communicate a "vision", the videos will also help with this

  • Focus will be on "what" we want. and not really on "how" we want it. Mixing what and how is unaviodable, but hinders development of vision. Refer Murali's comment above which brings in how. Also, notice how some of your points themselves may have what and how mixed
  • It is easier to float videos around the world. Phone, TV, PC. For print, can re-use select frames from video.
  • Can produce them with real bangalore settings, to ward off a common criticism that when guys like you and me think of a vision, its "firang" and impractical. We will get a chance to share how the good things from elsewhere can be adapted for a city like Bangalore

If you are interested, plese call/mail me. 4 of us are at it as we speak, working on scripts of the "first cut".


SB aka Pranav

[NOTE: will post this long comment as a separate post or project once 4-5 of us are really really  on board with the concept]

srkulhalli's picture

Are solutions really that straightforward ?

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@ Murali -

I am sorry to say that I don't find your agenda points exactly earth-shaking.

I would agree. This is basically common sense with a few tit bits added from Praja and others.  This needs to be built upon a lot more. However, it is a starting point and we need to see if at least we agree on this.

The assumption you are making is that the neta's and babu's in-charge want improvements, which is where the problem lies, in the first place

To be honest, I have given up on the real world. The problem of lack of commitment, overlapping departments with no clear accountability, widespread corruption etc etc is too much to solve. All I am trying to see is ife we can build a virtual solution to a real problem.

To address the rest of your post, we  are looking at different parts of the problem. You are looking at the operational part and say it is best outsourced to a professional organisation, who have built expertise and efficiency at doing similar tasks. They would do it better than the goverment beuracracy, who cannot really build specialised expertise in diverse areas in an increasingly complex world. Agreed.

Once you decide what is to be done, one needs to look at the person(organisation) who can do it best. But what is to be done ? That cannot be outsourced. That has to be thought through by the goverment of the day and concerned citizens. For eg: I cannot call up 5 agencies and say sovle Bangalores traffic problem. You lay roads wherever you want, however you want, demolish whatever you want, just ensure one reaches pt A to pt B in X mins. The goverment has to come up with a solution (part METRO, part CRS, Bus services, routing etc) and selectively give the operational part to professional agencies.

To my mind, its not all thatl clear what the solutions are. Electricity and Communication are relatively striaghtforward and would benefit by privatisation. Even the example you state, you say BESCOM could not solve proceed because of lack of money.  The question is given we are what we are, what is the best thing to do ?

For eg: how do we solve the Garbage problem. Obviously we dont want landfills. IF we burn we pollute the air. What are the available technologies to dispose garbage ? What is the pollution of the resultant waste ? How much do these technologies cost ? What are their relative benefits. How much waste is generated and how much would it cost to build plants for all of these which are upto say international standards (and what are those standards ?) ? Can we outsrouce Garbage collection and disposal untill he above has been settled.

Hopefully have not confused more with this longish post. IN summary, our effort is complementary. May we both succeed :)


srkulhalli's picture

@ SB, am on

86 users have liked.

Am on, though am not sure we are precisely aligned. Anyway a conf. call or meeting would help us understand each other more clearly.

Do you want to set up a conference call ? Or should we just talk to each other.



srkulhalli's picture

If you agree, please sign on

80 users have liked.

We seem to be discussion more around this than the agenda itself.


Anyway, if you more or less agree, please give your consent to be signatories. You can send me a private message with

NAME (real one)


LOCATION (eg: HSR layout, Bangalore)

OCCUPATION (eg: CEO, MICROSOFT ... ok this is optional).

Or you can reply here as well.

Will be releasing a ver 2.0 when all the comments have come in.


silkboard's picture

We can automate this here

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Its easy enough to setup a form to automate this - fill your details, and say I support this - right here.

More on phone.

ssheragu's picture

agenda to our CM

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as usual I am a late entrant to this;

here are a few suggestions to our CM from my side; I can build up on this later

1 - eradication of child labour

2 - eradication of illiteracy

3 - delinking & decontrolling the garbage removal from garbage mafia; proffessionalising the garbage industry (expunging the terms like garbage removers or scavengers & calling them as health inspectors, giving respectability to their work by giving them gloves, uniform, protective wear etc., treating them as regular employees and giving them incentives etc.)

4 - construction of underground drainages

5 - provison of good drinking water supply by having all water pipelines underground and preventing breakage of water pipelines and leakage of water

6 - strict segregation of residential & commercial areas and encouraging gated communities

7 - construction of signal free corridors for about 50 Kms from one end of Bangalore to another end in both N-S & E-W directions

8 - good electricity supply by burying electric lines underground (and also all cable lines and telephone lines) and preveting pilferage of electricity

9 - concretising all roads and providing clear foot paths with aesthetic design

(in fact these suggetsions can be implemented all over Karnataka & India)

Many thanks


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