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Abide - Participation, PR and Networking! (edited)

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Oh yeah. Murali Sir and I were there. 10 am - 4 pm, a good 6 hours. Met so many people, and heard and saw so much, that I need some time to organize and share the details. Enjoy some pictures till then, will update this post with notes pretty soon.

Now, time for some notes and tidbits from the field. Let me start with the negative highpoint of the visit, only because we witnessed this right after we reached. We saw a lady bringing in some 20 odd poor looking citizens (we guessed laborers) to the main hall. The hall was anyway packed with the babus and press, so soon after the lady left, a cop tried to force these laborers out of the hall. In response, one of them told the cop, "she just gave us money to sit here, why do you want to us to leave" !!

So we started with this interesting experience. But things got better as we progressed. To start things off, there were three presentations, first one from Yeddy, with usual stuff. Next, we had a presentation from Mr Ravidra on Kasturirangan committe's recomendations. I was watching around carefully to see how many people were actually taking the report "in". I Relatively speaking, I don't think it got that serious an attention when compared to the 2 presentations that followed it.

Next, we had Mr Sachdev from RITES present the CTTP. Few of us here on Praja know that report word by word by now, so those same maps, roads, Metros, Monos, CRS, BRTS figures etc seemed pretty routine to me - nothing new. RITES ended the slides with a figure of Rs 46000 Crores - investment needed to improve Bangalore's transportation scene, with most of it suggested towards public transport. Then came Mr Ramesh Ramanathan, and he pitched CityConnect as the cure for city government's participation woes. He cited some good examples, and certainly made the right noises about connecting with and helping the government

After the presentations, and a break for coffee, 500 odd folks were asked to split into three groups, rather workshops, one each on Infrastructure (roads, power), Governance (focus Kasturirangan's MPC) and Social services (BSUP stuff - urban poor, health, water, sanitation). As you would expect, most of the crowd headed into the infrastructure hall. All too familiar with government's plans on roads and power, I headed instead towards the "governance" session. The room was half empty, and I could easily find myself a seat.

The Q&As and suggestions were interesting. The group started with discussion around raising more revenues for Bangalore. Points like stamp duty, raising guidance value, sakrama, parking as source of revenue were touched upon. TDR (transferable development rights), group housing, housing for middle class and poor - some folks brought these up as well. But sadly enough, there weren't any deep dives into Kasturirangan report. Only good one that came up was about the concept of directly elected Mayor - what if the Mayor is from Congress, state govt is BJP, and local MPs and MLAs JD-s. Would things be smooth then, or are we creating one more cook in the show here?

I had a question myself which I asked towards the end. I asked Mr Ravindra and Dr Kasturirangan if they had published their backing research on why is it that local government bodies don't collaborate well? Are we creating a new set of umbrella bodies merely because the current system doesn't work? How did we conclude that the current system can't be made to work? Is local governance failing because the system isn't designed well, or is it just that the roles aren't being discharged well?

Dr Kasturirangan said - yes, we looked into all that, but those notes are all in the scribble pads and sketches, and would become too long. So they didn't (or couldn't) include all this in the report itself. I said I do know you would have researched all this, just that I expected to see some of it as supporting material, or as an appendix to the report. At this time, a moderator took over and gave me an email address if I wanted further details.

I will just say this, Kasturirangan Committee's recomndations make sense. But that report doesn't make easy reading for most. And just because of that, I think that it may not have gotten the amount of public debate and exposure that it deserves.

After the workshop, we headed for lunch. Lunch onwards, it was networking time. All big name builders (Brigade, Prestige, Adarsh etc), good name architects, and some corporate bigwigs were there, so were a good number of retired and present bureaucrats. A few ministers were easily reachable as well, you could so easily get to talk to them.

We went around and chatted a lot, here is a summary about some of them:

Mr Suresh Hebblikar, Ecowatch - I love him, because he is one big name who talked sense on one subject - best solution for managing Bangalore's growth is to develop tier II and tier III centers. Spread it around, prevent people from coming to Bangalore. He in fact raised this same point in the Governance workshop as well, but was promptly put down by the chair with chants of "yes, yes, we are doing all that". Anyway, I met him up later, and with high hopes that he wont laugh at me, told him that we should start a campign to shift Karnataka's capital out of Bangalore to a centrally located smaller city. He was all ears, and I heard a long but interesting lecture on similar thoughts from him. He said he had expressed similar thoughts about 9-10 years ago, but it didn't go far. Well, we must try it again I said, and he said he will certainly give this some thought.

Mr Subramanya, BBMP - Reminded him about one Capt Naveen Chandra. Told him that Naveen is away, but we are here to take the BRTS talk forward. He said yes, we should keep that alive, and he wants to talk more. His issue with Naveen's material is, he can't do narrow magic boxes just for the buses as this may not go down well with public at large - why make movement easier just for the buses? Oh gosh, I told myself. Their wasn't enough time to discuss the subject of symbolic and preferential treatment to pubic transport, but even then it all ended abruptly when a politician looking chap literally grabbed and pulled him into another conversation with a different group. That perhaps is the life of bureaucrats, quipped Mr Hebblikar and Mr Rao to me :)

Krishna Byre Gowda - I hope I got the name right. A very young chap, this Congress MLA seemed so different from what you think the average netas to be. Anyone who was not from the BJP seemed easier to get to, Mr Rao even quipped this to Mr Krishna Gowda.

