Dear Bangaloreans, you deserve lousy infrastructure

The government we deserve

Lousy infrastructure. Poorly managed public services. Quixotic city planning. The city at the heart of India’s new economy suffers from the worst failings of its old politics.

But the sheer apathy with which the city’s voters treated the recent assembly elections—after several years of frustrating political logjams and venal political leadership—suggests that Bangaloreans deserve the mess that they are in.

So my dear Bangaloreans, enjoy some more years of Deve Gowdas, Kumaraswamys and Dharam Singhs. But don’t complain too loudly. You are yourself to blame.

Related Link: Dear (South) Mumbaikars, you deserve your own kind of mess too

28 thoughts on “Dear Bangaloreans, you deserve lousy infrastructure”

  1. Nitin,

    I agree with you on the point that coming out and voting is important, especially for the middle and upper middle class who while being sizeable don’t realize their power and don’t vote.

    I feel one of the reasons why we often see low turnouts esp. by middle class voters is because of the voting system – proportional representation or run-off methods provide more importance to each vote; and are much fairer to the voters than the first past the post we continue with.

    For the sake of argument, I wonder if paying taxes wasn’t enough for the people to expect a reasonable level of infrastructure and public services to be provided to them. By paying taxes aren’t we (contractually) obligating our public servants and ministers to provide us with these services? Isn’t there something in their oaths or JDs that says this or provides us with something we could use to take non-performing governments to court?

  2. Indeed it is disturbing that people at large have such a blind eye towards the public governance. Edmund Burke tell us ‘For evil to triumph, good men have to do nothing’. The common citizen is so busy in its own day-to-day chores that public services have been given no importance by him. In a city like Mumbai, there are open-garbages, stray dogs, hawkers, filthy roads, open gutters, high vehicle to per-km ratio, non-PUC vehicles, incessant honking, diminishing parks, gardens & greenery. The list is endless. One reason why America as a nation has been successful is because of community participation. Most of the Americans participate in a cause – local Church group, Sports Committee, County Groups,etc. They fight with the local political representative and make themselves heard. They make a difference to the place they live.
    Many people say that the Indian journey to economic success have begun since 1991 and we are pulling out millions out of poverty every year. We’ll be a super-power and a first-world nation soon.
    But – as long as the bureaucracy takes urgent steps in not only thinning itself but also in improving its execution and administration and bring it at par with the exuberant Indian private sector, there is very little hope!

  3. Vimal,

    Even in a simple contract: say getting your car repaired, does paying the bill ensure that you’ll get good service? Or should you also check to make sure that the job is done, penalise the mechanic if he does a shoddy job, and go back to the guy who does it well?

    Why should government be any different?

  4. Nitin, your example has flaws. You vote not to oust but to select. In your example, you penalize the mechanic immediately but in election you need to wait for a long time. By that time, you (as people) forget what he did.

  5. Invalid,

    An analogy is an oversimplified illustration. It’s not the argument.

    I don’t think Bangaloreans forgot what their previous government did. I accuse them of not caring.

  6. Clap clap.

    Anyone who refuses to participate in democracy–of his own volition–has no right to criticize the government he gets.

  7. Dear Rohit,

    She on the other hand, always has the right to criticise anyone. What’s government?

  8. Nitin,

    You have legal recourse against the mechanic. As a paying customer of the government, shouldn’t I have the same rights?

  9. Umm,

    Excuse me for being appalled, for being pissed off. But this is exactly what I expect of Radio One, not from The Acorn. I did/do think it’d be more nuanced.

    Having said that, this has to be amongst the worst conducted elections in an urban area.

    a) Part of the 44% result is because a lot of long time voters have been struck off. My whole family’s name is nowhere in the list, neither online, nor with any of poll booths. I personally know of at least 3-4 families of the 6-7 that I’ve asked who had the same issue, across different constituencies.

    b) The long id proof list is all BS. Unless one had something related to a voter id, there was no way the electoral officers/staff could make out who we were. Passport, PAN card, DL, Water bill, Company id – none of them sufficed. (The whole list had more than a dozen items)

    c) Usually polls result in a lot of the parties visiting people’s houses and handing out identification slips. How many did we get this time? ZERO. Usually, one gets it at least from JD(S), BJP and Cong-I.

    In fact, the media did a whole lot better than the Election commission. (That insidious delay in elections was rather uncalled for though. )

    Now, coming back to this post.

    Voting isnt the be-all and end-all of democracy. In fact, what’s more, I think an uninformed vote is worse than not voting at all. The media did help in that respect, though (but I’d assume it would be better next election)

    And its hardly only the vote that counts, its actually what we do on the days apart from voting day that counts more. How can we just highlight this one day and forget the rest which’s when our democratic bodies are chugging and doing work / sleeping our taxes away etc.,?

