Bangalore: Faced with the task of fixing India’s information technology capital, as Bangalore is known, Karnataka’s Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, led government in Karnataka has been talking of bringing about a change through better planning and more private participation.
S. Suresh Kumar, Karnataka’s minister for urban development spoke to Mint about how the government plans to do this. Edited excerpts:
The Karnataka government has set up a committee called Agenda for Bangalore Infrastructure Development (ABIDE). What will this committee do, and how soon can you achieve this?
The main intention behind ABIDE is to take practical steps that will definitely make a better Bangalore…for the citizens or for investors from outside. ABIDE is coming out with a policy statement about what exactly Bangalore needs and how exactly we should move forward to implement those needs.
Assessing: S. Suresh Kumar, urban development minister, Karnataka. Hemant Mishra / Mint
First of all, what we have observed is that there was no coordination between the principal agencies (for civic affairs, transport, water supply). That is the minimum thing needed. Once that is achieved, once a structure comes into being, they can chart out a programme towards a vision.
It’s a time bound programme and we want to achieve all these things to make a better Bangalore within six or eight months. I think the result will be visible by the end of 2009.
Bangalore has been, in a way, a gateway to India. How is the city still attracting investments when Chennai and Hyderabad too are aggressive in this regard?
The potential of Bangalore lies in the knowledge capital that we have… maybe coupled with that, the climate also plays a role, unlike Chennai, Hyderabad. This is not a new development...it started at least one and a half decades ago.
We are continuously improving upon that. In a way, even without government taking any specific steps in the earlier days, Bangalore had remained an investor friendly city not only for IT giants, but also for (the) manufacturing sector.
When the government is trying to attract investments to other parts of the state, what is the scope in Bangalore? Is it already getting saturated?
No, it’s not getting saturated. We can give better quality infrastructure and atmosphere for investors if we decentralize the whole thing. We have tier II and III cities...Mysore is getting equal attention, and we feel Hubli will be next city...Mangalore will follow. So if these cities get equal attention, we can recognize their potential not at the cost of Bangalore. It will continue to attract investors, continue to improve its total situation inspite of other cities getting importance.
What are the top five priorities in Bangalore currently?
One is connectivity, easing up traffic.
Second, development of outer Bangalore...people who reside in the outskirts have to get good quality infrastructure, drinking water and so on. We may give better facilities for industries…if you don’t look out for the residents who naturally follow these investments that will not be correct.
The third is power. We are taking steps to see that an exclusive power generating unit for Bangalore will come into being.
Fourth would be investor friendly governance, and lastly, protection to citizens of Bangalore. People should feel safe.
An investment of Rs36,000 crore over five years to tackle infrastructure problems in Bangalore through public-private partnerships. Can you give us an update on this?
That was an estimate by (credit rating agency) Crisil. That’s one of the issues that is being tackled by Abide… how to bring this public-private partnership element into things, how to encourage private participation. In the coming two months, a policy paper would be ready.
There’s a plan to set up Karnataka Public Lands Corporation which is expected to raise some Rs3,000 crore by selling or leasing land around Bangalore this fiscal year. What’s the status of that?
This concept of land bank was announced after serious consideration. Instead of lands being encroached and taken away by land grabbers, the government should protect and fully utilize their potential. The government has seriously taken few steps in that direction and in the coming days, the exact nature and structure of that thinking will be publicized.