Bangalore today symbolises everything that’s wrong with India. Be it corruption in Governmental agencies, shoddy public infrastructure and transportation, moral policing, poor civic sense, bad driving habits, and so on, Bangalore is emerging as a showcase of what India could have been but sadly isn’t. More than anything else, it only shows what happens when rapid growth is based on an essentially weak foundation, and when economic and social development touches one section of society while neglecting several other sections.
In this article, I will attempt to discuss the problems of Bangalore area wise.
Roads and Transportation:
People in Bangalore have given up expecting logical and sensible things from the “consortium” of BDA, BBMP, BMRDA, BWSSB, BESCOM and so on. There are far too many things happening here that don’t make any sense at all, so much so that one wonders if even a 10 year old would make such mistakes if entrusted the same task!
- No standards followed in road construction.For example, different markings on roads in different areas, different materials used to construct footpaths or medians at different locations, etc.In foreign countries, there is a uniformity of markings or materials all over the city. Here, sometimes we have dashes (- – -) to separate lanes and sometimes continuous lines, which again are yellow in some places and white elsewhere. Also, in many places, the markings have disappeared due to traffic and haven’t been re-painted.Speed breakers too are not of uniform height, and many are at unexpected locations and without any markings, which is very, very dangerous, especially at night.
- Nowhere do I see direction indicators on lanes near junctions. These are very important to remind people that they need to get into the right lane depending on which direction they intend to continue from the junction (left, right or straight ahead).One big problem with drivers in Bangalore is that they never bother to get into the correct lane before getting to a junction. Here, people get into the least crowded lane instead! And after the signal turns green, they end up turning in the other direction thereby slowing down vehicles behind. No prizes for guessing who are the masters of this game: Truckers and autorickshaw drivers.
- Recently, all the trees on Golf Course road (the stretch opp. Le Meridien and Windsor Manor hotels) were cut down to widen the roads for the new Bangalore Airport. This could totally have been avoided had they made the triangle of Golf Course road, Palace road and Mount Carmel road as a one way. In the process, they ruined arguably the most beautiful boulevard in the city!
- As for the “magic box” overpass constructed on the same road just after the Windsor Manor bridge, the less said about its appearance the better! And one just has to look at the number of patches on the stretch of road from Windsor Manor bridge to Sadashivnagar Bashyam circle to realise how badly and hastily constructed it was in the first place!
- There is one road beside Elgin Apartments that leads to Cisco’s Divyashree Chambers office, that is a “conditional one way”. For all vehicles except BMTC buses it’s a one way. But for BMTC buses it’s a two way! Naturally, since these buses aren’t too many in quantity, the whole road is used by one way traffic. So when a bus does come from the other direction, it literally has to pass displacing traffic like a tunnel boring machine passes through rock!
- Too many places where BMTC or private bus stops are situated just 50-100 metres before or after bus bays specially constructed for the purpose! The bus bays are then used by fast vehicles to overtake slower vehicles.
- Bus stops just before or after a signal or junction also lead to blockage of the road and traffic jams. Because of the buses stopping at these bus stops, vehicles are not able to move swiftly even when the signal is green.
- Recently in Koramangala, the Raheja Arcade road (opp. Forum Mall) and 100 Ft road (from BDA Complex to Sony World junction) were widened to add one more lane on both sides. As part of this, the footpath width was reduced (the old one was almost gone anyway) and new electricity poles were erected along the new footpath edge. The old ones were supposed to be removed after transferring the power cables to the new poles.However, it’s almost one year now and the old poles are still carrying the wires! So the road is still two-lane for all practical purposes! Only rickshaws and bikes take advantage of the “barricaded” third lane.
- At many places, BESCOM transformers occupy entire footpaths. They also jutt out prominently into the road, causing it to lose a lane at that point. I haven’t seen such transformers anywhere else except Namma Bengaluru. And inevitably a jam happens as two lanes merge into one!On Sarjapura-Marathalli Outer Ring Road (ORR), on the stretch opposite Iblur military camp, again the road narrows by a lane at one point, causing unnecessary chaos in the traffic.
- I don’t know why the authorities didn’t build underpasses at every junction on ORR (Bellandur, Sarjapur, etc.) to start with! It was pretty clear even four years back that this present situation of overcrowded roads would one day occur, due to rapid construction on this stretch. And so it did. And now the authorities are talking of traffic management! Ideally, a ring road shouldn’t have any junctions at all. It should have entry and exit ramps for vehicles to get on and off it.
- One very irritating problem here is the habit of digging up freshly laid roads, usually to repair leaking pipes underneath. It amazes me as to how the pipes start leaking only after a fresh road is laid, and how the problem never surfaced earlier when the road was in a bad shape for several years! Again, the root cause here is the ridiculous lack of co-ordination between various agencies.
Governance and Infrastructure:
Slow and inefficient governance has always been Karnataka’s bane. Right from my childhood, I have been visiting Bangalore in the summer holidays. In those days, there used to be powercuts for two hours in the afternoons everyday. Even today, it’s more or less the same situation. So what have the authorities been doing all these years??
In short, the Government has always shown itself to be slow to react to the changing environment and needs of people. Karnataka’s politicians and bureaucrats have this reputation for being “slow movers”, taking their own sweet time to go about taking decisions. To add to it, the tolerance for corruption here seems unparalleled!
Couple of points I’d like to make:
- Why can’t the Govt. give suo moto powers to the Lok Ayukta to register FIRs against public servants whom it finds in possession of assets beyond their means of income? The poor Lok Ayukta does its job only to find the Govt. sleeping like a Kumbhakarna on its requests for action.
- Why can’t the Govt. speed up power projects in the state? Sixty percent of Karnataka’s power generation is hydroelectric, i.e. through dams. While this may be eco-friendly, it isn’t reliable, given how the weather fluctuates nowadays. There must be an emphasis on setting up alternative power generation plants, preferably nuclear.
- Train services are another problem in Karnataka. Take the case of the route between Bangalore and Mangalore. Despite being the two biggest cities in Karnataka, they are connected by only one train service! That too goes via Mysore, making it much longer than bus travel. It’s very clear to anyone endowed with common sense that this is all because of the bus lobby, who doesn’t want to lose business to the railways. By contrast, there are around 20-30 trains all around the day between Ahmedabad and Mumbai.
- Very poor highways even by the standards of some of the more developed states in India, such as Gujarat or Maharashtra. Even Tamil Nadu has far better roads!
- Almost all the traffic problems in Bangalore can be sourced down to this slow decision-making attitude of the Govt. If adequate city buses and the Bangalore Metro had been introduced on time, when the city’s vehicular population was starting to explode, then this present day mess could have been contained to a great extent. Seventy three percent of Bangalore’s traffic is due to two wheelers. If half of these people were to switch to using buses or the metro rail, one can easily imagine the positive impact on the city’s traffic!
- The virus of inaction and perversion of justice has boiled down from the political class to the police as well. Bangalore’s police is becoming famous for its incompetence and inaction. It is very difficult to get the police here to lodge a complaint and investigate issues, unless they get into the public eye. There have been many cases where a complainant (especially those from the north of India) has had to hear lectures on morality from these so-called guardians of society!
[To be continued…]