Tag Archives | Bangalore

Protests in Bangalore and Kashmir — Manifestation of Radically Networked Societies?

What most of the commentators have missed out during the recent protests in Kashmir and Bangalore is that the traditionally organised power structures are being challenged by radically networked societies and governments need to restructure better to respond

Two recent protests in the country demonstrated how radically networked societies (RNS) challenge the conventional, bureaucratic and hierarchical power structures. Last week, after a girl was allegedly molested by a soldier in Handwara, Kashmir saw a deluge of protests by the locals. The army later released a video in which the girl gave a statement exonerating the army. But the incident was enough to snowball into a major law and order problem in which police had to resort to firing on protesting mobs resulting in five dead and scores injured. It culminated in the dismantling of army bunkers after more than two decades.  In the second incident, violence erupted across Bangalore on April 18 and 19 by garment factory workers that left more than a hundred injured, two of them seriously.  A police station was attacked and vehicles were set on fire. Reportedly, this was a reaction to amendment to Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) by the central government as part of its budget announcement for 2016. The new norms barred employees from withdrawing their entire provident fund corpus before retirement. On April 19, the government announced a complete and unconditional rollback.

The striking feature of both the incidents is that they were leaderless. In Kashmir, mobs of protesters were assembled based on “news” circulated in WhatsApp groups.   The dismantling of bunkers has been seen as a victory for locals. But the government’s response was typical of bureaucratic knee-jerk reaction. In an order dated April 18, the Kashmir government has instructed all WhatsApp groups to register within ten days.  There were even government employees who were part of the groups. WhatsApp has emerged as a potent tool for gathering of protesters. The statement by Divisional Commissioner, Asgar Samoon reported in newspapers is produced as below:

There are many unauthorised news groups on WhatsApp that disseminate news. It’s not restricted to just chatting, they have thousands of followers who post news without verification and many times lead to law and order problems. Government employees are for implementation of policies, if they have grievances or suggestion they can be put forward through proper channel not in public forms. In many cases government employees were seen instigating violence.”

Even in Bangalore, the protests were first planned and circulated in WhatsApp groups among the garment industry workers.  Most of the protesters were women. About three and a half years ago, Bangalore had a similar incident concerning the migrant working population from northeastern part of India. In August 2012, more than 30,000 people left the city over rumours of impending attack on them.

According to my colleague Nitin Pai, corruption, economic distress, political oppression, and elite control of political power, among others have always been there. He goes on to add that the proliferation of public protests might be the first signs of clash between radically networked societies and hierarchically ordered states. This is true whether the polity is democratic or authoritarian.

In 2011 Arab Spring, protests spread like wildfire in Tahrir Square in Egypt and Tunisia that resulted in ousting of authoritarian political leaders. The onset of social media like facebook, twitter, whatsapp, Snapchat etc. have radically transformed the speed with which information is transmitted and processed. In many ways, this is the epitome of Marshall McLuhan’s ‘medium is the message’  theory.

Bangalore and Kashmir present a contrast and similarity. Contrast, because Bangalore city police is one of the most tech savvy forces in the country with an active twitter handle and social media presence. Kashmir police has not demonstrated such a capability. In addition, Kashmir has a heavy presence of other security forces like Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and army which have their own typically rigid hierarchical organisations. Similarity, because both got checkmated by very similar radical networks.

Responding to the RNS also entails a trade-off between liberty and national security. To what extent can personal freedoms and liberty can be contained is a matter to be seriously debated. Left purely to governments, they will only enact policies to strengthen the hand of the state, however draconian it may be. This will be an incremental tail chase in perpetuity. The latest order in Kashmir is evidence of this.

One reason the United States emerged on top of the world order is because it had the best political system for post-Enlightenment industrial age societies. It can be argued that the nation that best restructures itself for the information age will have a shot at being the next great superpower. Across the world, governments are grappling with this phenomenon. We certainly have a long way to go.

Guru Aiyar is a Research Scholar with Takshashila Institution and tweets @guruaiyar.

Featured Image: Network, licensed by creativecommons.org

 

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Racism in India’s Silicon Valley

The series of mob violence against non-locals & foreigners in Bangalore reinforces the fact that racism is not just confined to the West

Bangalore is India’s answer to the Silicon Valley. Known as the IT and start-up capital of the country, it boasts of top quality education. It produces second highest number of engineers after Delhi and has the highest number of software companies in India. With such a cosmopolitan culture and a melting pot of migrant student and working population, one would expect the city to be high on social values and ethos. Some of the recent happenings have exposed the aberrations of a society that could be bordering on extreme form of racism.

On Sunday January 31, a Sudanese student named Mohammed Ismail killed a 35 year old woman by his speeding car. The crowd chased him and assaulted him while torching his car as he was allegedly drunk. He was later handed over to the police. Half an hour later, a Tanzanian woman with her two friends passed the same spot in her car and stopped to enquire about the happenings.  She was instead chased by a mob and stripped. Her car was also burnt by the angry mob. Mercifully, she was saved by a couple of samaritans who formed a human chain around her. The Tanzanian High Commission took up the matter diplomatically. Sushma Swaraj, India’s external affairs minister has assured of action against the culprits. The mob behaviour was certainly despicable not befitting a liberal society. This was not the only incident that has tarnished the city’s image.

Four months ago, an Australian national, Matthew Gordon was harassed by locals for sporting the tattoo of an Indian goddess. The Australian was given a dressing down by the police on Indian values and Hindu culture. What was surprising in this case was that the police forced the man to give a written apology. Reportedly, none of the intimidators were warned by the police for their vigilante behaviour. If these two incidents involved foreigners, another one in 2012 saw panic exodus of youngsters from northeastern India fearing violence. However, the exodus was triggered by social media messages and the local police claimed no reported violence against them.

There is no need to politicise the incidents. It clearly shows the society’s pathological non-acceptance of people who are ‘foreign’ with a darker shade of skin colour. In the case of Australian, it is a case of not tolerating a difference in attitude. Indians are well known for their liking of fair skin. To vent mob anger against people of darker skin in the most brutal form of violence takes this to another level. In mob fury, reasonable individuals are the first casualty for they tend to get swept aside by the tide of hatred. We only need to sensitise the society by constant engagement towards normative behaviour. Sensitising the police too is an essential step. Racism is not to be tolerated.

