Bahujana hithaaya, bahujana sukhaaya – for the good and convenience of the largest number of people, is an old maxim adopted nationally as a motto for public policy. The administrators of Namma own ooru seem to have turned this rule upside down. Consider the following examples –
To ensure a "signal free" passage to those going to the new airport, the flow of traffic at Mekhri circle has been changed to force buses proceeding towards Bellary Road to take a sharp U turn after passing the BDA office and the Guttahalli stop. The diversion is such that buses slow down considerably, which means that 70-odd commuters in each bus bound for Bellary Road and further north, get delayed — so that the richer citizens riding in taxis and private cars can have a "signal free’ ride to BIA. I have seen one BMTC bus scrape the restraining metal railing along this steep U turn, and another get stalled in trying to avoid the railing and concrete wall behind it. The hoi polloi, the ‘janata’ who travel by public bus, take longer to commute, so that the rich, the car-riders, can go faster. That’s not ‘bahujana hithaaya", it’s "alpa jana hithaaya", the convenience of the minority taking precedence over that of the aam admi.
A little distance away to the north, along Bellary Road at Ganganagar, again the new flyover erected for the convenience of the car-riding rich, forces another very sharp turn on south bound bus drivers coming from Sanjaynagar. The clearance for vehicles under the flyover is grossly inadequate for easy negotiation. Again, bus riders get delayed as drivers manouvre their vehicles into the gap under the flyover, often narrowly missing the wall. That, again, is not quite "bahujana sukhaaya". Who sanctions such plans that inconvenience the largest number?
Riders on the fancy Volvos are now to get high tech internet and entertainment facilities, with web browsing, chatting , music and movies on a 7 inch touch screen. In the 4800 -odd "ordinary" BMTC buses that 38 lakhs of Bangaloreans use daily, forget about web browsing and chatting, even the driver’s seat back is tied together with cardboard sheets and frayed nylon rope, window glass is dirty and often broken, and the first aid box is more often than not empty.
Not to mention the fact that most of these ‘janata’ buses do not even have a light on their destination boards, so that someone like me taking a bus at 6 AM can barely see the route number in the wintry dark, till the bus is at the stop – and then of course, the driver decides to speed past, because I did not put out my hand to request him to stop. If you have to take a bus at 6 AM, you don’t count as a commuter to be pampered with basic courtesy, let alone internet and entertainment.
Bus stop shelters that used to provide seats for the elderly and infirm while they waited for their buses, have been removed, leaving in most places, sawed off stumps of the metal supports of the demolished shelters at ground level, so that those who are not careful stumble on them.
Every time I go past Indian Express stop, where huge crowds of commuters, young and old alike, are made to scurry and run to board buses because there is no fixed stop for the different routes, I remember the "ICE facilities, touch screen and cashless travel with smart cards" that Volvo commuters have been promised. Pamper the rich…. again.
Residents of HBR layout get no water although they pay their monthly bills (because the supply is pilfered en route, and their complaints have not been heeded for months Why bother about something as pedestrian as water, when you can have fancy bus rides with internet facilities and movies? You can add many more such examples of life in the city that pampers the privileged, marginalises the middle class and penalises the poor.
Karnataka, newspaper ads claimed last week, has "climbed to second rank in the country" in terms of PDS coverage. That reminds me, I need to go tomorrow to the Civil Supplies department office to find out why the indigent family of a watchman in north Bangalore has not received a ration card although their application was submitted and acknowledged in April 2007, all of three and a half years ago….⊕