The wizards of IT

Wednesday 15 February 2006

More than infrastructure, Indian cities need real politics

-- bangalore has grown exponentialy in the past three decades. The growth, fuelled by it and bpo industries has brought in foreign exchange, an influx of skilled and high-priced labour, growth in hospitality, catering, rent-a-car and housing industries. This has been touted all over as an Indian success story.

This success has created an absurd demand for infrastructure and public services. The city is expanding fast, bulldozing rural and peri-urban areas, forests, wetlands. Over the years, the media has created a halo around this new breed of wealth creators. Now they want what think is their due: more houses, office space, roads and flyovers. All at the same time. In the same space.

For this the it industry is perpetually threatening the state government that it will move to another state. A nervous state government is focusing its governance energy to cater only to industry. But all attempts to appease the industry fall flat. Because the city is made up of lots of people outside this industry.

The demise of the political class is evident across urban India. Only in Bangalore, all this is happening rapidly, thanks to the breakneck pace of the new economy. Governance is increasingly driven by business agenda and the creation of business opportunity. Citizens are getting reduced to consumers. Infrastructure agendas are being determined by the users' ability to pay. This public-private partnership credo leaves out the poor as a rule. This ever widenening gap can't be filled by information or it. A healthy society doesn't operate like a binary switching system.

The State's failure to govern and to provide public services has been channelised effectively to introduce the idea of privatisation of public utility services. Simultaneously, all democratic norms of governance are being sacrificed to usher in a boardroom-style development management, in which 'participation' is a mere 'strategy'. Smart people can indulge in gross injustice in the name of transparent governance. Smarter people are trying to call this industry a 'national resource', demanding central finance to keep it happy.

What's happening in Bangalore is a sneak preview of what will happen in towns and cities across India. Every city has its counterparts of the it industry. It is hardly surprising that Bangalore's traffic management -- if there is such a thing -- has created more 'one ways' than any other city in the world.

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