Guru Aiyar is a research scholar with Takshashila Institution and tweets @guruaiyar

 Featured image: Racism by Farhad, licensed by creativecommons.org

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How much for that pothole?

Pothole

It is seriously worrying that the top 5 Google search results for the word “pothole”, excluding the link to the dictionary meaning, are links to Bangalore related news. According to a conservative government estimate, Bangalore is home to about 4000 potholes with varying degrees of hazard associated with them. Indeed, last September one such pothole claimed the life of a young woman when she suffered head injuries due to a fall. While calculating the cost of a life is nearly impossible, there are other costs associated with potholes that can be estimated.

First, there is the cost of slow moving traffic that leads to loss of productive hours. Let us assume that each pothole adds 1 second to the time taken to cover a particular stretch of road, and also that only half of the 50 lakh vehicles in Bangalore are on road each day. If, on an average, there are two people traveling in each of these 25 lakh vehicles and each vehicle crosses only ten potholes in a day (one only wishes!), then a quick back of the envelope calculation tells us that roughly 14000 productive person hours are lost each day. Even with the minimum wage of Rs. 160 per day, this amounts to a loss of Rs. 22.4 lakh everyday.

Secondly, if we are to believe the report that potholes mess up a person’s spine then we must add the cost of medical care. Let us say that Rs. 0.1 per pothole gets added to the eventual medical bills that a person will incur when the disastrous health effects become apparent to the person. This makes Rs. 1 worth of extra medical cost per person per day, which amounts to an expenditure of 50 lakh per day for the 50 lakh people traveling in those 25 lakh vehicles.

Thus, the total cost of 4000 potholes is Rs. 47.4 lakh per day, which translates to Rs. 1185 per pothole per day. And we are not even speaking of any environmental costs, or of money spent towards extra petrol for slow moving traffic, or of wear and tear of vehicles, and above all of the accidents which these potholes inevitably cause.

In the light of these estimates, one can say that BBMP has made perhaps the wisest investment in the Python machine, which it has imported from Canada for Rs. 3.5 crores for the purpose of quickly repairing potholes. This machine practically pays for itself in under 8 days from the moment Bangalore becomes free of this menace. Now only if authorities can fill up these holes faster than they appear on our roads.

Nidhi Gupta is a Programme Manager at the Takshashila Institution and tweets at @nidhi1902.

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It’s the governance, stupid!

By Nidhi Gupta and Varun Santhosh

The recent spate of citizen protests in Bangalore is a symptom of the deep governance deficit in the city

The tech-savvy residents of the outer regions of Bangalore are increasingly taking to public protests to voice their discontent with the myriad infrastructure problems that beset their neighbourhoods. These problems are symptomatic of the underlying issues arising out of a myopic vision and a deficit (sometimes bordering on absence) of governance. As long as the state government and the city’s administrators remain mired in a cycle of firefighting, band-aid fixes and peddling ‘white-elephant’ projects as grand solutions, the protests will only spread and improving the livability of India’s Silicon Valley will remain a distant dream.

Residents of Sarjapur and Bellandur, along the Outer Ring Road(ORR), staged a protest yesterday to highlight their infrastructural woes. A fortnight ago, in a protest with a clarion call to “Save Whitefield“, around 10,000 residents of Whitefield, a suburb that is host to most of the IT companies, got together to form a human chain that stretched for 10 kilometres. The tipping point that mobilised the otherwise docile professionals was school children being stuck in traffic for almost 3 hours on their way back home. This followed similar other protests in Whitefield and HSR Layout in the past two months. Such vocal demonstrations by a section of the citizens bring to fore the issues plaguing the city and accentuate the extent of discomfort that people and businesses endure on a daily basis. But the response it garnered from the government is revealing. It ranged from half-hearted midnight operations to asphalt roads, hours before the protest, blaming different agencies for dug-up roads to mooting the idea of tunnel ring roads.

As pointed out earlier (by Pavan and Karthik), Bangalore has not only seen a rapid growth from about 200 sqkm to around 709.5 sqkm, but a failure of infrastructure and governance to catch up with such growth. The recently released BBMP restructuring report prepared by  a 3-member expert committee, points out that the existing 198 wards in the BBMP area demarcated in 2007 were based on the 2001 census. From 2001-11, the city expanded by 44.6 per cent, one of the highest in its comparable class in the world. During the same period, while the inner core areas grew by about 18 per cent, the outer regions expanded by more than 100 per cent. The report further states that 43 wards have a population more than 50,000 (based on 2011 Census) and the largest ward, Horamavu, is well over 1.1 lakhs at the moment. Compare this to the ward size recommended to be fixed ideally between 20,000 for the outer growth areas and 30,000 for the inner city areas.

Coming back to one of the main triggers of the protests – traffic. It is a norm in Whitefield and ORR regions for people to waste many productive hours negotiating traffic pileups. While narrow roads, potholes, lack of pavements, etc. contribute to the traffic jams, the primary issue, especially in Whitefield, is that the suburb has only two access points and no alternate routes. This nightmare scenario could have been averted had the city administration planned a more robust road network with multi-modal public transport options like commuter rail and bus rapid transit systems when it was wooing IT companies to set up shop. Furthermore, the problems not only stop at bad planning, but also extend to haphazard announcements of one-ways and arbitrary banning of U-turns leading to circuitous routes.

Consider the other perennial problem of lethal potholes in Bangalore. There are two parts to this problem — one, why do potholes appear in the first place and two, why are they not fixed? The first problem arises due to poor quality control in road-building practices and the utter lack of coordination between various civic departments such as the BWSSB, BESCOM, BSNL and BBMP that results in repeated mutilation of newly laid roads. The re-emergence of potholes can be blamed on patchwork repairs carried out with substandard materials. It is quintessentially the government’s way of trying to placate its frustrated citizens after each round of rains. To make matters worse, the administrators repeatedly slip on their self-declared deadlines of making the city pothole free. In short, there is neither sound planning nor a well-managed process.

