Karnataka is desperate for change, say the state’s top corporate honchos

Narayan Murthy backs Bangalore Political Action Committee (BPAC).

You have to bribe for everything – says an utterly frustrated TV Mohandas Pai, former HR head at Infosys who is now helping set up the Bangalore Political Action Committee. Move over mining mafia, the state has a land mafia, garbage mafia, debris mafia in addition to corrupt corporators.

Karnataka is fed up. The state is desperate for change, say the state’s top corporate honchos. In a bid to deal with daily bribes, petty crime, corrupt police, the state is now hoping to use citizen activism to fix its problems. Irrespective of which party comes to power, Karnataka’s citizens want change in their daily lives.

“Political corruption is widespread but the biggest corruption is in government services”, says Mohandas Pai. “People ask for a bribe for everything – you want a certificate, you want a building plan, you pay a bribe.” Pai cites how basic civic services too have fallen in the mafia net where the state’s massive garbage collection has come to be controlled by corporators and political leaders. “The municipality spends Rs 500 crore to keep the city clean, but the mafia is coming in its way. This is how the common lives of people are getting impacted.”

Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, also part of this committee which was launched on Sunday is exasperated at the general helpless of functioning in the state. “We have seen a complete breakdown in governance. We have watched hopelessly and helplessly – the whole system break down. We have been apathetic. So we need to bring some action and change.”

As Tehelka‘s cover story articulates “this was India’s showpiece state — the new economic power, the IT hot-house, the mining hub and iron exporter of choice. Today, its mining industry has been destroyed by cronyism, corruption and ecological devastation, with good and bad, legal and illegal mining tarred with the same brush and viewed with equal suspicion.”

India’s silicon valley already faces the threat of severe image damage. For long considered a ‘professional’ state, it is now “deterring people from investing in Karnataka,” says Pai. Paramount among the reasons for industry to shy away from spending in the state is the lack of approvals, land, delayed processing of document and rampant bribe culture.

“Anything to do with the government is incompetent, inefficient. There is no accountability. Tragically this is what government stands for. Power mongers, corrupt and arrogant,” asserts an angry Shaw. She cites a Narendra Modi quote “let’s have high governance but less government.”

Both Pai and Shaw are not convinced that a change in political leadership of the state is a solution. “No such thing. It has nothing to do with any political party. Every party has become as bad as each other,” Shaw explains.

“Citizen activism is the answer,” insists Pai. “More than any other state, we need to get together and file cases against the political leaders. Identify bad people and shame them in public.”

Agenda of the new committee

  • Proper governance structure for the city
  • Promoting citizen inclusion in governance
  • Strengthening the finances of the local body and other city agencies
  • Ensuring accountability of civic agencies
  • Developing strong infrastructure
  • Strengthening the foundations of urban politics