Bihar Transformed

On the morning of counting day, driving through rain and the blossoms of Laburnum and Gulmohar in Patna, I was surprised to find that the road outside Nitish’s residence deserted. For a moment I assumed the other news channels had decided to skip the early morning slightly pointless pre results dispatches, till I walked a few steps away to the next lane. Sure enough, the entire media cavalcade of cameras and broadcast vans was parked right there – outside the home of Rabri devi, Lalu’s wife and the proxy Leader of Opposition.
 
Why would the media ignore the bigger story – Nitish Kumar, the man being wooed by all political formations, praised by Rahul Gandhi, hand-grabbed by Narendra Modi, and generally seen as Bihar’s great hope – to chase the by now predictable story –  the decline of Lalu Prasad, the Railway minister who looked all set to go off track this election?
 
This could a matter of habit – after all, Lalu has been the centre of gravity in Bihar for two decades. Or it could a more calculated journalistic gambit, linked to the well known contrast between the two men – Impetuous Lalu might supply some drama even as a loser, while Punctilious Nitish would not allow the media in except at the
designated hour dutifully phoned and faxed to media offices. Nitish, as the consensus goes, does not believe in springing surprises.
 
And the initial leads came as no surprise. Both reporters and exit polls had picked up the astonishingly high level of Nitish’s personal popularity on which the NDA hoped to sweep Bihar. The only subject of speculation then – what would be the final tally?
 
Lalu’s elder son, a Krishna Bhakt and mildly notorious in Patna, drove in from a morning visit to the temple, flashing the victory sign, holding up both his hands. He is giving four seats to his party – quipped one journalist. Uncannily, that’s what the RJD ended the day with.
 
Ram Vilas Paswan, the LJP leader who completes the Bihar triumvirate, had all morning been enconsced in a five star hotel suite – the one that he occupies when he is in Patna, which is not too often, usually around election time. He has a reason, or excuse, to stay away – as part of every single government since 1996, his duties as Union Minister have kept him busy in Delhi. Except this election took that excuse away. Paswan lost from Hajipur – a seat he won seven times since 1977, losing just once in the Congress wave of 1984. This time, an 88 year old man, Ram Sunder Das defeated him. Das could be this Lok Sabha’s oldest candidate.
 
As far as age goes, many have claimed this election has upturned an old truth about the way Bihar polls. That it is no longer about Jaat or caste, the vote is for Vikaas or development. Hardly one to dispute the remarkable transformation underway in Bihar, led by Nitish, I would slightly modify that claim. The reality is more nuanced.
 
Nitish has revived Bihar’s comatose administration, kickstarted schools and hospitals, used the centre’s money well to build roads and infrastructure – public goods meant for all, they have indeed created a groundswell of support for him across the state and across communities. But what Nitish has also done is target benefits to specific communities, based on caste: the EBC’s or extremely backward castes, numerically larger among the backward castes but edged out by the more powerful Yadavs and Kurmis, have finally been given political space through reservations in panchayats; Mahadalits, dalits minus chamars and Paswans, for whom state largesse now ranges from subsidised homes to monthly supply of bathing soap; even among Muslims, Nitish has singled out the Pasmanda or backward and dalit muslims for special schemes like Talimi Markaj, a scheme aimed to bring Muslim children to school.
 
This is social engineering, Nitish style. And it pays. It has created new votebanks. Numerically, the most significant is the EBC bloc, 100 odd castes that add up to around 30 % of Bihar’s vote. In 2004, not a single EBC candidate was voted to Parliament. In 2009, three will be sworn in as MPs, all three are from Nitish’s party.
 
Further proof of how caste realigned this election – Lalu’s outburst post defeat. Two months ago, on poll eve, he dismissed my questions on the impact of the potential consolidation of the EBC and Mahadalit vote. But as his own electoral defeat from Pataliputra flashed on TV screens, he turned to the group of journalists and ranted : ‘Everyone has united against Yadavs, there is hatred against Yadavs’. His other villains: the administration for rigging the polls, an upper caste media for biased reporting. Familiar targets from the nineties. Not suprising. But what was mildly stunning was Lalu’s dismissal of development as a factor. He said if Vikaas could win votes, he would have won hands down for the turnaround of the Railways. He was emphatic : development does not win votes. It was scary to see a man stuck in the nineties.
 