Another classic case of the administration caught napping is the garbage issue that has dogged the erstwhile ‘garden city’ for the past many years.  Since 2012, the protests of villagers against landfills in their backyards, has moved from Mavalipura to Mandur to most recently, Bingipura. The response of the various governments, including spending 329 crores in the year 2013-14, has hardly changed the situation on the ground. The policy-making space has been ceded so much that the judiciary has continuously overstepped its mandate to propose tender rules for new contracts on waste management, to the latest 2-bin-1-bag ruling. The story follows a similar trajectory on the issue of degradation of lakes. Is it any surprise then that protests continue to arise at a frequent basis in Bangalore?

The solutions to these myriad problems exist. Many civic organizations, activists and experts have lent their time, energy and ideas to fix these issues in Bangalore over the years. The implementation of TenderSURE roads in the Central Business District has lit a beacon of hope. The 2015 BBMP Restructuring Committee’s report addresses most of the chronic problems and recommends a credible roadmap towards a more liveable Bangalore for all its citizens. However, it is yet to gather momentum. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, in his famous speech during the Constituent Assembly debates said, “I feel, however good a Constitution may be, it is sure to turn out bad because those who are called to work it, happen to be a bad lot”. Similarly, all the good policies and governance mechanisms are doomed to fail, unless the intent and accountability of our policymakers is fixed. 

Nidhi Gupta and Varun Santhosh are Programme Managers at the Takshashila Institution and tweet at @nidhi1902 and @santvarun respectively.

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The reform train

The previous post explained the idea of Overton window. This post aims to understand the concept through the example of a push-pull locomotive. A Push-Pull train is one where locomotives at both ends of a train are used at the same time to move the train in one direction — both the locomotives are controlled by one pilot.

Push-pull train[1]

push pull

push-pull locomotive

 

Government reforms operate like the Pull- Pull model ie., locomotives on both sides are pulling the train apart in opposite directions. Both the directions are pulled by separate pilots, and the reform train stands still.  The train can be thought of as the Overton window whose motion is dependent on which side the force is stronger. The force required to pull the train on either side depends on what the societal majority prefers. Needless to say, like social change, reforms are slow and deliberate that take enormous effort and conviction.

pull pull

This analysis might lead us to make fatalistic conclusions. It is here that newspapers, opinion makers, social media et al play an important role in the moulding public opinion and thus help move the Overton Window. Which side the window moves depends on how public opinion is moulded, but it for certain that these elements are unconstrained by electoral calculations and therefore are critical; a politicians motto might be to win the elections, but a common man’s motto is to lead a happy and a prosperous life and this is only possible through an efficient government.

PS – The famous “push-pull” night train between Mysore and Bangalore takes 5.5hours to travel 140km.

PPS- The original Overton window was presented with a vertical alignment to avoid the “right”/”left” connotation. Although horizontally aligned, the author does not assume right/left connotations in the locomotive example.

[1] The image is taken from wikipedia

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Random Observations from the BBMP elections

Urban local elections in India have historically witnessed a low voter turnout and the BBMP elections may not be an exception. Despite the ease of obtaining voting information from the internet, many people still prefer to wait for a long time to get it manually. 

A Takshashila Thinktanki votes in the BBMP elections.

A Takshashila Thinktanki votes in the BBMP elections.

Low Voter Turnout

On the day of the BBMP elections (22nd August 2015), the Shantiniketan School ground, BTM Layout, at 10:30 in the morning was surprisingly empty. Potential voters could walk right into their polling booths and cast their vote without waiting in a long queue as would normally be the case in the state or general elections. There was no queue outside any of the polling booths. Other voters shared similar experiences from different wards in Bangalore.

It would be interesting to note the voter turnout percentage this time. Despite various campaigns by the government, various political parties and many businesses, voting turn out is set to be low. Media reports that voter turnout was about 10% until noon – 7.3 lakh persons voted out of 7.38 lakh registered voters. It would not be very surprising if it were significantly less than 50 percent by the end of the day, going by the past trends. In 2010, BBMP elections witnessed less than 45 percent turnout. Within Bangalore, the affluent areas have traditionally witnessed much lower turnout. In 2010, many affluent areas saw voting turnout percentages between 25 and 30.

It is a similar story in all the big cities – voter turnout has been dismal for the elections that has the most direct influence on a citizen’s life. Mumbai corporation elections witnessed 46% turnout, the same numbers for Hyderabad GHMC elections, Chennai – 48%, Delhi – less than 40%, Ahmedabad – 44%. [Link].

Language Problem and Importance of Symbols – Whitefield, the contentious part of Bangalore, saw many people complaining that the EVMs contained the candidates names only in Kannada and that they were unable to read the list of candidates. Thus, many supposedly walked out of the polling booth without registering a vote. [Source] While symbols help in recognition of candidates from the main parties, independents tend to get short changed.

Voter’s Slip

It is quite common to see that there are numerous benches and desks occupied by different party workers outside the polling stations. These are usually mobbed by the potential voters to get their Ward no, serial number, polling booth, room number and their EPIC (Electors Photo Identity Card) number. One can go to these temporary stations with their name and a photo identity and the party workers will sift through many pages containing the entire ward’s electorate information and give the appropriate details. This is quite a labourious process and can potentially rob one’s enthusiasm to vote. The 2014 general elections for example in the same ward saw a waiting time of more than 20 minutes just to get this information and then wait in a separate queue to vote.

It is quite surprising that many people who have easy access to the internet still prefer to do this instead of going to the website and finding out the same details easily. The Election Commission has made this process extremely easy. Go to the relevant website (http://117.247.176.82/Searchbynames.aspx for the BBMP elections), key in name, father’s/husband’s name and the area name that you live in and all the details will be available.