We met more people than whats listed above, many of them thanks to Mr Rao. But I have kept myself to jotting down things that stuck. And now, before I close, here is one interesting moment that came when I introduced myself in that governance session. Just as I mentioned the word Praja, about 7-8 people turned their heads with the curiosity that told me that they know or read us. Two of them were big names, and 2 were journalists. One journalist happened to be from Indian Express, who said he liked Praja. I didn't get to speak properly with the other journalist, I am guessing he must be from Hindu.

Long post, and apologies for being so incoherent. But here is my takeaway from the Abide day at IISc.

  • "-" It was more of a PR event for the government, and networking opportunity for many. At least the session I attended, the discussions didn't go super deep into finer aspects. Participation is a much bigger beast. I am sure most of us on Praja will agree that planning and idea generation isn't ever a problem. Execution is what we want to know more about, and hope Mr Rao too will concur with me on this - the event offered no glimpses or hints around improvement on execution front.
  • "+" But, I would concede this. It felt good that you could reach out to any babu or minister and start a conversation with them. All babus and ministers seemed to be in nice "listen" mode. All of it made me leave with a certain positive feel, and I get this feeling (and certainly hope) that this event may lead to creation of proper channels and mechanisms for citizen involvement and participation. Lets wait and see.


tsubba's picture

pretty cool eh?

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i see they have their kungu fu on style down. aside: hahahahaha. rofl!! i swear. cant stop doode. it hurts. rofl!!
vvr's picture


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One of the reports in the Hindu today mentions a young participant by name. Is this you, Silkboard? If yes, I am impressed -- very thoughtful.
silkboard's picture

would have been happier ...

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... if Hindu mentioned Praja instead of my name. We have so many ideas on this site (note: we are thinking of how to expose it all in structured way), that I can say this - I didn't hear anything there yesterday (except on the subject of how BBMP can raise more revenue) that tarle, naveen, navshot, bangalorean, bengaloorappa, murali, blrsri, srivathsa, mcadambi .... (the list will get too long, so pardon for missing so many) and so many others have not mentioned in one thread or another.  No rhetoric, I really mean what I just said here.

More updates soon, will put them onthe main post itself.

Rithesh's picture

Ravindra's presentation

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Ravindra's report was very good. But i doubt if that the report will be implemented at all. His suggestions directly affect both the political class as well as the bureaucracy. They are quite radical to say the least. Especially points like directly voting for a mayor, provision for having a non- bureaucratic commissioner, to bring all the stake holders of the city under one organization, etc. I have the pics of his presentation; i will try to put it online.

Ramesh Ramanathan's talk was interesting - City Connect NGO he is organizing seams to be doing some good stuff. They take up individual problems in the city and try to find short term and long term solutions. I was talking to a representative of City Connect (CC) - Santosh. He told me that Praveen (should be photoyogi i guess) from Praja was also participating in CC.  
I will drop in to CC office next week end post an update about their activities.

The worst thing about the event was the welcome talk by Jothiramalingam, Principal Secretary urban development. Believe it or not he took 25 minutes mentioning each and every name in the audience.

s_yajaman's picture

All the right noises

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Too bad I could not accept your invitation to join.  Sounds like you had a good time hobnobbing with the high and mighty :)

"Mr Suresh Hebblikar - I love him, because he is the only big name who talks sense -"  Hmm - be careful - you might be pissing off a lot of people :). 

It amazes me that people still talk about making Bangalore this 21st century marvel.

In India (unlike China where they have residence permits, etc), no city can be an island.  There are two things that will happen when we invest disproportionately in Bangalore - a) Other regions will suffer absolutely as less money goes there (unless we print notes!) b) Bangalore (assuming plans get executed), will look like that glitzy beacon of hope and prosperity and attract hordes again.  Net, we will be back to square one (may be square 1.1). 

Public transport is going to be so critical in the next few years.  We neglect it at our own peril. The US neglected it and there is a sense of frustration that the great suburban dream is now turning out to be a nightmare.  If our policy makers still believe that Saudi will turn on the taps and we will all once again be floating in oil (or to be more precise drowning), they are highly likely to be wrong.  Oil prices will come down - but only after demand destruction (means economic downturn, unemployment, reduced incomes, inflation of basic goods, etc.)  Read this interview with Matthew Simmons in the ET today.

BIAL seems to have taken a hit in the TRP game.  Don't see too much noise around it now. Was it the same story in this meet as well?