Nitish, as expected, called for a press conference and walking into 1, Anne Marg had a surprise in store : a mandatory security check, at sharp contrast from the mad chaotic unchecked stampede into Lalu’s home. The security guards, including women constables, were trained to frisk, but did not have the detectors. Another insight into how Bihar is changing – step by step.
 
The press conference took place under the mango tree, the sole unchanging landmark in a vastly different Chief Ministerial Residence. The briefing lasted twenty minutes and a beaming Nitish Kumar repeated several times, the word ‘Nakaraatmak’, translated best as ‘Negative’, but far more potent in its original meaning. Nitish said voters had rejected the ‘Nakaraatmak’ approach of his opponents. Nitish reiterated that this was a vote against ‘Nakaraatmak’ politics. At final count, Nitish had used the word 10 times.
 
Nitish may have choosen the negative adjective, but his work has been an affirmative one, both as the chief minister trying to bring governance back to Bihar, and as a politician schooled in the politics of social justice. The stream combines the socialist ideals of Jayaprakash Narayan, and the modified socialism of Karpoori Thakur – Bihar’s second backward caste chief minister and the first to introduce reservations for OBCs in North India, way back in 1978. Both Lalu and Nitish were claimants to this legacy. But while Lalu squandered it, Nitish is building on it – by deepening the reach of reservations and social targeting. It is Mandal Part Two. And like Mandal Part One, you could have a problem with it, if you oppose affirmative action based on caste. Except, by further refining reservations, Nitish has actually taken on what has been one of the prinicipal criticisms of Mandal – that it helped dominant caste groups like Yadavs and Kurmis become even more powerful, at the cost of the more backward and less powerful groups.
 
Lalu may have privately wished that Nitish’s agenda would lead to a backlash from the upper castes, Yadavs and Kurmis – but it didn’t. Possibly one explanation : even if the others are slightly resentful of reservations, the resentment is offset by the larger benefits of a functioning state that has finally begun to deliver.
 
No wonder, at his press conference, Nitish didnt look particularly crushed at the national picture of a UPA win, and an NDA defeat. Instead, he asked the new government at the centre to live up to the promise of special status for Bihar – just a day ago, every political party had shown a willingness to consider the demand when a hung verdict seemed likely and the support of Nitish seemed crucial.
 
Still beaming, Nitish wrapped up : Good that the elections are over, now lets all get back to work.
 
Post Script: Observations overheard that day: RJD has become Rajput Janta Dal. Apart from Laloo, the other three RJD candidates who won are Rajputs.
 
The election has ended the Raj of Gundas – Gundis. Gundas are dons turned politicians. Gundis are their wives, propped up as proxy candidates. All 10 of them lost. Including Munna Shukla on a JD U ticket.
 
A jubiliant Nitish had one reason to be upset. Digvijay Singh, his former party colleague turned rebel, won from Banka defeating Nitish’s candidate. This setback could be crucial – in keeping Nitish grounded. Bihar cannot afford another arrogant leader.

Source: NDTV Written by Supriya Sharma

Can’t we think beyond reservations?

Reservations on baseless criterion has created further divisions in the already divided Indian society. Our political parties are persistently surfacing with manifestos and promises to lure voters into their votebanks.

In yet another move to use the reservations as a convenient toy to bloat up their votebank, the Lok Jan Shakti Party headed by Ramvilas Paswan has come out with few unique ideas.

What LJP has done is that it has promised to have a ‘Dalit Regiment’ in the army to make representation of Dalits in the armed forces and to infuse self-respect among them. Paswan has gone a tad bit further in making an optimum use of the tool of reservations, saying that his party wants to extend the sfacility of reservation for SC/ST, OBC and minorities to judicial services and establishment of National Judicial Services.

The manifesto has promised to take the initiative for socio-economic and educational development of minorities, especially Muslims, in the light of the findings of the Sachar Committee.

Here are some of made by the promises by LJP as a part of its election manifesto:

  • The symbol of integrity, Indian Army will have regiments on the basis of caste.
  • Reservation for SC/ST, OBC and minorities in Judicial services.
  • Reservation for SCs and STs in the private sector.
  • 15 per cent reservation for minorities, with 10 per cent for Muslims only.
  • Removal of 50 per cent ceiling on reservation.