Manifestos and Promises

Finally, it was slightly disturbing to read the manifestos and the general pitch of the candidates in my ward during this election. Many of the candidates do door to door campaigning and also leave behind a small booklet or a pamphlet. I have kept aside the manifestos of all the five candidates for BTM Layout and none of them really inspired me to cast my vote for them (most of them had grievous spelling and grammatical mistakes).

Some of the manifestos were too vague and general regarding their plans for the coming term – “I will work for the development of our ward”. Others centered around extremely specific work they have done and hope to do – “I have distributed x. number of sewing machines to the needy”. One candidate mentioned that he had solved many personal problems when I asked him about his achievements.

Unfortunately, the perceived purpose of the manifesto is not to inform the voter of any achievements or their grand vision and plans for the ward, but is meant to serve as a reminder of their photo and the election symbol.

Anupam Manur is a Policy Analyst at Takshashila Institution and tweets @anupammanur

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ರಸ್ತೆ ಸದ್ಬಳಕೆ ಹಾಗು ಪಾದಚಾರಿ ಮಾರ್ಗ

ರಸ್ತೆಗಳ ಸಂಪೂರ್ಣ ಬಳಕೆಯಾಗಬೇಕೆಂದರೆ  ಅತಿ  ಹೆಚ್ಚು ಜನರು ಸಾರ್ವಜನಿಕ ಸಾರಿಗೆಯನ್ನ ಬಳಸಬೇಕು, ಹಾಗು ಇದರ ಸಲುವಾಗಿ ಸಾರ್ವಜನಿಕ ಸಾರಿಗೆಯ ಸಾಮರ್ತ್ಯವನ್ನೂ  ಬಲಿಷ್ಟಗೊಳಿಸಬೇಕು – ಕಾರ್ತಿಕ್ ಶಶಿಧರ್ 

ಇತ್ತೀಚೆಗೆ ಮುಖ್ಯಮಂತ್ರಿ ಸಿದ್ಧರಮಯ್ಯನವರು ಬೆಂಗಳೂರಿನಲ್ಲಿ ಟೆಂಡರ್ ಶೂರ್  ಪ್ರಯುಕ್ತ ನಿರ್ಮಾಣಮಾಡಿರುವ ಪಾದಚಾರಿ ಮಾರ್ಗಗಳು ರಸ್ತೆಗಿಂತಲೂ ಅಗಲವಾಗಿದೆ ಎಂದು ಟೀಕಿಸಿದರು. ಹೀಗೆ ಹೇಳಿ ಅವರು ಜನಾಭಿಪ್ರಾಯವನ್ನೇ ವ್ಯಕ್ತಪಡಿಸಿದರು, ಆದರೆ ತಂತ್ರಜ್ಞಾನದ ಮಾನದಂಡದಿಂದ ನೋಡಿದರೆ, ಈ ಅಭಿಪ್ರಾಯದಲ್ಲಿ ಬಹಳಷ್ಟು ದೋಷಗಳಿವೆ.

ಯಾವುದೇ ಊರಿನ ನಕ್ಷೆಯನ್ನು ನೋಡಿದರೆ, ಒಂದು ಕಡೆಯಿಂದ ಮತ್ತೊಂದೆಡೆಗೆ ಹೋಗಬೇಕಾದರೆ ಸತತವಾಗಿ ರಸ್ತೆಗಳು ಹಾಗು intersections (‘ಸರ್ಕಲ್’) ಗಳನ್ನ ದಾಟಿ ಹೋಗಬೇಕು. ಹೀಗಿರುವಾಗ ವಾಹನ ದಟ್ಟಣೆ ರಸ್ತೆಯಲ್ಲಾದರೂ ಆಗಬಹುದು ಸರ್ಕಲ್ ಅಥವ ಸಿಗ್ನಲ್ ನಲ್ಲಿಯೂ ಆಗಬಹುದು. ಸಮಸ್ಯೆಯನ್ನು ಸ್ಥಳೀಯವಾಗಿ ಬಗೆಹರಿಸಿದರೆ, ವಾಹನ ತಡೆ ಒಂದು ಕಡೆಯಿಂದ ಮತ್ತೊಂದೆಡೆ ತಳ್ಳಿದಂತಾಗುತ್ತದೆಯಷ್ಟೇ.  ಉದಾಹರಣೆಗೆ: ಮಲ್ಲೇಶ್ವರಂನ ಸರ್ಕಲ್ ಬಳಿ ಕೆಳರಸ್ತೆಯನ್ನು ಕಟ್ಟಿದ್ದರಿಂದ, ಅಲಿ ವಾಹನಸಂಚಲನೆ ಸುಗಮವಾಗಿದೆ, ಆದರೆ  ಸಂಪಿಗೆ ರಸ್ತೆ – ೮ನೇ ಕ್ರಾಸ್ ಸೇರುವ ಬಳಿ ಹಾಗು ಎಂಕೆಕೆ ರಸ್ತೆ ಮತ್ತು ಲಿಂಕ್ ರಸ್ತೆ ಸೇರುವ ಬಳಿ ವಾಹನ ತಡೆಗಳನ್ನ ಇಂದಿಗೂ ಕಾಣಬಹುದು.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Image courtesy: Greg Younger

ಬೆಂಗಳೂರಿನ ವಾಹನ ಓಡಾಟದ ಪರಿಯನ್ನು ನೋಡಿದರೆ ವಾಹನ ದಟ್ಟಣೆ ರಸ್ತೆಗಳಿಗಿಂತ, ರಸ್ತೆಗಳು ಸೇರುವ ಬಳಿ (“intersections”) ಹೆಚ್ಚಾಗಿರುತ್ತದೆ. ಹೀಗಿರುವಾಗ ರಸ್ತೆಗಳನ್ನ ಎಷ್ಟೇ ವಿಸ್ತಾರಗೊಳಿಸಿದರೂ, “intersections”ಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ವಾಹನಗಳ ನಿಬಿಡತೆ ಹೆಚ್ಚಾಗುತ್ತದೆ. ಪಾದಚಾರಿ ಮಾರ್ಗಗಳು ಅಗಲವಾದರೆ  ರಸ್ತೆಗಳ ಅಳತೆ ಕಡಿಮೆಯಾಗುವುದೇನೋ ನಿಜ ಆದರೆ ಕೇವಲ ಇದರಿಂದ  ವಾಹನ ತಡೆ ಹೆಚ್ಚಾಗುತ್ತದೆ  ಎಂದು ತಿರ್ಮಾನಕ್ಕೆ ಬರುವುದು ಉಚಿತವಲ್ಲ .

