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Monday, October 22, 2007

PPP in preference to 'mai-baap sarkar'

letter posted to a google-group in response to reservations expressed by a member over PPP's:

Dear Mr M

It's reassuring to know that you would not subscribe to government's maai-baap role. Then I don't see where the problem lies.

Let us take a company like L&T. They are a part of the infra-structure industry lobby in the country, and would definitely be trying to influence the BBMP/ BDA into going on building more and more fly-overs, by means both fair and foul. They probably also have their men in ADB, and such other funding agencies, to push for such development models. That's where we, the citizens, need to counter their lobbying power with our own lobbying power for what is in the overall interest of the citizens, rather than what is in the interest of the industry. And, mind you, what is in the interest of the citizens is what is in the actual interest of the economy. This fact is being appreciated more and more by the enlightened Corporates, and many of them are beginning to re-orient their outlook along these lines, rather than pursuing short-term gains.

Instead, if we choose to keep them all out of the picture, labeling them all as evil, and entrust the jobs only to the PWD, it will be the recipe for total disaster. The PWD's will in turn hand over the jobs to the many small time contractors, and you will land up with the likes of the EWS quarters in Egipura. And, there are many more such examples.

The Corporates are very much bothered about their public image, and consequently far more sensitive to criticism. Recent examples of their positive responses to citizen interventions are

1) Oberoi's more or less accepting all the terms and conditions, in the matter of the development of the Hebbal lake, put forth by the Bangalore Environment Trust (It's another matter that even this has not been found acceptable by some other groups). In contrast is the mess-up of the Nagavara lake (Lumbini Gardens) by a small-time contractor, very likely a front for some politician.

2) Levi's proactively responding to the Koramangala Initiative's request to plant and nurture fresh saplings in front of their newly opened show-room in place of grown up trees illegally felled by the land-lady without their knowledge. (They have also come forward to team up with Koramangala Initiative for further greening efforts).

Coming to basic infrastructure sectors, particularly public bus transport services and power distribution, like I have repeatedly been saying, there already exist enough examples of private operators doing far better jobs than the government agencies, and it's high time they are facilitated to play much bigger roles.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

blue-line tragedy

text of the letter sent to Times of India:

I refer to the editorial, specifically the following excerpts, published in your columns on the 9th instant under the caption 'Get Moving'.

"It (the Delhi government) invited big companies to run the city’s buses, but no one seems keen. It is not hard to understand why.

Entities used to abiding by a framework of rules will rather not deal with a regime where transport authorities, policemen and politicians call the shots and make a quick rupee. For their rent-seeking behaviour, the city incurs a huge cost.

The government’s role as facilitator and regulator will have to change for bona fide players to show interest. It should allow private players operational freedom while ensuring that they observe traffic and every other norm. In cities that have a decent transport system anywhere in the world, commuters, government and transporters all understand the economic benefits of public order. In India, they don’t."

Yes, Sir, very clearly therein lies the problem. Rather than the blueline operators, it is the governments, whose policies perpetuate such situations, that have blood all over their hands.

The situation in Bangalore is different only to the extent that the speeds get automatically restricted due to the severe congestion. Not surprisingly, a survey by a leading T V channel has picked out Bangalore as the worst city to drive in.