Paswan, who was a minister in the NDA government, left it a year before the 2004 elections.

He then joined the UPA and became the Union Minister of Steel, Chemicals and Fertilisers. Now, he has broken from the UPA as well and formed a ‘secular’ alliance with Samajwadi Party and Rashtriya Janata Dal. These state level leaders have lost hold in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. In an attempt to make his playing field much bigger, the party manifesto has also supported the demand of formation of Telangana, Vidarbha, Poorvanchal, Bundelkhand and Vikas Pardesh in western UP.

LJP, RJD and SP have always been opportunistic. They will be readily available after the results of elections are declared. On the basis of their own performance they will play a deal game.

How long will we see such appeasements on caste and religion to lure voters?

It’s an appeal to all well-meaning citizens, not to be the victims of vote bank politics. Let’s ask political parties to come up with an agenda. An agenda to provide employment to youth and powering the underprivileged to be able to manage their own food.

With our leaders coming up with such dividing policies, my earnest request to all the voters would be to please think practically and sensibly before casting your votes.

Race for survival begins in Flood hit Bihar

It is said that every major tragedy gets the best out of people and the worst. The statement couldn’t have bee more apt for the situation in Bihar where the scarcity of food has triggered an ugly race for survival as people went on to loot a relief camp in Madhepura.
In the worst tragedy to have hit the state of Bihar, the Kosi river floods have displaced more than 30 lakh people and destroyed close to 3 lakh houses. Since the kosi river went of course flooding the districts of Bihar, more than 50 people have been killed and several lakhs left injured and rendered homeless. The naval officers have been sent to Bihar to carry on relief operations in parts of the state which are flooded to more than five feet. In the district of Madhepura, more than hundred people looted the relief camp at a development office where the food packets were stored. The government of Bihar on the other hand has started the usual blame game. Laloo Prasad Yadav went on to say that the government of Bihar had clearly failed in all its endeavors to do anything for the flood stricken victims.
But as days pass, people of Bihar are getting more and more impatient. With relief and food supplies trailing in at a snails pace, One person was reportedly killed in Madhepura district when a scuffle broke out between people at an overcrowded relief camp over the shortage of food supplies and medicines. In places people ran for miles after helicopters which were dropping food packets and in an unfortunate incident in the district of Supaul, one boy was killed and several others were injured when food packets fell on them. Inmates of the jail in Supaul took advantage of the flood waters and the absence of security to break out. The availability of food has also become scarce in the entire state of Bihar and will continue to be so after almost 2 lakh hectares of crops and vegetables was destroyed by the floods. UNICEF has brought in people for providing relief matter to the people but the transport system in the state is so abysmal that they cannot reach the badly affected areas. People have been stuck on the ceilings of their houses for days or have been clinging to tree tops for survival but how long they can fight when they have no food to survive on.
The tragedy that struck the state of Bihar is so immense that the fortunate ones who survived the fury of the flood waters in the past few days are now fighting starvation. Apart from the scarcity of food there is now an impending danger of epidemics spreading through the flooding waters. There have already been cases of Diarrhea and other diseases as well being reported from several makeshift camps. The government on its part will have to act fast else the magnitudes of this natural disaster will only rise. Meanwhile the sorrow of Bihar, has done what it had to and has created a major catastrophe of unparalleled magnitude in Bihar. With the death toll increasing day by day, it is up to the rest of us to donate whatever we can so that the survivors of the flood do not at least lose out in the battle for food. They are counting on us as every minute without food shelter or medicines passes by.

Donate for the floods in Bihar

As you may have read in the daily newspapers & watched on various TV news channels, the floods that have hit Bihar due to the overflowing of the Kosi river have taken a very drastic and devastating face.

Thousands of citizens have lost their lives and millions have been displaced or otherwise affected.

To get an idea of how destructive these floods have been, you can take a look at some of these news reports:

You should even take a look at the following videos:

In this situation of crisis, we have joined hands with the organisation Doctors For You to raise funds for the people affected in the floods. Click on the ChipIn! button on the page that opens on clicking the below link, to donate money to our Bihar Relief Fund.

DONATE NOW

We will publish on the blog & the Doctors For You website, the names & amounts of each and every person that joins us in this fund-raising drive, whatever may the amount be.

Bihar Flood Relief Work!