ಕೇವಲ ಮೇಲುಸೇತುವೆ(flyover) ಅಥವಾ ಕೆಳರಸ್ತೆ(underpass)ಗಳನ್ನ ಕಟ್ಟಿ ಈ ಸಮಸ್ಯೆಗೆ ಪರಿಹಾರ ಕಾಣಬಹುದೆಂದು  ತಿರ್ಮಾನಕ್ಕೆ ಬರುವುದು ಸಹಜ, ಆದರೆ ಇದು ಪೂರ್ಣ ಪರಿಹಾರವಲ್ಲ.  ಮೇಲುಸೇತುವೆ/ಕೆಳರಸ್ತೆಗಳಿದ್ದಲ್ಲಿ ವಾಹನ ಸಂಚಾರ ಸುಗಮವಾಗಿದ್ದರೂ, ಮುಂಚೆಯೇ ಹೇಳಿದಂತೆ ಇದು ಕೇವಲ ವಾಹನ ತಡೆಯನ್ನು ಬೇರೆಯ ಕಡೆ ವರ್ಗಾಯಿಸುತ್ತದೆ.  ಇದಕ್ಕೆ ಉತ್ತಮವಾದ ಉದಾಹರಣೆಯೆಂದರೆ ಮಾರ್ಥಹಳ್ಳಿ ಸೇತುವಯ ಅಗಲೀಕರಣ: ಇದರಿಂದ ಸೇತುವೆಯಮೇಲೆ ಸಂಚಾರ ಸುಗಮವಾಯಿತು ಆದರೆ  ಮಾರ್ಥಹಳ್ಳಿ-ಔಟರ್ ರಿಂಗ್ ರಸ್ತೆ ಸೇರುವೆಡೆ ವಾಹನ ದಟ್ಟಣೆ ಹೆಚ್ಚಾಗಿದೆ, ಜೊತೆಗೆ ಆ ಮುಂಚಿನ ರಸ್ತೆಯಲ್ಲಿ ಓಡಾಟದ ವಿನ್ಯಾಸವೇ ಬದಲಾಗಿದೆ(ಉದಾ: ಬಲಕ್ಕೆ ತಿರುಗುವುದು ಈಗ ನಿಷೇಧ)

ಇಂತಹ ಗೊಂದಲವನ್ನು ಸರಿಪಡಿಸುವುದಾದರೂ  ಹೇಗೆ?

ಪ್ರಥಮವಾಗಿ, ಕೇವಲ ಒಂದು ಅಥವಾ ಎರಡು ರಸ್ತೆಯನ್ನು ನೋಡಿ ವ್ಯವಸ್ತೆಗಳನ್ನ ಕಲ್ಪಿಸಬಾರದು, ಸಮಗ್ರ ರಸ್ತೆಯ ಜಾಲವನ್ನು(network) ನೋಡಿ, ಯೋಜನೆಗಳಿಗೆ ನಾಂದಿ ಹಾಡಬೇಕು. ರಸ್ತೆಗಳ ಸಂಪೂರ್ಣ ಬಳಕೆಯಾಗಬೇಕೆಂದರೆ  ಅತಿ  ಹೆಚ್ಚು ಜನರು ಸಾರ್ವಜನಿಕ ಸಾರಿಗೆಯನ್ನ ಬಳಸಬೇಕು, ಹಾಗು ಇದರ ಸಲುವಾಗಿ ಸಾರ್ವಜನಿಕ ಸಾರಿಗೆಯ ಸಾಮರ್ತ್ಯವನ್ನೂ  ಬಲಿಷ್ಟಗೊಳಿಸಬೇಕು.  ಸಾರ್ವಜನಿಕ ಸಾರಿಗೆಯ ಕುಂದೆಂದರೆ, ಮನೆಯಿಂದ ನಿಲ್ದಾಣನದವರೆಗಿನ ದೂರ ಹಾಗು ಅಲ್ಲಿಗೆ ಹೋಗುವ ಸೌಕರ್ಯ. ನಿಲ್ದಾಣವು ಅರ್ಧ ಕಿಮಿಗಿಂತಲೂ ಹೆಚ್ಚಿದ್ದು, ಪಾದಚಾರಿಮಾರ್ಗವೂ ಇಲ್ಲದಿದ್ದಾರೆ ನಮ್ಮದೇ  ಸ್ವಂತ ವಾಹನವನ್ನ ಉಪಯೋಗಿಸುವ ಅಭ್ಯಾಸ ಮಾಡಿಕೊಳ್ಳುವುದರಲ್ಲಿ ಆಶ್ಚರ್ಯವೇನಿಲ್ಲ. ಹೀಗಿರುವಾಗ ಟೆಂಡರ್ ಶೂರ್ ನಂತಹ ಯೋಜನೆಗಳು ನಗರ ಯೋಜನೆಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಒಂದು ಹೊಸ ಆಯಾಮ ಕಲ್ಪಿಸಿದೆ. ಇದನ್ನ ತೆಗಳುವುದರ ಬದಲು ಇನ್ನೂ ಹೆಚ್ಚಾಗಿ ಪ್ರೋತ್ಸಾಹಿಸಿದರೆ ಬೆಂಗಳೂರಿನ ವಾಹನ ಸಮಸ್ಯೆಗೆ ಸ್ವಲ್ಪವಾದರೂ ಪರಿಹಾರ ಕಾಣಬಹುದು

