People-friendly cities: What Chennai can learn from Bengaluru

Lessons from Bengaluru

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Bengaluru has many well-maintained parks big and small, providing much needed green spaces for its citizens. Pic: WPFlare

As a migrant resident of Bengaluru, I find that many policies of this city, which are not always acknowledged enough by its citizens, have made life easier and better than in other metros. As a responsible citizen, I believe, while holding the government accountable for its shortcomings, it is also equally important to credit them for the good and the positive.

Here, I mention a few policies and trends in Bangalore that I have personally appreciated. I strongly feel that if cities such as Chennai adopted similar policies, it would help to make them more citizen-friendly.

Citizen–prioritised approach to public transport

A lot of people would argue Bengaluru has the worst traffic, which is evidently true. But, what is also notable is the citizen-friendly approach leading to some of the current policies.

A. GPS tracking of buses

With the MyBMTC app, real-time bus tracking has come handy. The app shows the nearest bus stops and the expected time of arrival of a particular bus at any stop. One can track buses and plan trips using the app.

The government had roped in Nihar Thakkar, a teen who first introduced it privately. Though the BMTC stopped sharing data for use on his private app, later the bus corporation made him develop the government app.

B. Privatisation in bus transportation

In Chennai, where I come from, the city bus transportation is entirely controlled by the state government and this has hurt the citizens badly. Even though the fleet strength of MTC is alarmingly low and is functioning under losses, the state continues to operate it with an iron grip and no apparent plans for revitalisation.

Bengaluru has plenty of private bus operators in and around the city, charging the same or sometimes even lower fares than government buses. People thus have more options and can avoid overcrowded buses.

C. Regularised fares

Trust me when I say that we never had metered autos in Chennai. Fixing fares for a ride is always akin to waging a battle with the autowalas.

Barring a few, most autos in Bengaluru, charge the metered fare, which starts at Rs 25 for the first 1.9 km. This reflects in the app-based rides as well. Though they add access fees, the fares are reasonable nevertheless. A quick search comparing rates with other cities or reading the Ola rate card shows how reasonable are fares in Bengaluru compared to other cities.

Along with these, the self-drive bikes (which most cities don’t know of) and bike taxis (which are unreasonably banned in many cities) have kept away the unsafe share autos, which is a huge traffic menace in developed cities. 

The metro extension and the suburban trains, when they do pick up, would be a game-changer in decongesting Bengaluru roads.

Parks with a human touch

Bengaluru is a garden city in the truest sense and there is serious attention given to local parks. Most of the Bengaluru parks come with a well-maintained open gym. The parks also have big playing areas with huge slides, crawling tunnels, and activity panels for children, making it a weekend recreation centre for the families.

BBMP has 1247 developed parks, which is astonishingly remarkable by any standards.

ATMs for subsidised drinking water

A drinking water can of 20 litres costs somewhere between Rs 50 and Rs 80 anywhere in India. But the government gives it for Rs 5 In Karnataka. A Deccan Herald report says there are 1600 functional water ATMs across the state.

The government has encouraged private players too to provide purified drinking water at subsidised rates. Despite certain glitches, (such as residents exploiting it for commercial purposes), the water ATMs are a common sight in Bengaluru.

In 2016, the Tamil Nadu government too introduced a similar scheme, providing RO water to residents free of cost. But, the project failed and most outlets were shut shortly.

Improvised ‘Amma unavagams’ as Indira canteens

Indira canteens are value-added Amma unavagams (A subsidised eatery project in Tamil Nadu, which inspired then Chief Minister Siddaramaiah). With modernised outdoor eating areas, and a menu and price range to choose from, this is a good example of adopting existing policies and enhancing it to suit local demands.

Having personally tried both, Indira canteens prove to be a better adaptation of Amma unavagams. Firstly, the former look more appealing with the spacious eating areas around the canteen. Secondly, Indira canteens provide two options in the menu to choose from, unlike, Amma unavagams.

Though both provide large portions of food, taste-wise the former is better, including the generous serving of dessert for lunch. Also, the quantity of breakfast shall be customized, in the range of Rs 5 to 10.

Despite wavering political patronage, Indira canteens continue to serve as a common mess for the rich and poor alike, which I have not seen anywhere else.

These are just some of the aspects of daily life where Bengaluru’s adoption of citizen-friendly, forward-thinking policies have provided it an advantage over other metros. While some of these ideas were pioneered in Chennai and Tamil Nadu, Bengaluru has managed to enhance and make these more effective. Also, there are various policies initiated in Bengaluru, which if adopted by Chennai could significantly improve the lives of its citizens.

Disclaimer: This article is a citizen contribution. The views expressed here are those of the writer and do not reflect the position of Citizen Matters.

About Aswini Ashok 2 Articles
Aswini Ashok is an engineer by profession and splits her time between Chennai and Bangalore.

4 Comments

  1. Amma unavagams are cornered by politicians Who sell food for a profit without care for taste and quality with inferior inputs. But Karnataka maintains quality and taste with slightly reduced quantity and are directly operarated by government.

  2. None of these really matter; we in Bangalore accept people with open arms and don’t make them feel outsiders, second important real fact is the weather, third is blore is IT hub and that will not change..

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