Bonanzas go bust


There’s many a slip twixt the cup and the lip, goes the old English proverb and it aptly applies to our World Cup winning Indian cricketers and their coach Gary Kirsten, who missed the chance of making Bangalore their future home just like a missed catch in a game of cricket. Or should we compare the missed opportunity to the 100th international century that eluded Sachin Tendulkar in the same World Cup final match last Saturday? Either way, Karnataka chief minister B S Yeddyurappa’s quixotic decision to confer residential sites in Bangalore on not just Team India but also their South African coach, denied the haloed 16 this most elusive gift. Quixotic because Yeddyurappa declared the players would be housed in an exclusive layout, the location of which would be made known within a fortnight, but then changed his mind just as quickly as he had announced it soon after the Cup win. A third announcement, replacing the offer of sites with cash gifts of Rs 25 lakh each, followed as swiftly as the previous two decisions.

Perhaps the chief minister was well advised to change the land offer because getting government approved and allotted sites in Bangalore has proved as much, or more, elusive than winning the World Cup for India since 1983 — a reality that lakhs of site applicants-in-waiting would swear by in this burgeoning city whose galloping population (set to hit the one-crore mark) and worsening infrastructure have done nothing to blot its escutcheon of epithets such as the silicon valley of India, pensioners’ paradise, garden city and so on and so forth.

Bungalows for the asking

A few of Yeddyurappa’s predecessors too, like Ramakrishna Hegde, and even former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda have demonstrated the power of the executive to bestow largesse on their favourites. Hegde invited former president of India, the late Neelam Sanjiva Reddy, to settle down in Bangalore once he demitted office. Reddy subsequently retired to his home turf Illur in Andhra Pradesh.

Deve Gowda apparently believed in winning friends by distributing state favours. First, he allotted a palatial bungalow on Safdarjung Road in Delhi to former president, the late Ramaswamy Venkataraman, who decided to live in the capital after the DMK’s return to power in Tamil Nadu.

Venkataraman lived in a state-owned bungalow in Chennai while two of his houses in Delhi were rented out, much to the DMK’s chagrin.

Deve Gowda then allotted a type-V bungalow to Sanjeeva Reddy’s widow, who had expressed a desire to stay in Bangalore. The Karnataka government was instructed to allot the bungalow to Nagaratnamma Reddy. The Centre was to exchange with the Karnataka government two smaller houses in lieu of the large bungalow for Nagaratnamma Reddy.

The Deve Gowda government also decided to allot type-V bungalows to the surviving spouses of former presidents, vice-presidents and prime ministers. The widows of former presidents Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed and Giani Zail Singh, and former prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri and Rajiv Gandhi became beneficiaries of government bungalows in the capital.

On the contrary, not just in Bangalore, across Karnataka, award winners, victims of natural calamities awaiting rehabilitation after losing home and hearth, and poor beneficiaries of government-sponsored housing schemes have had to wait alike to receive the “gift of kindness”.

Quite often than not the ‘gift’ never materialises. The state government’s constant refrain is that there is no land left to distribute. Scores of genuine causes and investment proposals, such as research facilities and premier educational institutions, have been shelved for want of land. An eyecare institution seeking to establish a state-of-the-art laboratory to facilitate pathbreaking research for the benefit of the visually impaired is still waiting with no land in sight.

Stars vs heroes

While hailing the World Cup win, an Army colonel, in an open letter, has urged some introspection as to how the country views its war heroes and what the government/state offers them for sacrificing their lives in the line of duty. Here are some excerpts: “The team partied at the same Taj Hotel, which was the battle ground on 26/11 and witness to many a soldier giving up his life. Major Unnikrishnan who died while fighting the terrorists is yet to  receive his complete NOK entitlements. He gave his today for the tomorrow of others so that they can party all night without any threat. The world Cup finals at Mumbai was held  under safe environment with the army, navy, coast guard, NSG and what not to ensure the conduct of the match without a hitch. Remove the men in uniform and see if the events pass smoothly, be it CWG games or cricket match. The Kargil War has still its shadows on the number of officers/jawans who laid down their lives to protect the nation and its territorial integrity. What the recipients of Param Vir Chakras/Mahavir and Vir Chakras got in comparison to the cricket boys is known to all (peanuts). What the families of the dead go through can only be experienced by them.

The railways is not prepared to honour the percentage concession given to the war heroes in stark comparison to a lifetime First AC free pass throughout the country along with an aide to the cricket  stars. Let us not forget the Kabul blast in which a Brigadier was also blown up with a bureaucrat. The babu got all the cake and the icing, the Brig was  treated as a casualty. The PM went and paid homage to the babu and his family, the Brig got the traditional ‘Shok Shashtra’.”

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