ಜಗತ್ತಿನಾದ್ಯಂತ, ರಸ್ತೆಯ ಅಗಲ ಒಂದು ಕಾರು ಅಥವಾ  ಹಾಗು ಒಂದರ ಮಗ್ಗಿಯ ಪರಿಮಾಣದ ಕಾರಿನಷ್ಟೇ ಇರುತ್ತದೆ. ಉದಾಹರಣೆಗೆ ಕಾರಿನ ಅಗಲದ ಸರಾಸರಿ ೧೦ ಅಡಿ ಇದ್ದಾರೆ, ರಸ್ತೆಯ ಅಗಲ ೨೦,೩೦, ೪೦ ಇತ್ಯಾದಿ ಅಡಿಇರುತ್ತದೆ. ಸ್ವಲ್ಪ ಹೆಚ್ಚು ಅಗಲವಿದ್ದರೂ ಅಲ್ಲಿ ಮತ್ತೊಂದು ಕಾರು ಹೋಗುವಷ್ಟು ಜಾಗವಿರುವುದು ಬಹಳ ಕಡಿಮೆ.  ರಸ್ತೆಯ ವಿಸ್ತಾರವನ್ನ ೧ ಅಡಿ ಹೆಚ್ಚಿಸಿದರೆ ಹೆಚ್ಚು ಪರಿಣಾಮ ಕಂಡುಬರುವುದಿಲ್ಲ (ಲೇನ್ ಶಿಸ್ತಿನ ಉಲ್ಲಂಘನೆ ಹೆಚಾಗುವುದಷ್ಟೇ) ಆದರೆ ೧ ಅಡಿ ಪಾದಚಾರಿ ಮಾರ್ಗವು  ಹೆಚ್ಚಾದರೆ ಜನರಿಗೆ ನಡೆಯಲು ಪ್ರೋತ್ಸಾಹ ನೀಡಿದಂತೆ.  ಟೆಂಡರ್ ಶೂರ್ ರಸ್ತೆಗಳು ಈ ರೀತಿಯ ಜಾಗತಿಕ ಮಾದರಿಯನ್ನ ಅನುಸರಿಸಿ ವಿನ್ಯಾಸವಗೊಂಡಿವೆ.

ಈ ನಿಟ್ಟಿನಲ್ಲಿ ಮುಖ್ಯಮಂತ್ರಿಗಳ ಹೇಳಿಕೆ ಸೂಕ್ತವಲ್ಲ, ವೈಜ್ಞಾನಿಕವೂ ಅಲ್ಲ.  ಪಾದಚಾರಿ ಮಾರ್ಗಗಳಮೇಲೆ  ವಾಹನಗಳ ಅತಿಕ್ರಮಣ ಪ್ರವೇಶವೇ ಹೆಚ್ಚಿರುವ ಬೆಂಗಳೂರು ಮಹಾನಗರದಲ್ಲಿ  ಇನ್ನೂ ಹೆಚ್ಚಿನ ಆದ್ಯತೆ ವಾಹನ ಚಾಲಕರಿಗಲ್ಲ, ಪಾದಚಾರಿಗಳಿಗೇ ನೀಡಬೇಕು.

(ಕನ್ನಡಕ್ಕೆ ಅನುವಾದ: ವರುಣ್ ರಾಮಚಂದ್ರ)

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Wide footpaths in Bangalore

The following is a post by Karthik Shashidhar

In order to encourage use of public transport, it is important to provide good and safe footpaths – Karthik Shashidhar

Recently, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, following an inspection of projects around the city, made an announcement that the footpaths that are being built under the TenderSURE project are “too wide”, and that henceforth they will need to be narrower, allowing for greater road space. In making this statement, the chief minister betrays a lack of understanding of how traffic flows work, and the concept of thinking at the margin.

A journey between two points in a city can be modelled as an alternating sequence of intersections (“nodes” in graph theory parlance) and road segments (“edges” as per graph theory). It is intuitive to see that the total time taken for the journey is the total of the time taken to traverse each node and edge along the way. Thus, a city’s traffic can be modelled as a collection of such traversals across nodes and edges.

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Image courtesy: Greg Younger

Elementary network theory tells us that the capacity of a network between two given points is defined by the capacity of the capacity of the “bottleneck” – that part of the network that has the least capacity. For those not well-versed with network theory, this is akin to the proverb that says that the strength of the chain is equal to the strength of the weakest link. Given the alternating flow though road segments and intersections, note that the bottleneck can occur at either a road or at an intersection.

An element of network design is that as long as bottlenecks remain, expanding capacity at non-bottleneck elements of a network is not going to increase capacity of the network – traffic will simply flow faster through the network element with expanded capacity, and then get stuck at the bottleneck.

Expanding capacity at bottlenecks is not a simple solution, either, for now the bottleneck can shift to a nearby network element whose lower capacity now becomes a new bottleneck! For example, after the Malleswaram circle underpass was built, new traffic hold-ups have been created at the Sampige Road – 8th Cross intersection, at the Margosa Road – MKK Road intersection and the MKK Road – Link road junction. When the Marathahalli Rail over-bridge was expanded (a necessary step, no doubt), traffic started piling up at the Marathahalli-Outer Ring Road junction, forcing a change in the topography of that junction (blocking off some right turns, etc.).

The extra-wide footpaths built under the TenderSURE project have no doubt reduced the capacity of the roads that they are adjacent to, which is what has prompted the adverse reaction from motorists, auto rickshaw drivers and now the Chief Minister. And looked at in isolation, they do seem like they have reduced the capacity of the network. However, if we take a holistic view, and look at these roads as simply edges in the traffic network of Bangalore, a reduction in capacity is not apparent.

A feature of Bangalore traffic, given the nature of the road network, is that bottlenecks are usually at the intersections, and not at the roads. As a consequence, irrespective of how much we widen the roads, the intersections will continue to constrain the flow of traffic in the city. In other words, making roads narrower will not have a material impact on the throughput of traffic in the city.

This might lead the reader to jump to the conclusion that if intersections are bottlenecks, their capacity should be eased, and thus grade separators (flyovers / underpasses) are the solution. Again, that demonstrates localised thinking, for, as described in examples above, while flyovers and underpasses might ease bottlenecks at those specific intersections, they simply end up shifting bottlenecks rather than eliminating them.