  10. Dear Nitin,

    I think your putdown of us bengalurians is a bit unfair. I have always turned out to vote in every election since i turned 18. even in unglamorous ones like for the local corporation for example. this time i couldn’t vote because i’am not in bangalore having relocated because of work. if there was something called postal balloting i would have definitely taken it up.

    and i think this is also the case with many ppl who are either very busy, are travelling or outstation on election day especially in a fast paced city like ours. i think the time is ripe for introduction of postal balloting or mobile polling or some such to keep up with the times.

    also one more thing. a large portion of bangalore residents more than one-third are migrants and many of them continue to maintain their votes in their ownhometowns. i know many ppl who travel to their hometowns to cast their vote.

    so maybe the 50% polling percentage is not a true indicator of the public participation or interest in the elections.

  11. I don’t think Bangalore urban area ever recorded decent polling percentages. The last time round, it was 48%, four percent higher than now. It is hard to pin down a traditionally low turnout at the hustings to voter apathy. A high number of absentee voters could be another reason. Bangalore has a high concentration of middle-class population, a significant part of which, being first-generation immigrants to the city, has roots elsewhere. So several voters could be on summer vacation. (If you think this is a nonsensical argument, please experience the city traffic now and then again when schools reopen after the vacations). I think in general cities record lower polling percentages, not only because of apathy, but also due perhaps to the fact that electoral fraud is more likely to be detected in cities than in (rural) areas that are under lesser scrutiny from babudom and the media.

  12. Dear Vimal,

    Yes, you have those rights and more. As a paying customer of government services you can take the government to court. As a shareholder you can sack the mechanic. You have the right. I’m saying you should exercise it.

  13. Dear BangaloreGuy,

    I guess I must try my hand at radio πŸ™‚

    Yes, yes…I know it’s normal to externalise the blame. None of those reasons should explain why engaged citizens shouldn’t raise hell when they face problems with voters lists, identification and suchlike.

    Engaged citizens are all very well, but I find it’s rather too much to expect that citizens will be somehow be “engaged” when they can’t do so much as to turn up and vote. Unless being “engaged” means bitching about how lousy the government is.

  14. Apollo,

    As in my response to BangaloreGuy, isn’t this all about making excuses. I think it’s rather presumptuous to say that “oh, we Bangaloreans are too busy with work and all that to suffer the inconvenience of standing in a queue and vote”. We prefer the Indian Idol style SMS voting. There are richer countries, with higher labour productivities, and they don’t mind standing in a queue once in five years to vote.

    We are not talking about people who can’t vote because they are not in town. We are not talking about migrants who are not on the voters list. We are talking about those on the list. The voting percentage is based on number of people on the list who voted, so it is a true indicator of participation.

  15. Dear BangaloreGuy, Apollo, Oldtimer

    In my previous comments, I argued that those were invalid reasons for not turning up to vote. Now let me accept that those were all valid reasons.

    That’s why I say, Bangaloreans deserve the Deve Gowdas, Kumaraswamys and Dharam Singhs. It’s not their fault if they win.

  16. ”She on the other hand, always has the right to criticise anyone. What’s government”

    I can’t win with you one this one. You have real life experience with umm…the ultimate Boss. πŸ™‚

  17. While it is regrettable that a number of people found their names missing from the list, it has little or no bearing on the voter turnout percentage. Firstly, the voter turnout is calculated on the basis of the voter list, not on the estimate of total eligible population. Secondly, for every concerned citizen who took the trouble to reach the voting booth and found his name missing, it is almost a statistical certainly that there is another citizen who stayed home and never found that his name is missing as well. Even if the voter list had been 100% accurate, the voting pattern would not have changed much.

    Overall, there is nothing new in the urban voters’ apathy though.

    Nitin,

    I was under the impression that voter turnout was even lower in most developed countries. Which one do you have in mind (Ref: Comment 14)?

  18. Nitin,

    Agree. I voted but I felt I’m just selecting the “lesser of all the evils” available.

    Maybe if we had better options available I think there would be more voting in the cities. There was very little interaction with the candidates or campaigning, partly due to EC restrictions I’m told. We looked for web profiles of candidates in our constituencies and couldnt find any, except their own websites. There was some coverage in the papers but again not much detail. It was not like you can check on their voting record, their stand on various issues, past promises vs. delivery to them etc.

    But more likely we decided all that is too much work and wouldnt have voted too different, even if we had easy access mechanisms.

    regards,
    Jai

  19. Its really sad that “educated” ppl in bangalore dint feel the necessity to vote even after going thru a bad time in the past. We have a mentality that any govt formed is interested in their interest and not in the state… Which is Wrong.

