August 31, 2006

Our crorepathi ministers

Now we know how much our ministers are worth. It's something we all wanted to know, but couldn't bring ourselves to ask when politicians make eve-of-poll vote-getting visits to our neighbourhoods. Must say, Deccan Herald has done a good job, reporting in detail the Lokayukta statement on the assets declared by our legislators/ministers. The DH online version doesn't fully reflect the coverage given in the print edition.

The newspaper not only gives details of assets of those who have declared their wealth, but has also listed the 53 MLAs/MLCs who failed to furnish the mandated information within the two-month grace period that expired on August 31. A couple of defaulters are reported to have claimed they were unaware of the Lokayukta deadline. A likely story. An MLA reportedly blamed his PA for the failure to communicate in time details of the MLA's assets to the Lokayukta. And then a has-been minister, still an MLA, is believed to have sought an assurance that details of he declares to the Lokayukta be held confidential.

Our elected representatives may have many virtues, but transperancy is not one of them, for at least 53 of our legislators. Of course, we can rely on them to raise their voice for our right to information, so long as it doesn't have anything to do with their information.

August 29, 2006

For award-winners, standing room only

A group photo in Star of Mysore (Aug.29) features 10 achievers in Urdu journalism and literature, honoured with awards instituted by the Urdu Academi. The photo, showing the award-winners along with those representing the Karnataka Urdu establishment, was taken shortly after they were presented with the awards at a Kalamandira function.

Seated upfront in the photo are CIIL director, Maulana Azad National Urdu University vice-chancellor (who presented the awards), chairman of the Urdu Akademi (which instituted the awards), a former Minister, and registrar of the Akademi. Behind them are seen lined up, and standing, the award-winners, in whose honour the function was held. Maybe no one thought of this, least of all, those who set up the photograph. Maybe, the award-winners took the back row because they outnumber the organisers. But I sense in the setting of the group photo , what I would call, our ‘mai-baap’ syndrome. It is not that we honour Urdu achievers less, but we are given to respecting our establishment biggies more.

August 23, 2006

Our CM slept here

Was it Sarojini Naidu who was credited with saying that it cost the nation a fortune to keep Gandhiji in poverty ? (Mr Gouri Satya/Mr Krishna Vattam could correct me on this). I remembered this saying as I read in Deccan Herald about the CM, Mr H D Kumaraswamy’s night stay at Hire Mannur village in Gulbarga dist. the other day. (Nice story by Mr Anand V Yammur). The newspaper carries a photographs of the CM sleeping on the living room floor of a party worker’s residence.
In a nine-para story the reporter captures the setting in all its mundane details. The CM used a common bath and bathed in water brought from the close-by Bheema river. Had he chosen to go to the river for a bath, as most villagers usually do, our CM would have provided the media with an excellent photo opportunity. I am not making a judgment here, on whether the CM’s night at the village was a PR-hype or he was being his plain simple self. My point is that persons in high position, with such austerity gestures, cannot hope to make much difference to the cost of VIP travel, involving an entourage, bandobast and security. Ms Sarojini Naidu’s reference was to the high cost involved in arranging for Gandhji’s rail travel in III Class, and his stay at the Punchquian Road Harijan basti in New Delhi.

August 21, 2006

Celebrating Dasara, on Sarkari dole

Our public works minister, Mr H D Revanna, has released in the media the financial demands made on the state government by various agencies in the name of Dasara:

Mysore City Corporation - Rs. 5 crores (for road works and improvement of public parks)
Tourism Dept. - Rs. 1 crore
Horticulture - Rs. 1 crore
Chamundeswari Electric Supply Corp. - Rs. 40 lakhs (for roads illumination)
Heritage sites renovation - Rs.2.25 crores
Public Works Dept. - Rs. 12.85 crores (for repairs on 25-km stretch of city roads)
Dasara Celebrations - Rs. 2.25 crores.

The figures add upt to Rs. 24.75 crores. Not a big deal, perhaps, for the government. But I don't suppose anyone, least of all the departments concerned, expect the government to meet their demands fully. And we can expect, at the end of the day, a blame game to be played out, in which we can all blame the governemnt for being tight-fisted in releasing grants and giving us too little, too late.

We don't hear much about contributions from the economic beneficiaries of Dasara celebrations - contractors, city shopkeepers, tour operators, hotel owners, auto-drivers etc. They all have associations. Could we expect them to persuade their members to plough back part of their season's windfall into a permanent trust fund, devoted to making Dasara a festival to which tourists would want to come back , again and again ?

When are we, if ever, going to change this mindset - of celebrating Dasara on sarkari dole ?

August 19, 2006

MyMysore cloned

It is nice to learn that is being missed so much by someone that he has set up a clone. Mr Badri Hiriyur e-mailed us the link to his site - OurMysore - an alternate forum for mymysoreans. Says Mr Hiriyur: Every day I stop by the site only to return disappointed. I even spent the better part of Saturday setting up an alternate forum to keep the discussions going.