Given the network of roads in the city, and the consequent traffic flows, the best way to increase throughput of traffic is to improve utilisation of road space rather than getting rid of (currently existing) bottlenecks by means of road widening and grade separators. The obvious way to improve utilisation of road space is by getting more and more people to use public transportation, and increasing the capacity of the public transport network.

A feature (or perhaps “bug”) of public transport is that it doesn’t provide last mile connectivity, necessitating users to walk to/from the nearest bus or metro stops. Thus, in order to encourage use of public transport, it is important to provide good and safe footpaths, which is an objective of the current TenderSURE project. Existing footpaths in Bangalore are largely ineffective, given barriers such as trees, lampposts, transformers and parked vehicles. In this context, the footpaths that are being designed and built by the TenderSURE project are a landmark effort, and need to be encouraged.

Finally, where does thinking at the margin come in? The decision on how wide a footpath should be rests on a tradeoff between footpath space and road space, and this can be framed as follows – “given current road and footpath widths, is it beneficial to increase road width by a foot at the cost of footpath width?”

Globally, road width is governed by the width of a “car lane”, the width of road required to accommodate one passenger car. Efficient road usage comes out of making the width an integer multiple of this width of car lane – increasing width beyond that doesn’t increase road capacity.

Roads that are currently being developed under the TenderSURE project have been designed to allow for an integer number of “lanes” of traffic. Marginally increasing the width by a foot or two will not only have no impact on the number of lanes, but will also lead to inefficient usage of (increased) road space by providing road users room for breaking lane discipline. On the other hand, increase in footpath width directly translates to more available lanes for pedestrians, and thus directly increases capacity of the footpath.

Thus, the Chief Minister’s comments on footpath width are misguided and inappropriate. It is hoped that standards imposed by the current TenderSURE design prevail, and we will soon have a good network of footpaths in Bangalore city.

Karthik Shashidhar is the Resident Quant at Takshashila Institution.  He tweets @karthiks and blogs on NED

The Kannada translation of this post can be found here

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A Tale of Two Cities

Delhi is not the only city that the BBMP can learn from before implementing a trifurcation scheme

By Shobitha Cherian

 

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Much has been made about the recent proposal by the BBMP to restructure itself. While some are describing it as a move to delay the upcoming elections there is also a rational justification for it: decentralisation. Decentralisation is the administrative principle of devolving powers to local units of the government where each unit will be responsible for governance in a defined area. The main argument for decentralization is that it leads to increased efficiency in governance; making local units the nodes of governance results in a more focused deployment of services as each unit’s jurisdiction will be relatively smaller. Decentralisation also reduces the number of citizens that government representatives have to interface with, making them more accessible to their constituents.

A majority of the criticism invariably cites the failed experiment of Delhi’s trifurcation as grounds to avoid trifurcation. But this criticism fails to take into account that decentralisation has been successful in multiple countries across the world and that the current structure of the BBMP is too bloated, inefficient and is rife with many issues to continue unchanged. One of these is the many irregularities present in the collection and management of the BBMP’s funds. Aside from the usual stories of kickbacks and corruption, deeper problems exist; the BBMP has been unsuccessful in achieving the gargantuan task of satisfactorily providing services to around 10 million people. While there is a case for dividing the BBMP into separate municipal corporations, certain criteria need to be met in order for it to be successful.

The new structure must be clear and transparent in its delegation of duties. Operational irregularities like fiscal leakages must be removed and additional revenue streams must be found; no amount of restructuring will improve efficiency if the BBMPB’s finances aren’t in a healthy state. The various departments and localities must have a defined hierarchy within which they can co-ordinate towards improving the state of Bengaluru.

It is essential that the BBMP be divided in a scientific and economically viable manner. The delimitation of future municipalities must be equally balanced in terms of revenue, financial viability and administrative functions. For decentralization to work, the city must be divided in such a way that no locality is given an undue advantage for growth at the expense of the others.

Thankfully, Bengaluru is nowhere close to being a pioneer in decentralisation. Much can be gained from examining previous attempts to implement decentralisation in other cities, both in India and abroad.

New Delhi

In 2012, the Sheila Dikshit government passed a bill that divided the Municipal Corporation of Delhi into the North, South and East Delhi Municipal Corporations. The trifurcation was opposed on the grounds that equitable distribution of assets and funds amongst the corporations would be impossible without one or more corporations running into a deficit. Unfortunately, this is exactly what ended up happening. Currently, the East and the North corporations are facing severe financial crises and have been unable to pay salaries to most of their employees. In contrast, the South Corporation remains largely self-sufficient.

The reasons for this dismal state of affairs stem from poor division of the corporations. The East and North Corporations ended up inheriting most of the old Municipal Corporation’s debt of Rupees 1831 crores. In addition to this, the jurisdiction of the East Corporation included 30 unauthorised colonies from which property tax could not readily be collected. In comparison, the areas coming under the purview of the North Corporation includes many of Delhi’s five star hotels and office buildings, thus making property tax a large source of its revenue. The division was unsuccessful as certain corporations were better off than others, creating unequal channels for growth.

London

If Delhi was a lesson in what mistakes to avoid, London is more a case study of best practices. Greater London, or the total urban area of London, is divided into 32 administrative areas or boroughs. Each borough is governed by a council that is responsible for carrying out various civic amenities within their jurisdiction. Each borough is further divided into electoral wards that are used to elect councillors for that borough council. The boroughs are tied together by a strategic regional authority known as the Greater London Authority (GLA), which is responsible for tasks like policing, economic development and emergency planning.

The main take away from London is that the local governments or boroughs are empowered to be effective units of governance but are prevented from overstepping on each other’s toes by a co-ordinating agency, i.e. the GLA. The GLA ensures that the 32 London borough councils not only work towards the development of their respective boroughs but are also in sync with the development of Greater London as a whole. The GLA recognises the independence of the boroughs and listens to their respective concerns, but also prevents the boroughs from working in a completely antagonistic manner to one another. The system works on the principle of subsidiarity; that the lowest levels of government or the boroughs are given the independence to carry out functions which can be managed at the local level. Those issues which cannot be undertaken by that level are sent up the next level of hierarchy, which in the case of Greater London is the GLA. The efficiency stems from the fact that purely local issues can be resolved immediately and with a greater level of customisation or adaptability.

