We Need A 'Minister For Bangalore' Like We Need A Hole In The Head
No matter how diligently the Jesuits tried to educate us to the benefits of a meritocracy, we have not lost our desire for the patronage of the king.
One day after Siddaramaiah was elected CM of Karnataka, the members of B.PAC, breathless with purpose, suggested that the government should appoint a Minister for Bangalore - a politician dedicated to making life better in Bangalore.
That’s your solution to the city's problems? Throw more government at it?
Let's calculate how this plays out.
With a Minister for Bangalore, comes the Ministry of Bangalore—an entire department - with a Secretary, Additional Secretaries, Joint Secretaries, Under Secretaries and something weird called Directors, who are the sausages, wedged between the buns of the Joint - and Under Secretaries. (Wait. That came out wrong. Wait. No, it didn't.)
The department will include officers - mandarins, minions and amanuenses. All these people will get themselves a budget for their salaries, cars, air-cons and more; and the reason they will exist is so that they can monitor the functioning of Bangalore city.
But there's already a bureaucracy running the city; it’s called the Bangalore City Corporation. It has a city commissioner and a huge building, a pantheon with panjandrums, pashas and peons.
And a political overlay. A body of over 100 corporators, who are politicians, elected by Bangaloreans - the dearly - beloved of B.PAC. And there's also a Mayor, and maybe a Deputy Mayor, and they wear regalia (long pleated shiny gowns, medallions and look like rap artists wearing bling) when they receive foreign visitors at the airport.
Each corporator represents a ward with a special budget for his constituencies, over and beyond the money already spent by the corporation (on things like mosquito bite eradication) and supposedly, spends all day interacting with local city officials and those from the utilities... it's too tiring.
So, how about we focus attention on the (permanent) bureaucracy instead of the (temporary) legislature? Make the already bloated bureaucracy work for its salary. There's thousands of them, all waiting impatiently to serve the cause of us Bangaloreans. (And I am sure they will be eager not to have to share the bounty of public office with the people from a new ministry.)
The thing is, I don't believe B.PAC is collectively being naïve by asking for political interference.
Some people on the B.PAC video may seem innocently enthusiastic when they publicly proclaim they are "proud Bangaloreans". (Note to my personal friends on those videos: whoever made you do these videos is not your BFF.) But even so, I am sure that they are not thinking deeply about the historical and cultural aspects of the polity of Bangalore, before they call Bangaloreans to action.
I don't believe I do either, but I try not to swan around misguidedly.
Now, none of this includes Mr Mohandas Pai. I don’t believe he is naïve. He has never appeared to be a man without a clear agenda and sense of immediate purpose.
So when I watched his segment on the otherwise cringe-worthy B.PAC video, "Proud to be a Bangalorean" (http://goo.gl/w3ogv), I wondered, "What's his deal?"
Here are some of the things he said:
"Bangalore's per capita income is US$ 9,200, ahead of Bombay and Delhi."
"Bangalore has 100,000 expats."
"Bangalore has 45,000 PhDs."
"Bangalore has the third highest quantum of bank deposits in India."
"Bangalore makes up 65% of Karnataka’s GDP (and) pays 65% of Karnataka’s taxes."
"…and is, frankly, India's only global city."
Mr Pai knows - as much as any armchair analyst like me does - that these are not successes of Bangalore, as much as they are failures of the state.
If Bangalore is 65% of the economy of Karnataka, it means we have only one city in the entire state. And it means that the people of the state can only turn to Bangalore for jobs and sustenance, because the state has failed in economic development outside Bangalore.
Because of Bangalore's dominance over the state economy, we have urban poverty (which gives rise to crime), urban crowding (which gives rise to high-rises) and all-round urban stench.
How many of the 45,000 PhDs (all of whom Mr Pai seems to have appropriated for Bangalore) contribute to the science of administrating the city? Do all of them have no choice but to live in our technological mess?
And as for the 100,000 expats... I can understand that smaller cities like Singapore and Dubai need to attract large expat populations to work as managers. But Bangalore, India? Ok, fine. Expats are generally civic-minded, polite and urbane (and mostly nice to look at also). But what part of our need to employ 100,000 foreigners (to do things we can't) has got us feeling proud to be Bangalorean?
Why is B.PAC suggesting that adding one more politician and another layer of bureaucracy will solve the city's problems?
What does "proud to be Bangalorean" have anything to do with B.PAC’s agenda?
And by the way, what is B.PAC's agenda, anyway?
I know there's an answer to that question; one that does not meet the eye. Yet.
But until we can find out, let's all agree that we need a Minister for Bangalore like we need a hole in the head.
Ramjee Chandran is CEO and Editor-in-Chief of Explocity.