A couple of months ago I wrote about how Karnataka – a beautiful state of enormous potential and proven leadership of the IT sector – had been brought to its knees by its self seeking and irresponsible politics, and had attained the dubious distinction of being perceived the most corrupt state in the country.
But why point fingers at politicians alone, when local government, judiciary, police, babudom and practically anybody who is vested with any power is busy milking the system dry rather than serve the state and its good people? What a sad contradiction that a state with highest potential should be governed at abysmally low level of governance standards.
About Bengaluru – also declared the most corrupt city by a city-based NGO – the less said the better. As if its impossible traffic, drastic loss of green cover, disappearing lakes, streets overflowing with garbage and institutionalised corruption are not enough symptoms of a failed city, even today, minor projects which should be completed in weeks, routinely take years.
Roads are deliberately built and maintained at the brink of acceptability to ensure repeated contracts for repairs. Even today, when the shameful state of traffic is all too evident, newer developments remain virtually unplanned. Buildings are allowed to come up randomly, with maximisation of personal gains as the only objective, and then narrow roads are somehow carved through them as an after-thought, knowing fully well that in 15 years, these roads will simply have to be widened. But by then, it wouldn’t be us that may be in power, right?
Or take the Bengaluru airport, whose logical location should have been somewhere between Bengaluru and Mysuru, to be able to serve both cities. This would also have answered some of the travails of “growth” of the Karnataka capital by diverting some of the growth to the outskirts of Mysuru.
Instead, the only criterion to guide the choice of location seems to be which politician had how much benami land and where. So what if the citizens have to spend hours commuting to and from the airport, with no rapid transport connection to the city.
Nothing said so far is new, even if it is the “new normal” for the average Bengalurean, especially as a great majority of the city’s young population has known no other “normal”. Then why this sudden burst of angst on my part? The reason is a new symbol of this extreme corruption-cum-cynicism-cum-to hell with you attitude of the authorities. Consider this:
Those of us who travel on the Hyderabad highway or NH 44, the arterial road connecting Hebbal flyover to Kempegowda International Airport, have to pass the usual higgledy-piggledy development around Hunasamaranahalli. This is where you notice the EMVEE Photovoltaic Power building, and then the illegally mined Sonnapanahalli hills to your left.
At this point for nearly a kilometre, for the last few years, the central stretch of the main highway has been blocked off, forcing traffic to take the service road, slowing it down. Any such inconvenience for two years would be justified if the objective of the pain inflicted upon the citizens was some important measure meant to alleviate some other suffering of even larger magnitude. Right?
But what if the exercise is one of utter futility, undertaken for absolutely no visible or even invisible reason? What if the “flyover” under construction flies over virtually nothing – no crossing, junction or even a minor road?
Even for a most irresponsible and corrupt system, such spend of public money, would seem unbelievable. And therein lies the “genius” of the “exercise”. After all, who in his right mind would suspect that whatever work was underway was not for public good? But it was when I seriously suspected this to be the case that I decided to get off my car and look around.
For the first year or so, it was not even clear what was under construction. There was no signage stating the nature of the project underway. Anyway, such niceties are not for us! While a long stretch of the highway had been blocked for the best part of a year, there was virtually no work under way.
Only when a 10-foot wide tubular structure was placed across the road and some mud started getting piled up on both sides of this structure, that it started assuming a semblance of a flyover.
The amazing thing is, there is no road that actually passes through this underpass. There are no roads to either side of this underpass which one may assume are being connected by this 10-foot narrow passage. It has been two years and the “project” is not even half way through.
So exactly what is the purpose of the exercise? I have stated my guess. You can make yours. Who is responsible for deciding on this “flyover”? What could be the justification of such mammoth direct and indirect expenditure on such a hare-brained venture? How come media has not thought it worthwhile to question this “project”? Is it because this is a relatively small scam which is unlikely to get enough eye-balls? Why hasn’t the State Accountant General raised questions?
Nor is this the only scam of its kind. On the entire stretch of Doddaballapur road widening going on for the last few years, one has been witnessing situations which would be hilarious if they were not at the cost of public exchequer. Why was the state government hell bent on the steel bridge across the city? Or why have politicians been single-mindedly pursuing the 100-acre “Legislature Township” for its MLAs, MLCs and their officers – some 20 km away from Vidhan Soudha?
Could it be because that such projects are the new normal? After all, ours is not the only state with such scams in progress, right? Every other state has its fair share, right? After all, the incumbent state government is not necessarily the only corrupt government in the country, right? So why get worked up? All is well, normal.
(The writer is an academic and author)