'I hope Bangalore regains its lost charm'
Governor of Karnataka, Hans Raj Bhardwaj, minces no words when it comes to speaking on issues close to his heart. When City Express decided to open the Talkathon chat series with him and approached for a suitable time, he readily agreed. “I liked your idea of keeping politics out of this interview. Normally the media wants me to comment on tricky matters. For a change, you only want my views on Bangalore, my 'once' favourite city. I am impressed with the idea,” Bhardwaj said. Excerpts.
What were your early memories of Bangalore?
HRB: I fell in love with Bangalore during my first visit in 1978. The Gulmohar really fascinated me. Everyone knew it as India's air conditioned city. A city filled with greens. A flower paradise. Clean roads, clean shops. Absolutely no indiscipline around. No chaos. Good food with great quality. Bahuth achcha tha.
What else can you recall from your first visit?
HRB: I came with my family on a private visit and we roamed around Bangalore as inspired tourists. We stayed at the West End Hotel and had a great time enjoying the gifted weather of Bangalore. Two years later, in 1980, I organised the first law ministers' conference in Bangalore and it again gave me an opportunity to enjoy the city. From HAL airport to M.G. Road, it was a pleasure driving down.
Times have changed, what are your thoughts on the city now?
HRB: (Laughs). Well, do you need an answer? It is exactly the opposite now. The trees have vanished. Multi-storeyed buildings have occupied prime spots everywhere. No one cares for the people. The footpaths have been encroached. Drains overflowing. Garbage. Mosquitoes.
What else puts you off now?
HRB: The traffic. Bad planning. I feel the Metro should have gone completely underground. It takes the beauty out of Bangalore with these concrete structures running over your head. Now, the city is almost disturbed with illegal constructions. All lakes and water tanks have dried up.
Will the garbage menace end in the near future?
HRB: That's what the chief minister has promised me. You know, this garbage issue is a big racket. It's a total failure on part of the city administrators. They are taking the society for a ride. The government has assured me that they will find a solution.
Do you trust the CM and his team on this issue?
HRB: What else can I do? I have spoken to him and I hope he will save the city. Everyone whom I meet complains about the falling standards of Bangalore.
What's your take on the vanishing footpaths in Bangalore?
HRB: Yes. I have noticed it in many areas. I want better facilities to be provided to the common man, especially for senior citizens. Sometimes I wonder, how elderly people walk on the roads. It's really scary with no footpaths in many areas of Bangalore.
In short, your dream city has disappointed you?
HRB: Yes. Every ward should have basic facilities for the people. Cleanliness should be given top priority. There should be proper accountability. I have seen people urinating on the road-side, even near important areas.
Do you think the city in-charge minister has terribly failed?
HRB: The minister, R Ashoka, has promised me that they are going to make some plan soon to end all civic woes.
You recently said that you are ready to hit the streets armed with a broom and some men, if need be?
HRB: Yes. I would have loved to demonstrate, how we feel for this city. How we care for Bangalore. Your heart is where you live. But unfortunately my position doesn't allow me.
So you are an angry man, seeing this dirty picture?
HRB: It's not anger. I don't get angry any more. I am 76 years now. But, I feel disgusted by seeing the city turning dirty. But, I am hopeful.
HRB: I want Bangalore to be a model city again. I have lived in areas like Indiranagar, Jayanagar, Rajajinagar and Sadashivanagar. All these areas are so beautiful and I have priceless memories.
So, you are confident that Bangalore will regain its charm?
What if it doesn't happen?
HRB: Then the people will take care of it. A taste of people power will be known to all.
You mean, during the coming elections?
HRB: You said it!