Every budget talks about how Bangalore is an important metropolis and how its glory as an IT-BT capital has to be restored. In keeping with the current sentiment, the budget has discussions about garbage, roads, sites and investments. However there is only so much a city can take; so much a city can absorb; a limit to which it can cope. So, the question with every budget is that why are we so Bangalore-centric?
Unpack the current Karnataka budget and you have a section dedicated to Bangalore which details out fly-overs, sky-walks, grade separators and garbage management. There is an additional section on water supply, one on BDA. All adding up to Rs.8640 crore. Rest of the state grabs lesser space under a catch all title of Infrastructure Facility in other Urban Areas and of course lesser allocation. If it is Rs.9,286 crores for the entire State, we know how much Bangalore is eating up.
Most of these budgets are schizophrenic – they have a rural view of the state, and an urban view. This budget’s urban view is for the state capital. Others get a bit of non-rural residues. It is important to look at the budgets and developmental schemes not in such silos as urban-town-rural, but as a continuum that seamlessly addresses the rural, town and the urban problems.
Increased migration is a burden on city
So, if I were to look at Bangalore, I would look at two aspects:
1. How do I make the city more liveable and attractive;
2. How do I contain the unwanted growth and rationalise the growth across the state.
The moment a government uses this perspective, it will spend resources to understand where the growth pressures are coming from. It then will ask these questions:
Who are migrating into Bangalore
Why are they coming to Bangalore and whether there is anything special or specific to Bangalore that brings them in.
What are the problems in places from where they are coming
What are those activities that are essential for the economy of Bangalore
The questions being asked are not rhetorical questions that strive to preserve the linguistic, cultural, architectural and heritage identity of a city like Bangalore. The questions are largely economic in nature. Unfortunately budgets are not planned from this perspective.
The rural and town part of the budget therefore should ensure that infrastructure, institutions and activities in those areas are alive and vibrant. The idea is to minimise the involuntary migration and involuntary growth induced pressure on Bangalore. This principle applies to Bangalore as well as other cities. Therefore when we look at the budget from that perspective, it fails because of inadequate attention to the other parts of the state.
Ramachandra Guha, who was in Delhi before he shifted to Bangalore told me that he had shifted to Bangalore only because Bangalore had Shanbhag’s Premier Book Shop and Murthy’s Select Book Shop. While his response was stylized, that was a specific response to his specific need. Assuming that this was the sole reason, the shift of Ram Guha was a voluntary and premeditated move. It is obvious that there is no sense in a government encouraging the Shanbhags and the Murthys to shift out. However, when we talk to many others who have come into Bangalore in search of a livelihood, they would have been equally happy in a similar location with a similar income-generating capability.
If we were to look at the entire state from this perspective, then the focal point of the budget moves away from Bangalore to clusters of economic activities that make it attractive for people to find multiple destinations rather than a single destination. The current budget does not adequately provide for multiple economic destinations.
Helping the agriculture, or ruining it?
The schizophrenic view has resulted in a big allocation for agriculture and rural development, which hopefully should make agriculture a buzzing economic activity and prevent any stress on a metropolis due to failed agriculture. Unfortunately the allocation for agriculture and rural development does not address the basic economics of agriculture – it subsidizes credit which is a terrible idea, and provides price support – which might be a good idea but does nothing in-between to address the issue of productivity. Therefore in case of a failed crop or low productivity, the farmer has a double whammy and neither of these measures are going to help. It is not for want of budgetary allocations that we are finding widespread farmer suicides in the country, but we need to see how these allocations are applied.
What about off-farm and non-farm enterprises outside the metros? What about cluster development programmes? What about micro, small and medium enterprises? The budget speech does not even mention any of these terms. While a medical college here, a women’s college there is important and welcome, the focus on what puts pressure on a city like Bangalore would have made Bangalore itself a much more livable city. Of course wifi connection on the MG Road zone helps, but what is the big deal?
Growth outside Bangalore is prosperity inside
As Bangaloreans we need to be as worried about what is happening inside the castle, as we should be about what is happening around the castle. With Bangalore getting 93% resources earmarked for urban development, we are driving involuntary migration into Bangalore. It also seems to miss the aspects of other urban conglomerates that de-congest Bangalore. It will need a greater allocation in future years to manage this metropolis.
The budget fails to recognize other growth hotspots and their infrastructure needs which could have eased the burden on Bangalore. This budget misses the intervening aspects in the rural-urban continuum. Therefore any allocation without a concurrent plan to look at the picture holistically will remain wanting.