Relocating to Bangalore – Think Again !

24 Aug

Whats the trigger to writing this blog – When a 1 km drive from home to my daughters drawing class takes 30 minutes its time to vent your frustration. (You have to drive because there are no footpaths , the roads are full of potholes and choked with traffic)

A lot has been written on Bangalore’s infrastructure – but its no longer collapsing, its collapsed. Every month thousands relocate to Bangalore – to them I have to say STOP – Bangalore is choking, we are sold out , no waiting list , no RAC.  In the late 90’s I used to joke with my friends in Delhi – relocate to Bangalore now or very soon there will be a Visa – I wish the Visa had come ten years back

Lets look at a few facts

The current vehicle population in Bengaluru stands at 67.22 lakh. In the absence of an efficient public transport system, private vehicles dominate the city’s landscape. There are 46.54 lakh twowheelers (70%), 13.01 lakh cars (19%), 1.35 lakh taxis and 1.71 lakh autorickshaws. All this, with a population of a little over one crore.

And the population is exploding. Close to 10 M Bangalore’s population today is in excess of Chennai & Kolkatta put together. That is colossal. I recollect in 1992 when I was graduating and my 1st company gave us a choice of  selecting a city – I toyed between Pune, Ahmedabad & Bangalore – as they were Tier 2 Cities 

Today Bangalore ranks in the list of Top 3 Metros. Which is great –  but it has the infrastructure for a population of less than 5 M. The IT Boom and now the eCommerce wave has created millions of jobs , real estate rates have boomed, investors , politicians and builders have made billions – but in the process the city has been raped.
This is a photo of ST Bed (Srinivagulu Tank Bed) – in Koramangla 4th Block where I live. Its one of the most sought after expensive localities in Bangalore – Apartments sell  at 10 – 12,000 / sft and a 3 BHK rents for over 50,000. The average speed of traffic anytime between 7 AM and 9 PM is less than 5 KM / hr. To cross the Sony Junction signal will take you 20 – 30 minutes. The narrow roads and by-lanes have cars parked on both sides including the footpath – so less than 50% of the road is available for motoring. The drains are choked – and when you have an entire locality built on a Tank Bed you can imagine what happens when it rains for a few hrs. What you see below is the effect of 3 – 4 hrs of rain. Not a storm or cyclone that went on for 3 – 4 days. With this comes sickness – one of every 5 households in Bangalore has been hit by Dengue this year – you cannot sleep without spraying Hit, even at 530 AM when I step out I need to apply Odomos.
Yes Bangalore has a Metro. Namma Metro with a Phase – 1 length of 42.3 Km – probably the second largest metro after Delhi. It started late and Phase 1 was completed recently – a delay of many years. The metro should have happened in 2010 – but better late than never.  Its made an impact in places where it has come – the 2 wheeler and Auto traffic has reduced significantly. But look at the map and see what are the areas covered in Phase – 1 ?
The biggest residential &  office hubs in Bangalore housing thousands of office and millions of daily commuters are E City , Koramangla , Outer Ring Road , White Field , Bannerghata Road, Sarjapur  – Namma Metro Phase – 1 does not touch any of these parts. The result a drive from Koramangla to Whitefield a 15 km distance will take you a minimum of 2 hrs. The frustrating part is when you go out of station and drive 300 Km in 3 hrs and then the last 15 kms to get home takes 2 hrs. The Railways have planned it beautifully – as you get to a junction or main station the number of tracks increase – they need to do the same for the roads – a 4 lane road getting into Bangalore needs to become a 12 lane road.
It may be a coincidence but Namma Metro Phase – 1  covers most of the old city and the areas which have a higher density of the local Kannadigas. Koramangla, Whitefield, Sarjapur, Bannerghata Road are packed with IT workers – mainly Immigrants. In our apartment of 124 flats not even 5% are locals. Thats the story with all these localities. There is utter neglect of these localities. The nice broad roads , world class “Tender For Sure” footpaths, Metro – all of them exist but in Central Bangalore , Malleshwaram , Jaynagar , Basavangudi, Palace Grounds . These localities have Cauvery water and decent electricity supply.
Bangalore desperately needs some zoning laws. Residential houses on 30 ft X 40 ft plots have 4 stories – so the cars spill over to the roads , worse many of them are let out to companies. between these cars and the UBER / OLA’s the roads are jammed 18 hrs a day. God forbid a major fire or a medical emergency in these areas.
The lightest of Drizzle and the current is cut in Koramangla. Fortunately we have a Genset in our building – but as the current keeps coming and going it plays havoc with your electronic devices. While watching a 2 hr movie last week I timed that the current kept tripping 9 times. The Cauvery water does not meet even 25% of your requirement and the rest is managed thru Tankers ( In many localities 100% of the water supply is thru Tankers)
With 30% of the Bangalore Population being Tamilians there is no Saravana Bhavan here – wonder why ? the annual Cauvery water fight would have resulted in them being easy targets of demolition by local goons. But does Bangalore need Cauvery water – a City that has been bestowed with so many lakes. The city in its heyday had more than 250 lakes. In the 60’s with a population of less than 1 mn , full of green cover and hundreds of lakes – Bangalore was a Hill Station. The lakes are gone – its either Apartments or Offices or Golf Courses that are built on the lakes and storm water drains.
The lakes that are left are dying – they are choking with pollution and weeds. And there is total apathy at fixing this mess. The NGT has issued multiple deadlines to fix the frothing and fuming Varthur lake – but sadly there is no accountability. So the next time a builder solicits you with a lake facing apartment – think twice , the beautiful lake picture in the Ad may be from the 60’s – what you may actually get is something below.
Bangalore is jinxed – God has been kind in bestowing Bangalore with excellent weather , lakes , greenery , hundreds of lovely weekend getaways – but in the last 20 years we have destroyed it. Lalbagh and Cubbon park came up during Hyder Ali and the British – in the last 20 years not a single new large park has been established.
Its one of the few states where the State and the Central government are never in sync.
BBMP one of the largest city budgets after Mumbai – but one wonders where the millions are spent. The roads and drains are fixed every year and they hardly last for a few months. I wish an investigation journalist would compare the money spent on Bangalore Roads in the last 10 years with any other city ( Indian or International)
In the last BBMP elections the current CM requested the people to give him one chance to make Bangalore a golden city – he got the chance in a messed up coalition with JD(S) – the result is there for everyone to see. The future looks bleak – young dynamic BJP chief Ministers like Fadnavis and Adityanath are driving development and change – when it comes to Karnataka BJP has chosen Yedivuruppa – a sad choice.
In a way the IT bust is good for Bangalore – hopefully this mad growth will slow down. A few years back Villas in Whitefield ( the famed Palm Meadows and Prestige Ozones) would rent for a few Lacs and there were none available for sale even at a million dollars. Today 25% of these villas area available for rent at less than 50 K / month –  and there are no takers – a sharp drop from its heyday rates. With almost 30% of the Real Estate in Bangalore locked up – its a matter of time before the prices crash. Rent to Investment ratios are less than 2% – one of the lowest yields in the country.
Between the IT Slowdown , RERA and the collapsing Infrastructure lets hope the jobs and people migrate to Hyderabad and Amravati and Bangalore can slowly but surely get back to its feet as a livable city.

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