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JUNE 3, 2007
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Trillion-Dollar Club
India has joined the elite club of 12 countries with GDPs in excess of a trillion dollars. The country's GDP crossed the trillion-dollar mark for the first time when the rupee appreciated to below Rs 41 against the greenback. According to a report by Swiss investment bank Credit Suisse, India's stock market capitalisation has risen to $944 billion (Rs 39,64,800 crore), which is also closing in on the trillion-dollar mark. An analysis of the Indian economy.

Minding The Monsoon
The India Meteorological Department's prediction that the total rainfall in the coming monsoon season is likely to be 95 per cent of the long-period average, with an error margin of 5 per cent, is good news for agriculture. But experts say there's a need to revamp monsoon prediction so that the region-wise and timing of rainfall patterns can be forecast much earlier. A look at the credibility of monsoon models and their impact on agriculture.
More Net Specials

Business Today,  May 20, 2007

Back From The Brink?
Just when most Bangaloreans had given up on the city's infrastructure, things seem to be looking up. 'Is that for real?' wonders
11:30 A.M., May 4, 2007

Insidious roads: While vehicle population has exploded in the city, roads continue to be narrow and congested. But a Metro rail service (see inset) may help ease traffic

Mahatma Gandhi Boulevard is the main arterial road in Bangalore where the city's denizens like to saunter. Flanked by the Parade Ground on the one side and a bustling commercial centre on the other, mg Road is where Bangalore happens. A couple of weeks ago, massive diggers with giant claws crawled out onto mg Road, biting off chunks of road. After hanging fire for nearly a decade, work had begun on the Rs 6,207-crore Bangalore Metro project. While there was a tinge of regret in the air over the fact that a city landmark would forever change, there was a greater sense of hope. "All the digging might mean additional temporary inconvenience, but we will gladly put up with it if it means that eventually I get to spend more time with my family rather than on the road," says Ratna Rajgopal, a software engineer who works out of sap's facility in Whitefield, a city suburb.

She speaks for every other Bangalorean. While the infotech and biotech boom did put India's Garden City on the global map, it also put tremendous pressure on its infrastructure. Bangalore's population, for instance, nearly doubled in the last decade to top 7 million. Unable to cope with this influx, made worse by an apathetic state administration, the city's infrastructure collapsed. Power and water shortages became the norm rather than the exception. The city requires 35 million units a day of electricity, but the best that the utilities can do is 27 million units. Demand for water is estimated at 1,200 million litres per day (LPD), but the supply is around 750 million LPD. It is a little-known fact, but after Mexico city, Bangalore is the only other major city in the world that is farthest away from its water source. Water from the Cauvery has to be piped over 120 km into the city. No wonder, the idea of sharing the river water with neighbouring Tamil Nadu raises the hackles of Kannadigas.

Even as the utilities began to creak, the city's roads were running out of space. The two-wheeler population in Bangalore is the second highest in India after Delhi, and some 1,000 new vehicles pour onto the city roads every day. The apology of an airport that India's Silicon Valley sports, has been bursting at the seams, with passenger traffic growing 44 per cent last year alone. Every day, airplanes routinely hover over the airport for as much as half an hour due to congestion. To make things worse, about two years ago, the local police began forcing all shopping establishments to close by 11.30 p.m. A city once famous for its numerous pubs and night life was no longer the same.

So, when a shaky coalition government took charge 16 months ago replacing another equally shaky one, little was expected. Benign neglect was the best hope, unlike a couple of the earlier governments that were seen to be actively working against the city's interests. But surprisingly enough, there have been signs of improvement over the last couple of months, thanks in one part to the government and the other part to activist citizens. Work on the Metro has started, even as tenders have been invited for a monorail system to act as a feeder service. The new Bangalore international airport coming up at Devanahalli seems to be on track for the first flight to take off in April 2008.

Devanahalli: Readying for
Soon, they could be riding the Metro

The formation of Bruhat Bangalore (Greater Bangalore), along the lines of Bruhan Mumbai, seems to be paying off as well. Integration of seven surrounding civic municipal areas, including Rajarajeshwari Nagar, Dasarahalli, Bommanhalli, Krishnarajapuram, Mahadevapura, Bytrayanpura, and Yelhanka (apart from one town council, Kengeri, and 111 villages) means that the city's size has grown from 225 to 741 square kilometres. This should lead to a more planned development of Bangalore, besides which it will augment its resources in the long run. While earlier the government was shooing away investment to other parts of the state saying that availability of land and other resources was a constraint, the formation of 'Greater Bangalore' has freed up nearly 20,000 hectares of land for industrial use.

If there was one symbol that indicated Bangalore's inability to make any progress on infrastructure, it was the half-done flyover that greeted visitors as soon as they came out of the city airport. But guess what? Four years after its launch and several crores of rupees in cost overruns, the flyover opened to traffic five months ago. Similarly, several other near-abandoned flyovers, which had begun to look like grotesque sculptures of steel and cement, have been finished. K. Jairaj, Commissioner of Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagar Palike, says that work on expanding eight key arterial roads at a cost of Rs 67 crore has begun. The Bangalore Development Authority, which plays a key role in developing the city's infrastructure, has taken up work on peripheral ring roads to connect far-flung areas. Says Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy: "The coalition government is committed to improving infrastructure in Bangalore in a time-bound manner. Formation of Greater Bangalore, launch of work on Metro rail, widening of key arterial roads in the city and the new international airport will solve a number of problems."

Even as the Chief Minister uttered those confident words, 280 trucks carrying 2,300 tonnes of garbage had formed a smelly queue on the city's roads. Why? The city's dumping grounds were full up. Fresh garbage collection came to a standstill, until a fresh dumping site on the outskirts of the city was identified. Bangalore is optimistic, but not too much.