You all must be aware of the flood situation in Bihar. This is considered to be the biggest evacuation in the last hundred years. Millions of the people have been affected and thus on the behalf of the targetgenx team, we appeal to all the concerned citizens to donate generously and help in the rescue opertaions in any way possible. You can donate food, cloth, match box, torches, utensils, blankets, chlorine tablets/liquid etc.

There are many organization working towards the relief work. In case you don’t know how to go about the donations. Please check the link below.

Targetgenx is supporting Doctors for You in their relief operation.

http://floodreliefbihar.blogspot.com/

Flood Releif Bihar

Remember: All human beings are interconnected, one with all other elements in creation.

This is the latest update from Hindustan Times on the ground situation in Bihar.

The flood situation in Bihar, triggered by the surging waters of the Kosi river, continued to be grave for the 13th day Saturday with hundreds of villages under water, millions displaced and many still crying for rescue.

“There is no let up in the flood situation, it has spread to new areas and the water is not receding. But relief and rescue operations are going on in a big way,” an official of the state disaster management department said here.

“We cannot say that the situation is improving; it will take some more days. The situation remained grim,” he said.

The floods have claimed 35 lives, with 20 people dying Friday when their boat capsized in Madhepura. Over 2.5 million people have been affected.

Bihar Minister for Disaster Management Nitish Mishra told IANS that evacuation would be intensified in the next 48 hours with the help of more boats, motorboats, army personnel and the National Disaster Response Force.

“The government is doing everything with the available resources to speed up efforts of relief and rescue,” he said.

Bad weather hampered rescue operations on Thursday and Friday.

Several Bihar districts were flooded by the swirling waters of the Kosi river following a breach in an embankment upstream in Nepal. According to official sources, the worst affected districts are Madhepura, Saharsa and Supaul, where panic-stricken people have taken shelter on rooftops, railway tracks and canal embankments.

“People have fled in large numbers from the affected areas in the last four days. All bus stands, railways stations in these areas are crowded with an unending rush of people trying to get out of flooded areas,” an official said.

According to official sources, more than 300,000 people had been evacuated by government agencies. “Over 100,000 people are being sheltered in 102 relief camps in the areas,” he said.

The floodwaters have destroyed hundreds of houses and 100,000 hectares of farmland.

An open Letter to politicians of UP and Bihar

TruthWell in one of my articles “Political games being played all over”, i mentioned reasons about large scale migration from UP and Bihar. I was lacking some figures which i got in today’s HT Counterpoint written by Vir Sanghvi on page 10.

Here is an excerpt from that article.

My suspicion is that the disdain with which the Thackerays treat people from UP and Bihar – the so-called Bhaiyyas – is part of a wider trend. As India develops and transforms itself, UP and Bihar are increasingly being perceived as the laggards. Once, Bihar was India’s best-administered state (do not laugh: an international study came to this conclusion in the 1950s); now, it is seen as a wasteland. UP was the heart of India, the state that gave us the largest number of Prime Ministers. Now, it is a mess, treated on par with Bihar.

One look at the figures will demonstrate that UP and Bihar are the two states in India that are certainly not shining. The net state domestic product of Bihar was Rs 51,194 crore in 2004-05. In contrast, the state domestic product of Ma- harashtra was Rs 3,28,451 crore, over six times the figure for Bihar. Even poor, backward Orissa did better than Bihar at Rs 52,240 crore.

The contrast is more striking when you look at per capita figures. In 1993-94, the per capita domestic product of Bihar was Rs 3,037. Eleven years later, in 2004- 05, that figure had gone up to Rs 5,772 which, when you adjust for inflation, prob- ably means that income hardly went up at all, and may even have gone down.

Now, look at the figures for other states. In 1993-94, Maharashtra’s per capi- ta domestic product was Rs 12,183 – already four times the figure for Bihar. By 2004-05, it had gone up to Rs 32,170, nearly six times the figure for Bihar. Gujarat was at Rs 28,355 in 2004-05, and other states were booming: Kerala at Rs 27,048; Punjab at Rs 30,701; and Haryana at Rs 32,712.

Uttar Pradesh has fared a little better. In 1993-94, its per capita income was Rs 5,066. In 2004-05, it went up to Rs 11,477 (largely on the basis of Noida, but that’s another story). This makes it better off than Bihar but still worse off than every other Indian state.