OurMysore blog makes it clear that it is a Mymysore clone, set up because the original site has been shut off due to spam attacks. It has three discussion forums modelled on the mymysore site.

Shortly before all forums in our site got turned off Mr Hiriyur managed to post a message:
For many months now, I have been a mute visitor here (one of the many, I am sure). Just found out that the two I-s (Issue & Ideas) message board has been cordoned off from public view with password protection. I am assuming this is in response to the recent spam attacks on this site. Would the forum administrator please give us an update on how we might access that board?- BKH.

Your assumption was right, Mr Hiriyur. Toxic spamming turned us off. For how long, we can't say, right now. Would keep you posted on the developments. Meanwhile, thanks for the proxy site. On my part, I would like to see OurMysore taking a life of its own, even after bounces back.

August 17, 2006

Plea to BAI: Building flats isn't enough

The Mysore centre of Builders Association of India (BAI) is talking in terms of raising, over the next one year, 50 lakh sq.ft. housing space, which means a hundred apartment blocks, with an investment of nearly Rs.600 crores. So said BAI chief, Mr K Sriram, on the eve of a Myrealty Expos at Southern Star Hotel. Some 30 property developers, who clubbed up to put up the show, have also involved institutions providing housing financing and insurance to facilitate prospective buyers all-round information at a one-stop expo.

I wish BAI also focuses its attention on after-sales service aspects. Evidently, such large scale apartments building BAI seeks to promote would exert pressure on maintenance and security services that are an integral part of apartment living. In Mysore, where apartment living is a relatively recent phenomenon, apartment-life support services are far from satisfactory. There is a definite need for developing these services on a professional footing.

Apartment builders, after completion of work in all its aspects - landscaping, proper rain-sun shade over common areas, intercom phones etc. - hand over real estate maintenance to residents association. Its office-bearers usually lack knowledge and management skills required to access and co-ordinate the upkeep of common facilities - power generator, plumbing, electrical fault repair, manning/maintenance of lift, 24/7 helpline, high-rise glass panel cleaning and other services for which there would be a spurt in demand with the growth of apartment blocks. Shouldn't BAI, which creates the steel-and-cement infrastructure, deem it its responsiblity to address issues pertaining to apartment-life support services ?

Then, there is the aspect of security. Till such time we become progressive enough to provide electronics security system in apartment complexes, BAI would do well to ensure that the mushrooming security services outfits in the city are run on professional lines. What we have now is that the uniformed staff provided by the so-called security agencies are under-paid and over-exploited, which make them poor security guards. If indeed BAI wants to function as a one-stop facilitator, the association should address issues of professionalism and efficiency in apartment-life support services in residential blocks, that often carry the brand name of their builders.

August 12, 2006

Are both rail ministers on the same track ?

Our CM, Mr H D Kumarasamy, and rail minister, Mr R Velu, appear to have differing perceptions on the Mysore-Bangalore double track issue. The chief minister brought cheers to Mysoreans with a statement the other day that work on this long-pending project would be resumed within weeks, if not days. Karnataka, he said, had sanctioned Rs. 25 crores for this year; and a NOC by the Centre to the railways was round the corner. CM's made the statement following an all-party delegation meeting with union rail minister, Mr Lalu Prasad in New Delhi.

Within days after CM's statement Rail Minister Jr. , Mr R Velu, was in Mysore for a railway function; and his take was the double-tracking work was not on the cards, not anytime soon. The project, as of now, had been sanctioned only upto Ramanagaram, from Bangalore. And to get the work extended entailed certain ''. Mr Velu was in no mood to give us any hope, not even a false one.

As for CM's statement, Mr Velu let it be known that he was not even aware of an all-party delegation having met Mr Lalu Prasad. Doesn't this make you wonder if both of them work for the same ministry ?

August 6, 2006

Mysore Dasara: A spurious issue

Local media has been, for the last some days, polling readers on their preferences in respect the person they think should inaugurate Dasara celebrations next month. The Dasara high power committee (has anyone heard of low or medium powered committee ?) is pondering four candidates - Girish Karnad, Prof. Chenneveera Kavavi, Prof. U R Rao, and Rahul Dravid.

Star of Mysore’s invitation to readers to express their choice would presumably help us understand the Mysorean mind on the matter. To my mind, the issue that has been raised is spurious. Does anyone care who inaugurates Dasara? Would it make any difference to the celebrations? What if a critical mass of Mysore residents were to say, ‘none of the above’? Would the high powered committee consider such a verdict?

I suspect Mysoreans have no say in the matter. Nor do they have a mind of their own, to come up with their own name. I mean someone local, rooted in our soil; someone who would cherish the town's recognition, and brag about it to his or her folks. Someone who has made Mysore proud with her work at the grass-roots. Someone such as Putteeramma of Vidyaranyapuram, Dr. B Nirmala of the Maharani’s who has secured over 2,000 eye-donation pledges from college students, or Mr K Gangadhara Rao, 80, who has carried on a one-man mission to educate people on the importance of donation of body parts for transplant and medical research.