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City aborts on eve of showcase tech fair

It was almost as if the waters have washed away what politicians were using to hide in Bangalore. Set to host delegates from 18 countries fo...

Written by Johnson T A | Bangalore |
October 26, 2005

It was almost as if the waters have washed away what politicians were using to hide in Bangalore. Set to host delegates from 18 countries for the showcase IT event ‘Bangalore IT.in’ opening on Wednesday, India’s infotech capital floundered in rain water.

For a city whose crumbling infrastructure regularly threatens to fall off the state government radar, the three-day spell of showers couldn’t have come at a worse time: just days after a bruising battle between Congress’s big brother H D Deve Gowda—the chief guest tomorrow—and Infosys chairman N R Narayana Murthy.

Even Gowda’s attendance is in doubt. JD (S) convener Y S V Datta said Gowda would visit rain-affected areas from 8 am to 1 pm. ‘‘In his schedule, if he fails to attend the function, a written speech copy would be sent through Industries and Finance Minister P G R Sindhia,’’ he said.

Palace Grounds, the venue for the IT.in event, located at a higher altitude than Hosur Road and considered safe ground, was itself a virtual swimming pool today. Even the approach road to Palace Grounds, the Airport Road, was a nightmare with its unfinished flyover and multiple traffic diversions.

The rain began late on Saturday night when the city received 12 cm of rainfall—well below its single-day record of 18. Two deaths, flooded roads and buildings, gridlocked traffic, disrupted power and telephone networks and there was chaos today, all after a mere 7.7 cm of rainfall, a teardrop in comparison to Mumbai’s 94 cm in July this year.

Yet it still submerged Hosur Road, a part of NH7 and Bangalore’s link to the Electronics City, where the campuses of its IT pride—Infosys, Wipro and other companies—are located.

Water from a breached lake bund beside the road engulfed a section of the highway. Bang in the middle is a chest-high water body. Two people drowned in the rushing waters here, the Bangalore police said.

By 6 pm on Tuesday, employees returning home from Electronics City were stuck in a 5-km traffic jam along the road—what normally is a 45-minute ride home became a four-hour ordeal.

Bangalore, of course, is only paying for its sins. Whenever it rains more than 5 cm, the years of unplanned development show up, particularly its lake beds indiscriminately converted into real estate.

Once a city with nearly 262 lakes which flowed into each other and regulated flooding, Bangalore’s lake count today is a mere 61. Sewage flows into many of these lakes and heavy rainfall only adds to the pressure.

‘‘Areas close to the lakes, with encroachments and lack of drainage facilities, are always the worst hit in Bangalore,’’ says Bangalore Development Authority chairman M N Vidyashankar.

With more rains expected during the time the IT.in is on, the Bangalore police have asked all schools and colleges to stay shut for the next two days. There were rumours that the event itself could be postponed. However, Karnataka IT Secretary Shankarlinge Gowda stoically said, ‘‘The show will go on.’’

A Wipro Technologies development centre which houses 300 employees was among those that were submerged after the Begur tank embankment gave way. On Tuesday afternoon staff at the office could be seen pumping out water. ‘‘We had our business continuity plan in place by Sunday and our employees resumed work as usual on Monday from alternative locations,’’ said a Wipro spokesperson.

Chief Minister Dharam Singh has announced a Rs 55-crore relief package for Bangalore and other surrounding rain-hit districts of the state.

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