Together, UP and Bihar are bottom of the list when it comes to per capita income. It takes four Biharis to earn as much as one resident of Maharashtra. And, UP’s current per capita income of Rs 11,477 is less than Maha- rashtra’s income of Rs 12,183 a decade ago in 1993-94. In those 11 years, UP has not even reached where Maharashtra was way back then while Maharashtra and other Indian states have surged ahead.

The economic disparity is matched by a political decline. In few states has politics got as dirty as in today’s UP. If it isn’t Mulayam Singh Yadav’s crony capitalism, then it is Mayawati’s shameless casteism and her naked pursuit of her own enrichment (her annual income is Rs 60 crore the saving grace is that she declares it and pays tax on it).

As far as the rest of India is concerned, Bihar has become a wasteland run by mafia dons who are pursued by Naxalites. The rule of law does not exist, and politics is largely a question of caste.

In both states, national parties hardly get a look in, unless they are alliance partners. Regional groupings based on caste share power with one another. Because these states have such a large share of Lok Sabha seats (UP has 80 while Bihar and Jharkhand together have 54), national politics is held hostage to these caste considerations and to the ambitions of regional leaders.

All this contributes to the lack of regard for UP and Bihar in many parts of India.
In Bangalore, a few years ago, a successful software executive told me that he had compiled a growth rate for south India and that it exceeded China’s. “It is UP and Bihar that let us down,” he said. Such sentiments are common. The face of India that we show to the world – hi-tech, Bollywood-glitzy and super-educated has nothing to do with UP and Bihar. For many Indians, the two states have become an embarrassment.

Now i have a question for politicians of UP and Bihar. Do they have any blue print of taking their state forward? The states have only caste politics nothing else. The people are so “innocent” that they fall prey to caste games. They don’t even understand the term development it seems. May be because they have never seen it. But one thing is for sure that whole India is developing at a brisk pace while UP and Bihar are crawling.  As Mr Sanghvi says–  I have respect too for the ordinary Biharis, who are truly the salt of India, going off to other states to create wealth for all of us. I doubt if West Bengal could survive without Biharis and Punjab’s crops are usually planted and harvested by Bihari workers. And oddly enough, whenever Biharis have travelled overseas, they have prospered: in Mauritius, Guyana and Surinam, for instance.

But then why can’t their own state take care of them. It is because we have not changed with time. Rest of India ignored the casteism and racism and rose to the top of the economic pyramid. And eventually India shed its old image and went from being perceived as an underdeveloped wasteland to becoming an emerging superpower. But the status-quo in UP and Bihar. I want to ask the politicians and people of UP and Bihar—- How long will they deny their citizens the benefits of the new India? And how long will the voters of UP and Bihar allow themselves to be ruled by a bunch of casteist crooks?

Bangalore : ‘BYTE’-ing the dust ? – Part2

Part-1 of this series : Surviving the BYTE, recounted how Bangalore transformed from a city with calm and undeniable charm, to a commotion ridden beast. With both the locals and the non-locals complicit to it’s downfall, Bangalore seemed to be headed for doom. What with the backbone of Bangalore — IT, threatening to pull out and the IT Czars publicly threatening to desert the city unless they were satiated. Is Bangalore BYTE-ing the dust ? Not yet. Not even in the conceivable future.

Much has changed since 2004-05, when the IT Czars threatened a pullout. Not only did they come back to the city, they now have major expansion plans as well. The cultural tension between the locals and the non-locals, still exists ; but people have found a way around it. Bad infrastructure and politics, is endured — albeit grudgingly. Was there some magic pill for all the ill ? Yes, money. Apparently there is nothing like the sound of money. Despite the problems, the city has seen an un-abated flow of foreign equity investments. With it, the IT giants realized they cannot afford to not have a major presence in Bangalore. The jobs are still abundant, the local economy is booming, malls and restaurants are sprouting everywhere. Despite the glaring issues, Bangalore is working — very well at that, and the doomsdayish predictions from 2004-05 have abated and the death knells halted.

