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Sunday, February 25, 2007

Please step aside!

text of the letter sent to the press:

From the reports appearing in the press, as also our recent experiences, the incapacity of the government to manage the power scenario, which is fast assuming crisis proportions, seems very obvious. Each of the ministers concerned is just passing the buck, with not one having any clue as to how to face the situation, either in the short term or the long. The question that arises very simply is whether it has to reach total break-down levels before the government is pushed to privatising. There are enough cities in the country - Mumbai, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Surat, Greater Noida, to name a few, where private companies have been managing the job fairly well for many years now, and that is all that we in Bangalore care. Please invite them to take over!

Agricultural sector load is just a convenient scape-goat being used by the government agencies involved to mask their poor planning and management. If they are genuinely interested in solving the problems of the rural sector, there are good models there too worthy of emulation - like that of the Hukeri Co-op Society in our own Belgaum district.

And, to ensure equity to all the stake-holders concerned, there is the KERC ( Karnataka Electricity Regulatory Commission).

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

towards people friendly politics

text of the letter sent to the Indian Express:

I refer to the report captioned 'KSRTC needs Rs 2,000/- crores to upgrade facilities' published in your columns on the 21st instant.

Now, I can't see any earthly reason why the government should be investing such a huge amount in KSRTC when the private sector can bring in far more funds to this vital infrastructure sector, as also provide far better services, very much as it has done in the case of aviation, telephony, banking, insurance, etc, if the government just facilitates the process. To begin with, the government could repeal archaic laws like the Contract Carriage Act, and license all services uniformly as bus services, allowing them to operate on routes and at fare levels of their choice, charging annual license fees on the basis of just the vehicle floor area. Within months, you will see the transformation, with every corner of the state well connected with every kind of service, ranging from 'Kingfisher' levels to 'Air Deccan', with the Air Deccan fare levels being far lower than that being charged currently by the ordinary KSRTC services. To cope with the competition, the KSRTC can be incorporated into a company (after reverting all the non-movable assets in its possession to the local municipal bodies), with the staff and labour holding substantial stake in it, and a nominal license fee concession being allowed for some first three years.

The same goes for the city services also.

There cannot be a more people friendly gesture from the government. All that is required is the political will.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

KPCB's 'valiant' act

sub: text of the letter sent to Indian Express:

I refer to the news report captioned 'IT major given closure notice' in your columns on the 17th instant.

Now, I can't think of any major pollution threat an IT company, however big, poses to the environment. The only waste involved is the waste from toilet usage by employees during working hours, which anyway is far lesser than that for even a residential complex of comparable size. And, it is inconceivable that a company like Honeywell could not have taken care of meeting the connected basic requirements. As such, if at all there was any non-compliance, as alleged, it may have been technical, at worst. For which, wielding the stick is very much like the DCF, Urban, Sri Annaiah, doing the same to People for Animals hospital in Kengeri recently. Or, more likely, the result of the person concerned refusing to pay the 'mamools' demanded by the officials.

This is essentially what the Pollution Control Board has reduced itself to, even as rampant violations of all kinds go on unchecked all around. The same goes for the Electrical Inspectorate, and many other such agencies.

A rare exception, in my experience, surprisingly used to be the Dept of Industries & Commerce, Govt of Karnataka, overseeing compliance by industries under the 'Boilers and Pressure Vessels Act'. Here the inspection and certification used to be entrusted to accredited 'chartered engineers', who did a fairly professional job for a prescribed fee. Being an onerous responsibility, since they could be held accountable in case of accidents, they generally went about their task in a no-nonsense manner. Perhaps, that is the model to be followed by the other government departments/ agencies.

Monday, February 12, 2007

KSRTC's tom-tommings

text of the letter sent to Times of India:

I refer to the report captioned 'cash registers ring at KSRTC office' in your columns on the 10th Feb.

While doubtless the KSRTC (as well as the BMTC) services have improved considerably of late, comparing them against the services provided by the private players would be rather unfair, operating as these are on a playing field sloped totally against them. Now, almost all the private players are licensed as 'contract carriages', 'tourist carriages', etc ( but never as stage carriages - the term used in the RTO parlance for regular bus operations), which imposes all kinds of restrictions on them. If one were to abide by the rules framed thereunder, one can't make any money, and consequently, the rules are observed more in breach than compliance, by the 'mafioso' ( I would have liked to use a less incriminating word) who alone dare to venture into the fray. The mafioso know how to play the game, while simultaneously keeping the RTO and the various other government officials involved all very happy, as also the KSRTC trade unionists. The respectable business houses however refuse to enter into this minefield, making for a near monopoly scenario for the KSRTC, which they then tom-tom about making profits out of. The real test for KSRTC/ BMTC will be when thay have to compete against TATA's, TVS, etc, and, in today's liberalised world, there is absolutely no reason why the citizens should be denied the benefits deriving from effective competition on level a playing field involving such players.

Even as enormous benefits have resulted to everyone concerned out of reforms in so many other sectors, it is unfortunate that the government refuses to look at proper reforms in as key an infra-structure sector as the public bus transport services sector.