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Infrastructure aborted, tech bigwigs log off Bangalore fair

Bangalore's premier infotech companies are seething again. More than a year after they were promised better roads, improved traffic conditio...

Written by Johnson T A | Bangalore |
July 24, 2005

Bangalore’s premier infotech companies are seething again. More than a year after they were promised better roads, improved traffic conditions and infrastructure, Bangalore’s money-winners are seeing little visible change.

The latest and loudest cry of protest has been raised by the Bangalore Forum for Information Technology (BFIT), an informal group comprising the heads of IT companies like Philips Software, Texas Instruments, Hewlett Packard, Motorola, vMoksha, Sun Microsystems, Novell, Bosch and others.

Angered by the state’s continued apathy towards infrastructure, the BFIT will boycott the city’s premier IT showcase event, recently rechristened 2005, scheduled to be held from October 26 to 29. In 2004, the BFIT had issued a similar threat but retracted after the state government provided written promises of improvement.

‘‘Last time we got promises on paper before the event, but there has been no change. The problem has only worsened. Most promises have not been kept. This time we will not reconsider. We will see in 2006,’’ Bob Hoekstra, Philips Software CEO and member of the state government’s empowered committee to monitor infrastructure told The Sunday Express.

‘‘Our intention is not to impact the event. We want the government to fix the problem on a war footing. Our employees cannot commute to work, we cannot call day-time meetings in the central parts of Bangalore because of the traffic situation,’’ he said.

‘‘We are all frustrated with the lack of infrastructure here. Not only as an IT organisation, but as citizens, we feel that infrastructure development is just not there,’’ Texas Instruments MD, Bobby Mitra said.

The state government has taken a nonchalant view of the BFIT’s threat. ‘‘We are not looking at as an event for Bangalore’s IT companies. We are focussing on India. These companies anyway hardly participate,’’ says the state IT secretary Shankarlinge Gowda.

The issue of infrastructure cannot be addressed overnight and the government is making serious efforts, he said.

‘‘They wanted the international airport—work has begun on it, the metro rail project will commence September, flyovers are being built. You cannot wave a magic wand and have things in place, it takes time,’’ Gowda said. ‘‘These companies are not the only ones in Bangalore, everyone expects services and we want to fulfill the aspirations of all,’’ he said.

The BFIT would not buy the argument. ‘‘We are not talking about the big projects, just basics like main arterial roads,’’ says Hoekstra.

The BFIT’s protests come close on the heels of Biocon chief Kiran Mazumdar Shaw’s blunt statement about the lack of progress on the infrastructure front. Biocon, she said while announcing her company’s quarterly results, is considering places other than Bangalore for new facilities since the government is yet to wake up.

Wipro Limited’s chairman Azim Premji, who raised a similar banner of protest last year, was less belligerent. ‘‘I hope all of you saw the work in progress,’’ he said.

Employees of the city’s IT companies are frequent victims of road accidents while commuting to or from work due to the traffic situation. Infosys alone has lost at least six employees in two-wheeler accidents over the past eight months.

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