Of late, there are other new developments among locals — a new wave of outspoken, at times brash youngsters, who, affected by the changes they saw, are vociferous about their presence. In these youngsters, there is a palpable sense of linguistic pride and Kannada usage. Changes are elsewhere too : the once defunct Kannada movies is seeing a golden run — probably not seen since the glorious days of Puttanna Kanagal ; Kannada TV serials have iconic following ; art expos like ‘chitra santhe‘ have sprouted ; FM stations have a mixture of offerings, Kannada included ; when pushed back by non-Kannadigas, the local youth is fighting back — was not the case 5-6 years ago. This is seen as a much needed antidote to the city that has endured the BYTE’ing. Among the locals : veterans, youngsters and everyone in between included, seem to approve of this quasi-cultural awakening.

The Kannada awakening, culminating with outspoken demeanor : Orkut groups like ‘Gaanchali Bidu Kannada Maatadu‘ have created a sense of realization in the non-Kannadiga populace. They seem to get the need to blend in. Many cities would cringe with a 70% non-local population and Bangalore is no different. Bangalore has always had the reputation of being a cosmopolitan city ; it still is, else, it would not have been hospitable to the massive influx (and we are far from seeing the end of it).

Dwelling on the cultural/linguistic rift, why does it exist ? When threatened by a loss of identity in their own backyard, local populace views non-locals as outsiders thus forcing the local culture to stand up and show spine. That’s what is happening in Bangalore. Increased and vocal dis approvals, many rightly so, as in the case of Railways conniving to stack it’s offices in Karnataka with Biharis, and some, not rightly so, like reservations in software sector for locals (quite rightly rejected by the Czars), have increased. There is a definitive shift in the status-quo.

When a culture opens it’s doors, voluntarily or by the compulsions of economics, the onus is on the emigres to acknowledge the gesture, blend in and be a part of it’s success. Most countries mandate that. Why should it be any different when it is between states of India, where the cultures-language-cuisine is so different as in say, two European countries ? When you decide to come live in a different culture, is it too much to expect that you blend in and not stick out like a sore thumb ? If you do stick out, and more so as a group unto itself and hence a clenched fist rather — not just a sore thumb, with scant disregard for the host’s feelings, it is bound to stress the cultural fabric, no matter how venerable or how evolved the culture is. You see these fissures in Karnataka-TN or Maharashtra-Gujrat or USA-Mexico. Hence the quote, when in Rome, be a Roman..

There is no doubt, the non-locals ought to do more in Bangalore : blend in, learn the basics of the new culture, treat this as their home and not a pit-stop/alien land. Some signs of that happening are evident. We Kannadigas can do better as well. The Kannada awakening was much needed and is good. But we need to control the tone of it. I would much rather say ‘Jamba bidu Kannada Maatadu'(discard the false pride, learn Kannada) than a ‘Gaanchali Bidu Kannada Maatadu'(discard the arrogance, learn Kannada — though seemingly innocuous, gaanchali is oft used with prefixes that makes it potent, hence the disdain..). We are better than that.

Yes, there are changes, some for the better, some for the worse. But change is the only thing that’s constant. I believe most people in our country are fair and, are cognizant of the fact that, they, have a mutual stake in the success of one another. Given the above inevitability, there is an underlying dormant sense of camaraderie that needs tapped. Once done, it furthers individual development while contributing to the growth of our nation. We Bangaloreans, locals and non-locals included, have been the beacons of change in Software, Hardware and Bio-tech arenas. We can, again, be the change that unfurls the melting pot of India — Bangalore, and, be proud of it. All of this, without losing our identity or individuality – The whole being greater than the sum of parts.

Bangalore : Surviving the ‘BYTE’ – Part1

With an undeniable laid back charm, not so long ago, Bangalore was your quaint old south Indian city — a pensioner’s paradise and a garden city. Misty mornings heralded the start of beautiful, often sunny days. Laden with rich aroma of filter coffee, crisp morning air soon displaced this misty blur. The tune of suprabhata would fill the neighborhoods from some one’s old transistor. Close on the heels of milk and newspaper delivery, the ubiquitous darshinis(eateries) readied their fare for the morning commuters. As the Suprabhatas turned to news, a steady stream of traffic would fill the roads and the eateries.Good Morning Bangalore.

