Every time talk veers around to the infamous traffic gridlocks on the streets of Bangalore, residents of this technology hub bemoan the fact that their once green city is now a victim of its own popularity .
“A city planned for a million people is now home to over seven million,” says historian Ramachandra Guha, whose family traces its roots 150 years ago to the city.
In the 15 years since economic reforms brought in a wave of overseas investment into the technology sector in Bangalore, the population of the city has grown to more than 7.5 million today—a growth of over six times in the last four decades or so.
Octogenarian H. Sreenivasaiah, who recalls mirthfully strewing ragi, a reddish brown millet grown locally, on the roads when the British used mounted troops to control crowds with the intention of making the horses slip, says development at the current pace is reckless.
“Students in Bangalore took the lead in the freedom struggle; today nobody is proud of their own heritage,” says the former Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd designengineer.
The four pillars marking the boundaries of the city installed by Kempe Gowda II, the chieftain who in the 14th century founded what is today modern Bangalore, are now lost in the concrete sprawl that makes for an aspiring metropolis. “The boundaries he set have become the heartland,” says S.A. Jagannath, senior editor, Karnataka Gazetteer Department.
Churn is not new to Bangalore. In 1799, the British gained control over Bangalore following the defeat of Tipu Sultan in the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War. They fashioned a garrison town on the northern tip of the city and staed it with a large migrant Tamil population.
Native Kannadigas lived primarily in the old city in the southern and western areas that remained under the rule of the Wodeyar dynasty of Mysore. The twin-city existence set the tone for the cosmopolitan nature of the city that is now its most popular calling card.
In 1906, Bangalore became the rst city in India to have electricity generated by a hydroelectric station in nearby Shivanasamudram. ree years later, the establishment of the Indian Institute of Science made it a city of the future. Independent India housed its public sector institutions, defence and aerospace institutes in Bangalore, creating jobs for a salaried middle class which later dened the character of the city. By 1961, it was the sixth-largest city in India with a population of 1.2 million.
In the 20 years since the rst multinational technology firm, Texas Instruments Inc., set up shop here, Bangalore has emerged as the hub for over 35% of the country’s IT exports. e technology sector, which counted exports worth Rs47,300 crore in the year to March, contributes more than half of Bangalore’s net domestic product and employs one in every 10 of its citizens.
“Today we see a divide of another sort developing, as newer migrants who have benefited from the IT revolution converge in the eastern and the southern parts of the city, while the non-IT population remains rooted in the western suburbs,” says Guha, who feels the sense of alienation amongst local citizens left behind might yet be the biggest threat faced by Bangalore.