Just a few months ago – on 23 February 2013– a fancy, “sky kissing” (ambara chumbana) clock tower, the tallest in the state, was installed with much fanfare at a cost of over Rs 90 lakhs (by a cash-strapped city administration). The fancy clock not only showed the time, it was supposed to change colour for each day of the week – orange for Tuesdays, blue, green etc. Go take a look now – the ‘colour changing’ bit has not lasted even a few months. It remains orange forever.
Spend money on a ‘colour-changing’ fancy contraption, pay the contractor, and that’s it – the thing promptly stops working. No one cares – it is public money, right ? That’s the theme for everything undertaken at taxpayers’ expense in the state, from flyovers to metro construction to over-bridges for pedestrians. Crores going down the drain – sorry, I meant going into contractors’ pockets – with no accountability for proper upkeep, or maintenance, or supervision. There used to be a skywalk, built at a huge cost, for pedestrians to cross from the shopping complex side to the bus terminus at Jayanagar 4th block. It has been razed to the ground after a couple of years because it served no purpose. It enriched two sets of contractors, on for building and another for demolishing.
BWSSB laid new water pipes in South Bengaluru last month, and has left a trail of destruction worse than a cyclone along its path – mounds of sand and dug up mud that went slushy in the rains, causing many pedestrians venturing along the footpaths to slip and fall (yours truly included) and broken pipes strewn on pavements. The contractor has “moved on,” and no one bothers about clearing up the mess left behind.
More than one metre width of the roads along the busy approaches to the shopping complex has become an obstacle race, with piles of mud left behind after the pipes were installed, so vehicles that used to park along the sides now climb on to the pavement, blocking movement. It is the same story, along the road leading to South End, or to Madhavan Park, and beyond, or J C Road. Why dig up specifically during rainy months, as if out of spite? Does anyone care? Certainly not those ‘administering’ the city.
The one way road connecting two traffic intersections between second and third blocks of Jayanagar is something out of Mars or worse – pitted with gravel left behind by Bescom workers (who came as a demolition squad a month before the BWSSB took over) and mounds of mud that makes it difficult even to walk on, leave alone driving. Did I say one way? In theory, yes, but two way traffic races regardless, no one cares, and it is a miracle that someone is not killed every hour in this madness. It takes fifteen minutes to negotiate this stretch of less than a hundred metres, avoiding the pits, stones and debris, and exposed cables and the traffic. Parked vehicles take up all available space, making movement hazardous.
Heaps of iron reinforcement rods lie blocking the access to the shopping complex, since summer, rusting in the rain. Corrugated metal sheets barricade the entire approach to the new bus terminus, ostensibly for “construction work,” but no work has been started for months. Why bother? Concerned citizens who fume over such callousness end up with a feeling of helpless frustration because there is no one to complain to except the culprits themselves, no one answerable.
You call this governance? Do we have a city administration at all, where someone takes responsibility? Do administrators ever walk around, ever mingle in the crowds to see what life is like for the average resident? Commissioners come and commissioners go, the ‘body’ remains the same – a den of corruption – as former Lokayukta Justice Santosh Hegde remarked. We, the hapless residents, cover our noses and mouths – literally and figuratively, and step gingerly and go about our daily business as best as we can. Groaning, or sometimes just switching off. Like that clock tower permanently stuck at orange.
Women councilors went round K R Market on a “cleaning spree” to show their commitment to the public. They came armed with gloves, covered shoes, face masks. A week later film stars and VIPs descended on the same place, for “clean up” operations, again well-armed with protective gear, gloves and masks. Those whose job it is actually to clear up the muck daily, get no protective gear, forget about fancy gloves. One rule for VIPs, another for the rest. Especially the poor, the voiceless middle class and those too busy going about earning their livelihoods, to pose for pictures for the media.
The politicians who are supposed to work for our “development,” are too busy electioneering. Already. Who cares about people’s woes? Grab the gaddi, because once you get there, your VIP status ensures that you live hassle-free.
Those whose names had got deleted during the assembly elections are supposed to get their names restored from November 1. Try it. Fifteen days later, I am still being shunted from one office to another, on some pretext or the other, asking me to come “next week.” It is a very determined citizen who can persevere in the face of such protracted stonewalling. Most of us do not, and cannot.
Because we don’t have either the time, or the energy. And the authorities bank on that sad truth. That is the tragedy of today’s Bengaluru. That those who should be answerable, get away with impunity.