Passing the baton, the short-lived ‘peak hour’ bustle, would lead into a warm mid morning calm. As the postman did his rounds, retirees perused the newspapers on their patios, soaking in the morning’s tender sun. Ladies bartered sugar, coffee and gossip standing across the compound walls in the shade of the omnipresent coconut trees. Selling his interesting wares, a hawker or two would often lead to an emergency session of the street Parliament — cartels formed, deals negotiated, decisions made and the news of a good buy reaching the other end of the street in seconds ! Life was easy. The whistle of the pressure cooker, often the spoiler of such fun, ushered the lunch hour. Fresh cooked anna, saaru, palya would fill the noon air. Bon-Appetite. Lunch made way for a calmer afternoon good till the kids came running home.

Evenings were never dull either : kids playing at street corners ; teenagers chatting away endlessly at the front gates ; walks on Sampige or Margosa roads ; idyllic meetings of seniors in Jayanagar-4th block complex; savoring panipuriat Ramakrishna Ashram or Seshadripuram ; the street market bustle of Malleshwaram 8th cross or Gandhi Bazaar, evenings had their share of simplistic fun before a staple of TV and dinner. There was much to be happy about in this predictable, chaos free simplicity.

Though a generalization, Bangaloreans have always loved simplicity. They take great pride in their simple happiness pursuits. Simple, polite, family oriented are some qualities that are a commonplace in Karnataka as the Bisibele Bhath, Kodubale and Akki Rotti. Do not let the unassuming simplicity fool you, for quite a few successful people hail from Bangalore — after all, the software boom did not happen by itself.

Even in the most famous of it’s sons, Kannadigas have a sense of obeisance to an inner discipline and simplicity. To me, a prime example is Anil Kumble : while playing, he is one of the more grittier and determined cricketers our country has seen (remember his fractured jaw strapped into place by a thick bandage, an injured Kumble, returned to claim Lara’s wicket in the Windies tour of 2002 ), while off the field, he is possibly the nicest, most unassuming person you will meet. Kannadigas bring that attitude and charm to what they do.

The non-stoic stance, the welcoming nature, beautiful weather, abundance of scientific brainpower and the cost arbitrage to outsource led to a steady flow of traffic — of software companies. MNCs and software companies, people who wanted to be in these companies, their vehicles and their baggage in tow(emotional & cultural), made a beeline for Bangalore — cumulatively changing it for ever. This influx led to the software wave, crowning Bangalore as the numero-uno of the Indian software hubs — ‘The Silicon Valley of India’. This gold rush had not gone unnoticed and there was a huge stream of people trickling into Bangalore from various parts of India. Local businesses and non-local job aspirants alike benefited from this growth and wealth. Seemed like a win-win situation — till it got out of hand. With the crown and the wealth, came woes : uncontainained traffic, soaring real estate prices, failing infrastructure and, last but not the least — a melange of people.

Per reliable estimates, only 30 per cent of Bangalore’s residents speak the local language, Kannada, today. The last decade of IT boom that put Bangalore on the global map, also made it a city dominated by non-localites. There is, of course, no justification for saying that any region of India be inhabited by members of one linguistic community only, in case of Bangalore, the Kannadigas(and all it’s flavors). But often the reality is too twisted to be framed to such idealistic frameworks.

Very many of the new entrants did not do much to help the situation either. For most parts, they chose to live in their own groups, often not blending with the locals or picking up basics of Kannada ; thanks in part to a lack of need for it and, in part due to a misguided sense of linguistic pride — picking up Kannada tantamounting to reduced allegiance to their mother tongue. When in a new city, there is hardly any bad in seeking people who hail from your hometown — it is almost second nature. The problem started when these groups became vocal and abrasive to the extent that it made the locals feel unwelcome in their localities.

Early 90s set the stage for the future things to come when the discontentment poured into the streets during the Cauveri water disputes . The water dispute was the last straw and a reason. Violence marred the city. Chennai returning the favor, just added to the fire. The tension is very much alive even today and flows in the moment water levels in Cauveri recedes.

Like I have stated, many a times : ‘Politicians are like diapers — almost always full of crap ; if not, it’s just a matter of time’. Among these politicians, Karnataka is blessed with the worst of their ilk. Add to this, the woes of traffic congestion, rising real estate prices, bridges and flyovers built where one was not needed and eventually ending up impeding the traffic flow (after construction dragging on for years), IT Czars threatening to walk out on the city and the state. It was chaos.

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Was it just chaos or, was it the sound of Bangalore’s death knell ? Is Bangalore BYTE’ing the dust? Read on in part-2 ..

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