The second interim report of the BBMP restructuring committee suggests a three tier administration, similar to that of London. The ward will take the place of the borough as the basic unit and will be governed by a ward committee. Each ward will be split into Area Sabhas to determine the composition of each ward committee. The jurisdiction of the multiple municipal corporations envisioned by the trifurcation will be determined on the basis of these ward boundaries. Above these multiple municipal corporations it would be ideal to have a autonomous and empowered Metropolitan Planning Committee akin to the GLA and as mentioned in Article 243Z of the Constitution. This regional authority would have the task of integrating the activities of the previous two tiers and maintaining ‘Brand Bangalore’.

The restructuring committee is expected to submit its final report to the government by the end of June. According to the committee, the ideal number of municipal corporations will be determined based on a spatial analysis on multiple parameters including finance, population demographics and infrastructure indices. It can only be hoped that the committee is successful in arriving at an economically viable and equitable scheme of separation. The greater fear is that, even if the committee was successful, the government wouldn’t actually take its recommendations into consideration and conduct the trifurcation on more political grounds.

Shobitha Cherian is an intern at the Takshashila Institution.

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The geopolitics of the nation of Bangalore

There is more to Bangalore geopolitics than meets the eye.

By Thejaswi Udupa

The most common narrative one hears about Bangalore is that of “two Bangalores”—the city, and the cantonment. This is about as useful as the tired “two Indias” trope. India cannot be explained away with such a simplistic dichotomy. Bangalore cannot be either.

In fact, if one looks at Bangalore as a nation, it has all the nuances that a large and complex nation such as India would. Secessionist movements, disputed territories, powerful non-state actors, everything.

Any country needs to have natural defences that make it tough for outsiders to invade. India has the Himalayas and the Thar Desert. Bangalore has two such too. The traffic jam at Silk Board Junction, and the traffic jam in the whole KR Puram-Mahadevpura-Whitefield region. Thanks to these defences that Bangalore has naturally developed without spending too much money, any invasion of outsiders has to happen at non-peak hours. Some say that the inordinate delays that we are seeing with Namma Metro is the act of Bangalore patriots who are worried about an efficient public transport dismantling Bangalore’s best natural defences—its traffic jams.

The most prominent secessionist movement in Bangalore is that of DPRK. Democratic People’s Republic of Koramangala. Just like its far-eastern namesake in Korea, this DPRK too isn’t democratic, or much of a republic. It is culturally so different from the rest of Bangalore that most citizens have no issues with Koramangala seceding. As long as they have access to Forum Mall, that is. Forum Mall is at a strategic location, and connects Bangalore on one side with Koramangala on the other. Or Forumangala, as some put it. If and when the DPRK freedom movement succeeds, Forum will become the ideal transit point between the two countries, and people can eat at Transit, the food court at Forum Mall while waiting for the visa formalities to be completed.

The largest of disputed territories in Bangalore is that of ToK. Tamil occupied Karnataka. These are large swathes of interconnected parcels of land in the South-Eastern quadrant of Bangalore. ToK’s existence is mostly under the radar, and people notice it only when the census figures come in once a decade with its linguistic break-ups, and suddenly people realise that nearly 25 percent of Bangalore’s population is Tamil. However, there are many who believe that ToK stands for Telugu owned Karnataka, as most of the land here is owned by Telugu landlords.

Forming an intricate set of enclaves and exclaves with ToK is Amit Pradesh. The existence of Amit Pradesh can be directly traced to the Aryan (Amit being the Aryan John Doe) invasion that happened simultaneously with the development of the IT industry in Bangalore. They came from north of Hebbal flyover, and set up camps at places close to where IT parks were coming up in ToK. The first few waves of Amits (and Ishas) were also the ones responsible for DPRK. The further waves just settled for Amit Pradesh. Just like ToK, Amit Pradesh stretches all the way from Marathahalli to Madivala, from Banaswadi to BTM.

Just like in India where there are many movements for separate states, there are a lot of places in Bangalore that seek to carve out their own identity and split from the larger region they are associated with. JP Nagar has for a while been campaigning for an identity of its own that is separate from that of Jayanagar. There is also a movement to split Malleswaram into two. The stretch from Central (near Mantri Square), to 5th Cross where you have Big Bazaar and Brand Factory wants to identify itself as Malleswaram (same spelling as the rest of Malleswaram, but the first syllable is pronounced differently—mull over it)

India’s internal divisions are defined by its river systems—the Ganges, the Brahmaputra, Kaveri, etc. Bangalore’s rivers are its arterial roads—Mysore Road, Magadi Road, Tumkur Road, Bellary Road, Old Madras Road, Sarjapur Road, Hosur Road, Bannerghatta Road, and Kanakapura Road. While India is still making plans for a grand river linking system, Bangalore has done this many times over. Inner Ring Road, Intermediate Ring Road, Outer Ring Road, NICE Road, Peripheral Ring Road.

A significant chunk of India’s geopolitics is defined by its adversarial relationship with Pakistan. Similarly for Bangalore, it is Chennai (and by extension, the rest of Tamil Nadu). The Kashmir in this case is another K-word. Kaveri. If you are a Tamilian venturing outside of ToK, it is advisable that you scream “Kaveri Nammadu” in the most Kannadiga of accents to avoid trouble from those still waiting for their Kaveri Stage IV water supply connections to work.

I can go on with these analogies for a while yet, but I have proven my basic point. There is more to Bangalore geopolitics than meets the eye. I shall tell you the rest over a beNNe masala and strong coffee at CTR (a wonderful restaurant in Bangalore, and not DPRK, ToK, or Amit Pradesh)

Thejaswi Udupa’s day job involves attempting to break cartels in the construction industry using a few lines of code. He holds strong opinions on science fiction, heavy music, and the boundaries of Bangalore.

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