Saturday, February 19, 2011


Metro work is on full swing, roads are being widened and construction of flyovers have started mushrooming all over the city - All in the name of providing better infrastructure to (of) the people, by the people and for the people, and of course to make Bangalore an international city.

It feels the city is being plundered! The soothing plush feel is gone. It's now hot and dusty while cranes dot the skyline. Couple this with power cuts and serpentine traffic queues, which seems to get longer and move slower with every passing day, and the metamorphosis of Bangalore seems to be complete.

And, this pains me no end to see my city being killed "slowly, silently and softly."

And, here in lies a point! Why not create a new city named as “New Bangalore”?

Bangalore's history shows that the city metamorphosed in two phases: First, during the late 1960s when the government decided to make the city as the hub of country's Research and Development activities sprinkled with pubic sector enterprises. And, the second phase was when technology companies drove to Bangalore in hoards to set-up their bases.

What it created other than jobs was demand for housing and goods!

While the first growth movement was planned and fuelled by public money, the second was "laissez-faire" or incremental growth fanned by private money in pursuit of profit generation.

Real estate developers cashed in on this second phase of growth. Towers of residential blocks along with sprawling tech parks started coming up wherever land was available leading to unplanned growth and infrastructure bursting at the seams.

Data by Bangalore Development Authority shows that the population of the city grew by nearly 40 percent to 8 million over the past decade to 2010. And, is expected to touch 10 million within the next decade.

So, what are the options?

Urban town planners say the government should try to bring a "marriage" between the two phases of growth. Which means create the space and hand it over to the private enterprises or in other words a "Public Private Partnership" or PPP venture.

Globally PPPs are involved in a wide range of social and economic infrastructure projects. And are mainly used to build and operate hospitals, schools, prisons, roads, bridges and tunnels, light rail networks, air traffic control systems, and water and sanitation plants.

The International Monetary Fund refers public-private partnerships as "arrangements where the private sector supplies infrastructure assets and services that traditionally have been provided by the government." And Standard and Poor’s defines PPP as any medium- to long-term relationship between the public and private sectors, involving the sharing of risks and rewards of multi-sector skills, expertise and finance to deliver desired policy outcomes.

PPP projects are already being executed in Karnataka in public-utility sectors such as sanitation and drinking water.

So lets take this partnership one step forward: Lets create the "New Bangalore" city, which is similar to New Delhi where everything was planned and executed.

Let the government aggregate land and plan the new city. And, then form ventures with various infrastructure and housing development companies to build roads, building, sanitation and et al.

What these public-private ventures will also do is reduce the financial burden from both the parties and at the same time accelerate delivery of projects while maintaining quality.

The World Bank says that over the last decade the number of countries including both developing and the developed ones has significantly relied on PPP projects as the preferred financing scheme for infrastructure projects.

Analysts, however, caution that PPP projects should not lose sight of their goal and that is to deliver better quality services for the same amount spent by the public sector.

"We need to constantly innovate regulatory and financial structures for PPP projects to be successful as these projects are also looked through a political glass and involves both public and private money," explained Prakash Mallya, former chairman and managing director of state-run Vijaya Bank.

Jane Jacobs, an activist in urban planning and communities wrote in the Death And Life of Great American Cities "the essence of urban life lies in the exuberant diversity...the planner, who in addition to planning the physical environment, also wants to plan the lives of the people who will live within it."

And, that is exactly where the modern day government comes to play. Let the government be our planner as it has been entrusted to shape our future and make our life better.

In the winter of 1863, US President Abraham Lincoln had famously said, "government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth."

Let’s hope that the types of government that Lincoln meant are still in existence. Otherwise, those words may well be the President's famous last seen in the context of Indians.