Fix B'luru infra, industry will stay

It is surprising and unfortunate that the Karnataka government is still refusing to face the reality that the state, and its showpiece, Bengaluru, do not offer the right environment for starting and running a business. The government is not ready even to accept its responsibility for creating the right conditions for business and industry to thrive. It is going to hold a much publicised investment mela next fortnight to showcase the State and attract investment, after roadshows all over. But the leaders of the government do not seem to understand the concerns of the investors, and have adopted a take-it-or-leave-it attitude when complaints about infrastructure are raised. Industries minister R V Deshpande told IT industry leaders this week that these concerns are there in all countries, in London and in New York. He could only say that the government would address them in one year. Should the industry wait? Such promises have been made many times.

The remarks are wrong too. The problems that Bengaluru is grappling with are not there in New York and London. Bengaluru is in a messy and sorry state. Its governance has broken down and its infrastructure facilities are the worst in its history. Its garbage, traffic and parking problems have not eased but only got worse. Building bye-laws and rules are violated without compunction. Indifference, lethargy, delays and corruption are the norms that mark official conduct and actions. It is the government which is responsible for this state of affairs. It cannot shift its responsibility or say that the industry is also responsible, as the minister said. Bengaluru no longer has the ecosystem which it once had to attract industry. When it attracts investment now, it is in spite of its poor infrastructure and other problems and the government it has. That cannot last long. It is losing investment because it is becoming unlivable. How can industry survive when people find it difficult to live in the city?

Cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Hyderabad are better than Bengaluru in providing basic civic amenities and essential infrastructure for business. The World Bank’s ease of business report placed Karnataka ninth among Indian states, after Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh, four months ago. The minister sounded cynical and even callous about the whole situation. He cannot stop industry from leaving Bengaluru by telling business leaders not to talk about it. It is the government which has vitiated the investment climate and it has the sole responsibility to improve it. But Deshpande’s words and the attitude that came through them did not convey that message.
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