Drive safe.  It is not just the car maker which can recall its product.

silkboard's picture

Some edits and explanations

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Srivathsa, have edited that statement a bit so that it doesn't sound like a blanket an unconditional. I meant to say that he is one big name who thinks spreading things around is the best way of managing Bangalore's growth - fact that he may come from a controversial background (environment awareness) doesn't matter to me, I firmly believe that is the way. Why the hell should we have long separate discussion about "urban" governance. Why should it be different from "rural" governance? We don't realize that talking about a mega city's problem in isolation is risky. Rs 100 crore would give you 1 and half flyovers in Bangalore, but could give you a lot more in some other areas of the state. What makes us think that the other areas of state are immune from the local governance issues that plague Bangalore?

But on the positive side, Mr Ravidra said that Kasturiranga committee report should, with time, apply and extend to all urban areas of the state. This may or may not have been partly in response what Mr Hebblikar said and asked.

Rithesh, yes the presentation from Mr Ravindra had good content. The prezo was nice, but could have been nicer in the sense that a good presentation is supposed to dumb down complicated material for easy grasping by the audience. Some parts of the presentation did that (ex: explained the size of Metro Planning Council, number of elected vs nominated members), but some parts did not (ex: the basic explanation of how multiple local bodies have overlapping or gap-creating jurisdictions). By contrast, Ramesh's presentation was so good. He got through with his message loud and clear, gave the right examples (for the audience). A real good job.

We have talked to CityConnect a few times, and will be talking to them once again soon to explore how they can use our internet based platform to do more. I simply like and love their positivity, message and enthusiasm. More on this soon.

murali772's picture

22 lakhs was what it cost

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Under RTI, a CAF member got to inspect the files at  BDA for the amount spent on Action for Bengaluru Infrastructure Development (ABIDe) meeting held on 28.06.2008. The details are given below:

1. RAVE for audio visuals   Rs.99,000-00

2. Jai Maruthi flower decorators Rs.95,000-00

3. Raja Enterprsises for stall set up Rs.98,315-00

4. Haridas Enterprises for carpets & Plastic chairs Rs.89,437-00

5. E-Cube Advertising solutions for Arts & Human Resources Rs.96,068-00

6. Peacock Enterprises for banners Rs.97,056-00

7. Vishnu Tent house for decoration of the hall Rs.95,506-00

8. Audio Line for Electronic support Rs.93,500-00

9. Stage Logic for stage drop etc., Rs.96,635-00

10. F5 Events & Services Pvt Ltd., Rs.90,309-00

11. Bharani Electricals Rs.31,461-00

12. Fortune Enterprises Rs,63,000-00 (for 140 bags)

13. Fortune Enterprises Rs,90,000-00 (for 200 bags)

14. Fortune Enterprises Rs, 90,000-00 (for 200 bags)

15. Kiran Vedio filiming Rs.40,000-00

16. F5 Events & Services Pvt Ltd., Rs.54,270-00(for other works)

17. F5 Events & Services Pvt Ltd., Rs.14,058-00(for exhibition stall design and frame)

18. Yakshi Advertising Rs.67,883-00 (for printing invitation letters, envelops, folders & courier charges)

19. Royal Orchid Hotel Harsh Rs.7,48,857-00

20. Kamakshi foods Rs.36,126-00

The total amount spent is Rs.21,86,487-00 for one day meeting.

Considering that it was a high profile public meeting, the very first after the new ministry had taken office, would you say the spend was justified?

Muralidhar Rao
Muralidhar Rao
tsubba's picture

bata rates

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thanks a lot murali sir. i find it very curious that there are so many 'bata rate' bills. Rs. 99.95 type of bills. very curious how flowers and banners ad audio visuals all cost the same. i guess they would have to call for tenders otherwise. but i would say those 22lakhs would be worthwhile if something concrete came out of it. also need to reduce costs of conducting these thngs for it to be a sustainable idea. loose the flowers and the food and the invitation. bring your own food. and why print and send invitations? in these days of cell fones and emails?
tsubba's picture

ABIDe Formed.

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ABIDe Members President: Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa Vice-President: H.N. Ananthkumar(MP) Convenor: Rajiv Chandrashekar(MP) Members: Katta Subramanya Naidu(MLA & Minister), R. Ashok(MLA, Minister), A. Ravindra(for Chief secretary), Dr. Devi Shetty(Narayana Hrudyalaya), Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw(BIOCON), Ramesh Ramanathan(Janaagraha), MN Srihari(Prof & transportation expert), AnitaReddy(social service), Nagesh Hegde(environmentalist and journalist), and Lakshminarayana of Bosch company will be the ex-officio member. Source: The Hindu
ashwin's picture

What happened to the public consultation?

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I see news articles about Abide doing public consultation about their recommendations, but there is no schedule of events on their website and google couldn't find anything elsewhere for me either. I came to know of an event in Koramangala Club for Sunday 8th Feb from a mailing list on an unrelated topic. But even that was canceled, supposedly because of too few confirmations. So are they serious about public consultation or is it going to be a farce where after a month or so, they will announce that 'extensive' consultations were held and the recommendations finalized. comment guidelines

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