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Is this the route to "Smart Bengaluru"?

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Mid last week, I received a whatsapp message, from the local community group, stating as below:

Please kind attention !!!!!!!

Please kindly attend the  Meeting regarding Bangalore development under smart city program by our Honorable Transport Minister, SRI RAMLINGA REDDY, Govt of Karnataka  and Honb'le mayor Sri MANJUNATH REDDY, with all various department officials like BBMP, HEALTH, SWM, FOREST, BESCOM, BWSSB, HORTICULTURAL, POLICE and SWD officials

Date: 17th June 2016; Time: 3.0pm; Venue: Smt/Sri Jayamma Ramaiah Reddy kalyana mantapa 8th Block, Koramangala

All are requested to the RWAs, PUBLICS and residents to attend meeting at the above place


I went essentially to get an understanding of what's going on. For an invite to a programme meant to propagate the idea of making the city 'smart', the venue address given was hardly helpful, with even local auto drivers not knowing the place, leave alone the thought of providing a google-map link. In the event, I reached late, though I don't think I missed much.

As I reached, a certain Mr Murali, whom a participant sitting next to me identified as the Technical Assistant to the Mayor, was elaborating on how "public participation" was the foremost element in the framing of the smart city policy (or something to that effect), and therewith exhorting the participants to send in their proposals/ suggestions on all aspects of city governance. There were some printed leaflets being circulated, the contents of which appeared rather elementary to me, and as such, I did not bother to retain them. Now, searching for where to send my suggestions to, over the net, I am unable to find any link to any "smart city" programme, either on the BBMP site or the GoK site, ie even four days after the event.

In the first place, what is this 'smart' talk of the government about, when
a) it can't even fix something as basic as BBMP's net-based property tax collection system (check here)?
b) Bengaluru is amongst the few remaining mega cities in the country where the citizens as well as businesses are still largely dependent on self-generated power, even as Piyush Goyal-ji has been offering as much power as one may want from the central grid at less than Rs 2.50 pu (check here for more on that)?
c) The Transport Minister talks of re-nationalising even the existing private bus services, even as the Arun Jaitley-ji is talking exactly the opposite (and very rightly too - check here) ? 

Actually, if the government genuinely wanted suggestions from the public, there are so many of them being made on a daily basis over the ever proliferating social media platforms in the city, including on Praja - here and here, for example. I can make a fresh set too. But, where do I send it? And, even if I send it, will it be considered at all? Leave alone that - will it even be acknowledged? Past experiences haven't exactly been encouraging, to say the least. And, talking of public consultations, how did the government choose to announce some Rs 7,000 cr worth projects (check the list below), without any of that (or rather, after consultations with members of just a sellect coterie)? Is it that public consultations are required only for smart city programmes?

Well, I am reminded of the times when JnNURM first came on the scene about a decade or so back, when the then Commissioner held some 10 (or, in fact, more) "public consultations", across the city, on a single Sunday. I had attended one of them, and from the goings on, it was obvious that the purpose was just to fulfill the statutory requirements, and not to serve any genuine purpose. I didn't see much of a difference here from what I saw then. And, of course, JnNURM was put to 'good' use by the neta's and babu's - but, how much of a good it did for the people, whose purpose it was meant to serve, is very much questionable - much on that has been debated here.

Following Mr Murali's talk, the minister came on. All that he talked about was some Rs 550 cr allocated for such and such work under 'Nagarothana' scheme; Rs 750 cr under another scheme, etc, etc, to general applause from the gathering, amongst whom perhaps were many contractors. Like I have stated here earlier too, the minister's focus seems largely based on what benefits the contractors, rather than what benefits the people.

Overall, the approach to "Smart City" programme too seems to follow more or less the same route as in the case of JnNURM - for the benefit of neta's, babu's and contractors (many of whom are in fact neta's too). Apparently, none of the criticisms of the country's most vibrant Civil Society, as Bengaluru's has come to be seen, over the social and every other form of media, seems to have any impact on the ways of this lot.

Muralidhar Rao


murali772's picture

the big event

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Oh, so the Koramangala event was just a precursor to the big event today. Perhaps, should have made this posting earlier.

I wonder if any Prajagalu attended - would be interested in their comments.

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