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Bangalore has been Bangalored

Mumbai (2012-03-05): No news that comes out of Bangalore shocks one anymore. Here was city once referred to as the Silicon Valley of the East, which was supposed to showcase India of the 21st century. And now, from Porngate to media-mayhem, Bangalore is in the news for all the wrong reasons.

The shocking incident on Friday when lawyers attacked media persons in a city court is just symptomatic of the low tolerance levels in Bangalore. Journalists who were merely doing their duty were bashed up, their OB vans damaged, when lawyers threw stones at them. Stop and read that again. Lawyers beat up professionals doing their job.

A few weeks before that, legislators were caught on camera watching porn inside the State Assembly while political proceedings were on. The elected representatives resigned only after the media raised a hue and cry about the immorality of watching porn inside the Vidhan Soudha. Their absurd plea was that they were watching "a video on atrocities being committed on women" and not a pornographic film clip.

One could argue that these kinds of incidents do take place elsewhere in the country also, what is so unique about Bangalore? Lawyers taking to the streets and protesting violently is commonplace in Srinagar and Delhi.

Legislators throw microphones and sharp objects at each other quite often in Lucknow and Hyderabad.

But Bangalore, the Pensioner's Paradise, the city of cultured, civilised elite descending to unprecedented levels of uncouth behaviour was least expected. Remember when President Obama warned American school kids to study hard else children studying math in Bangalore would take their jobs away when they grew up? He said, "At a time when other countries are competing with us like never before, when students around the world in Beijing, China, or Bangalore, India, are working harder than ever..." Wouldn't those kids be laughing at the bogeyman called Bangalore now? Where is the atmosphere that fosters knowledge and competition in Bangalore now?

Somewhere, the quiet sophistication of Bangalore lost out to the snarling, grabbing culture of Bengaluru. It is no longer the city of the IT geniuses, the outsourcing haven, the R&D Taj Mahals, the cultural hub. It is just another city splitting at the seams, unable to provide civic services to its teaming millions, politicians viciously back-stabbing each other, scandals rocking its government.

Bangalore has been slipping for a while now. It is losing out to Gurgaon and Noida  and dare I say, even Patna.  Power and water shortage, poor road infrastructure leading to phenomenal traffic congestion makes doing business in Bangalore unsustainable and living conditions challenging.

Look at the lost potential. It could have been the show-window to India Shining or India Emerging. Not Mumbai, it has no space left, not Delhi, it's mired in red tape and power drunk, not Chennai, it still has to catch up, not Kolkata, it got left behind decades ago.

Bangalore had a head start. Educated manpower, fantastic climate, glorious past, magic combo of tech and talent. All it needed was the right leadership.

And what it got was successive disasters for governments. The third most populous city in the country boasts of an economic growth of 10.35 per cent and one of the fastest growing metropolises in India. With the right planning, it could have been India's Singapore or Guangzhou or Shanghai. But what we have is a grid locked city stagnant and nowhere to go.

Is it a case of Paradise Lost or is there hope still left for Bangalore? Well, for starts it has a new Metro in place. Die-hard loyalists from External Affairs Minister S M Krishna to Infosys founder Narayana Murthy and Biotech entrepreneur Kiran Mazumdar Shaw would never live anywhere else in India. They are the torchbearers of this city. Not the Yeddyurappa, Sadananda Gowda or Reddy brothers.

Entrepreneurs and thought leaders give a city its cutting edge. But for them to be successful the right Environment needs to be provided. If that does not happen  soon, Bangalore, which went back to being Bengaluru, could go back to its original name Bende-kal-ooru: the land of boiled beans. Bland and boring.

© copyright midday
 

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I am the Editor News, at Asian News International (ANI), Indias leading Multimedia News Agency and the India Correspondent for Channel News Asia, a Singapore based broadcaster.
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