The Punjagutta flyover

The back story to this collapse is that the flyover has been taking forever to construct and is a source of traffic snarls that only Hyderabadis can create. When Chief Minister Rajasekhara Reddy was asked why it wasn’t getting constructed, he promised to “take action” against Gammon India, a fairly reputable firm that was in charge of construction. But almost immediately the bureaucrats began to hush up the matter, because it turned out that Gammon, while nominally in charge, had merely lent its name to the construction, while sub-contracting the actual work to other firms who had got the job only because of their connections to Congress politicians. All this was in the news a couple of months ago.

Does anyone remember that Reddy came to power because Chandrababu Naidu was supposedly not performing? At least Naidu was trying. What an awful Chief Minister this man is turning out to be. Among other things, he wilfully ignored warnings of impending terrorist strikes. He went soft on the Naxalites. He has an utterly cynical approach to government that is scary, but not surprising.

26 thoughts on “The Punjagutta flyover

  1. From the reports I saw, it’s Gammon India that is being blamed for the collapse again.

    Whoever is ultimately responsible, Gammon India will now think twice before lending its names to subcontractors because of their political connections. And that’s a good thing.

    I also saw that the design was changed after the construction began because it passed too close to the CM’s residence.

  2. While I do think that outrage is justified, shouldn’t the long term perspective be delegating local tasks such as flyover construction to local bodies instead of CM ?

  3. Agree. It was in fact Monday morning w(e)ariness that stopped me from making another point I had intended to make – Mumbai’s city as well as state governments are bad, but compared to Hyderabad’s they are a model of responsiveness.

  4. I think your observation is correct.

    I am digressing here, but I believe that the reason Mumbai local bodies are more responsive is due to the pressure as well a culture which is a product of private enterprise, instead of being extension of state machinery.

  5. True. Two points –

    Mumbai’s local government is more than hundred years old, so there is a better culture of self-governance.

    Second, Mumbai has a large group of citizens who are conscious of being citizens. In fact, in Saturday’s meet, I was telling Gautam, Nitin et al the typical resident of most cities in India treats his city as a weekly bazaar – a place he is visiting on business, but his actual roots are elsewhere. (In fact, that is what I am doing about Hyderabad, but in my defence, I’ve been here for only 5 months.) That is the least true about Mumbai.

  6. I don’t get the point?are you trying to blame YSR over the flyover?Is he behind it?or is he behind the blast in mecca masjid and also the recent twin blast?The police are doing their best about it?and yes!about “soft on the Naxalites” do want panic around the city over nothing?It so easy to be out of the system and blame the system…try to be in the system and change it….

  7. I am not sure I agree that most Hyderabadis don’t care about the city. There are plenty of organizations in the city that want to work with MCH, such like babu-cracies, to make things happen.

    Another issue with municipalities like Hyderabad is that the CM has too much influence on a capital city – the mayor and local body has little budget and little influence. Everyone reports to CM. Other than Mumbai there is really no other capital city in the country that is immune to CM influence. Smaller cities are lot more independent and some do much better than others.

    Naidu was fairly responsive because he wanted Hyderabad to be modeled after Singapore. Naidu build at least 10 or more fly overs – and they are still standing and work very well.

    YSR is classic Congress I CM – nothing gets done until high command says so and as long as high command is happy there is really no need to do anything other than pile in cash for rainy day.

  8. I disagree on that – I am sure that there are committed citizens in Hyd, but I am claiming that the level of apathy is higher. Secondly it is not just apathy. Mumbai has a longer tradition of civic groups. Take the co-operative housing societies or the Ganapati Mandals for example. During the famed July 26 floods, it took Mumbaikars very little time to self-organize and distribute food to stranded commuters because the basic infrastructure was already in place. My impression is that this kind of “infrastructure” is not well developed in most cities in India.

    I agree with you about the disadvantages capital cities face, but all cities face the problem of not having local government in place and of being dependent on the state for funds.

  9. Hmm. Isn’t Hyderabad where that grand statue of the Buddha to be installed in the middle of the Hussain Sagar sank to its bottom and then took a decade or so to be fished out and affixed properly?

  10. Feanor, yes. That’s where single stone statue Buddha sank. But the statue was brought up within weeks, not decades. Buddha has been standing in the middle of the lake for almost two decades now and one can go up close to see it.

  11. Oh, I said Buddha statue has been standing in the middle of the lake – as it was supposed to – for about two decades. I think it was in NTR’s first term when whole Hussain Sagar area was redone (not the Lumbini park area). It has been close to two decades.

  12. Kind of OT so sorry,

    What I have observed is that Delhi has the best infrastructure in India, despite the fact that it is capital of India. I have a theory that Delhi benefits from being center of all India babucracy, kind of Imperial capital .