    We as a responsible citizens shud do our best in the interest of our state and country. If you dont vote, in your name proxy votes r given and yet again one more ‘scum head’ is elected…

    And all you lazy non- voters . Thanks to you we will have 5 more yrs of cribbing, bad roads, coalition govt, same old cat and rat fights of the politicians… WELL DONE!!!!

  20. Actually, I am Bangalore guy (an immigrant, if you would like to categorize further) and voted.

    Actually, the low percentage quoted (44% i guess) by the EC and media might not be giving the correct picture of citizen participation. Please refer one of the articles written by Ramesh Ramanthan (in the TOI, Bangalore) where he says that the actual participation could be somewhere around 70% (because of various reasons like “bogus” voters, “dead” voters etc.). But, in my opinion even 70% would be less.

    As far as the points mentioned by BangaloreGuy are concerned, I don’t think they hold much water. It is not fair to just blame the EC. Response to his points:
    a) BangaloreGuy himself provides a link where one can check (and could have check long time back) if he/she is there in the voter list. And the voter list was published (even online) long time back. If one was not listed there, one could just fill a form and get added to the list. One could even just telephone a party agent/representative and they would be more than willing to help you with the formalities. Crying wolf on the election day doesn’t help anybody.
    b) If one’s name is there in the voter list, any id would have sufficed. It was not mandatory that you have an EPIC. I don’t have an EPIC. I carried my driving license and that was it. Of course, if your name is not there is the voter list, NO id can help.
    c) This time also, most big parties distributed the identification slips. In apartments with private securities, parties have found it difficult (if not impossible) to approach each flat owner. So, the identifications slips might have just been placed at the security desk or the post boxes and then got misplaced from there. In any case, one could get these id slips from the desks placed by all major parties near each polling booth.

    So, I sincerely think that if one made a little effort, it was not so difficult to get oneself enrolled and vote.

  21. Please ignore the many grammatical errors that are there in my previous comment. BTW, Nitin, why don’t you provide a preview option for the comments?

  22. My objection, Nitin, is to the notion that Voting is that cornerstone by which one can judge how engaged we are.

    My objection is how repeatedly, people, nay the elite, make it the cornerstone, in fact the only visible part of democracy. When its just 1 day in say 1500 plus days(assuming 5 years).

    WHY?

    Is our ability to elect representatives or get them to do our bidding restricted to only the voting day? Its like saying the only day you’ve control over your marriage is on the wedding day. πŸ˜‰

    Surely, its not true! We deal with the bureaucracy/government for a lot more day(s) than we spend voting.

    I’m not making excuses for people not voting, but I do know that it would’ve been far higher if voting lists were in order.

    PS: The ad I was referring to, in Radio one went “Vote Maadi, or Shut up for next 5 years!” I find it highly offensive, and seemingly violating right to freedom of speech.

  23. Raag,

    Ok, so let me get this right. To follow from your logic, 4 months you get your salary, and all of a sudden one month you don’t get it, and with no intimation/cause at all. Who’s to blame? You, right? Not your company’s payroll, not your company, but you.

    Swell logic! πŸ˜‰

    The information you mention, especially the information about the online checking of voter id, was not widely available (if at all) in the public domain.

    As for other identities, there was enough heartburn from the officials at more than one booth over lack of one, and the disability to check for information without one.

    The ordering was – very intelligently – not done as per address, or even alphabetical order, by name – but, by the number fixed by Election Commission.

    You want the ordinary citizen to take the blame for this too? Mate, if the voter/non-voter were to take blame for such stuff, we might as well not have the EC.

  24. Is it really so simple that a higher turnout would lead to better governance? Rural Bangalore has recorded one of the highest polling. Does that mean Rural Bangalore will get better governance than Urban Bangalore?

  25. Prashanth,

    Poor turnout leads to poor governance. We’re not talking about local government bodies here but the state elections, so we’re not talking about specific wards.

    BangaloreGuy & others,

    Okay, so there are other ways to engage government to deliver. But you can’t credibly argue that someone who can’t even turn up and vote will bother to go out and lobby public officials. I fully agree that merely voting is not enough, and you need to keep pushing them even after that, but what’s the evidence for the latter? A rational individual/company is more likely to influence/bribe the way out and secure private benefits.

    Perhaps you have some evidence to show that a significant number of Bangaloreans are taking up civic responsibilities seriously.

  26. We could track the number of RTI applications filed per 1000 people as a metric for citizen participation. Does anyone knows if such data is available? Or do we need to file an RTI application for this as well?

  27. I think that’s oversimplifying it. Laying the sole blame for Bangalore’s lousy state of infrastructure of at the doorstep of its citizens implies a lack empathy. the goons that rule the city have established–and protect–their power through a series of corrupt channels. One could argue that no matter what the turnout, the net result would have been the same: politicians in India are sorely lacking in integrity and vision. Let’s not take the easy way out, and editorialize half heartedly.

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