  13. I guess I should have said “on” the middle of lake (on an island).

    Gaurav, I have reading Ramachandra Guha’s book on post-independence history (India after Gandhi) and he talks about how Punjabi immigrants from west Punjab (from LoP) rebuild their lives fast while Hindus from east Bengal in Kolkata and Sindis in Mumbai struggled for years and years (Bengalis probably because of communists and Sindis because of discrimination by local Hindus).

    In any case, I think Delhi benefits from being a Punjabi city. I doubt babus are suddenly competent in Delhi.

  14. Chandra,

    Do you mean Punjabi or do you mean Sikh ? For I know both Punjabi Sikhs and Hindus have done well. Here you must remember that for all their intellectualism Bengalis have not been knows for entrepreneurship.

    Reg. Sindhis they are doing well in Mumbai atleast, I have no idea about Delhi, but yes Punjabis and Sindhis have neighbourly feeling about each other or so I have been told.

    And in previous comment I missed the obvious. Delhi has been self governing since long, perhaps it is a ground for Mumbai seceding from Maharashtra ?

  15. If Guha has made such a claim about Sindhis, then he has been imbibing prohibited narcotic substances. Neither the premise nor the conclusion is correct. Sindhis have not been discriminated against and they haven’t done badly. In fact, they have done extremely well. I am only slightly exaggerating when I say that I have never met a poor Sindhi – and I went to a school set up by Sindhi refugees to Bombay.

    But don’t let this side point interrupt the interesting discussion. I hope to make a post on this question soon, time permitting.

  16. Gaurav,

    Not being a north Indian, I equate Punjab with Sikhs (I know it’s false.) But your point about self governance for large cities is valid point. I don’t need to independent states, but they do need wide operational freedoms such as tax collection and police force.

    Ravikiran, more specifically Guha meant Marathi discrimination against Sindhis.

    Surely Sindhis are doing well now in Mumbai and in Gujarat. But apparently they couldn’t pick up pieces and start a new life, after migration, for a long time. I personally think it has more to do with babus not helping the new migrates resettle then any wide spread discrimination.

  17. In that case, I am flabbergasted by Guha’s ignorance, because the Marathis themselves did not have much influence in Bombay till the 60s. The Shiv Sena rose to prominence precisely by demagoguing on this point.

  18. Chandra,

    Reg. Punjabis Actually I understood what you meant but from your sentence the implication is that performance varied with religious groups whereas it should be cultural group

    Reg. Marathi discrimination I doubt it. Although I think during the period when Marathis were agitating for separate state and when there was anger against Gujaratis who dominated in business, this anger could have spilled over to Sindhis who were also mainly in business.
    Frankly speaking I don’t know how much weight age to put in what Guha writes I found his latest article underwhelming.

    Reg. self governance, actually the broader theme is to devolve power. I think our model should be US in devolving power to more local bodies. To me there are few issues with this

    1. What should be the division of executive , what about legislature and judiciary. I am not sure about the details, BUT I think that we need to make a divergence from US model in that the foundation of federalism should not be the assumption that states are by themselves sovereign, which is in US. (I think Ravi has opposite view on this)

    2. How to actually challenge the status quo.

    3. Most important how to wean public from mai baap government and instill a sense of responsibility for community and immediate surroundings. This is related to the initial points.

  19. Yes, Guha shows plenty of inclinations of his bias. Frequent use of word chauvinism about any demands by Hindu groups, soon after independence, who finally thought their words will be heard after being shut down for centuries is baffling. And his almost pious dedication to Nehru leaves me shaking my head. But unfortunately, there are not too many books that delve into post-independence history and, at any rate, his is the latest one. A good book for other sources though, I think.
    I don’t know how the leap from mai baap to sense of community can be made – because now community means different things to different people. One indication that we have reached will be when people stop throwing garbage everywhere in their surroundings 🙂 – it’s still my home, my family, my caste or what ever.
    US has come a long way from a true federal model it used to be (it’s still better than India’s ultra-strong central govt). US central govt uses “commerce clause” in it’s constitution to dilute federalism – and libertarian institutes hate it. But I don’t think its states are not and never were sovereign – hence the civil war to avoid a split of nation. Now a sense of nationhood is very strong in all states.

  20. A rather late rejoinder: it’s true it did not take a decade to raise the Buddha statue after it sank into Hussain Sagar lake. On the other hand, it took at least two years. Take a look at this story in the Hindu:
    Channa Reddy was CM from 1989-1990 when the statue sank. It was installed in Dec 1992. Funny how my memory exaggerated the interval between sinking and fishing out whereas others’ memories compressed the duration. Wonderful thing, memory 🙂

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