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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 January 2006, 12:16 GMT
Will booming Bangalore's bubble burst?
By Hugh Sykes
BBC News, Bangalore

Palm Meadows Villas Complex
New housing complexes are springing up around Bangalore

The rapidly growing hi-tech metropolis of Bangalore is often trumpeted as India's equivalent of Silicon Valley in California.

But as the city develops, its pollution, traffic, poor infrastructure and the sheer explosion of its population mean it is finding it increasingly difficult to handle its own success.

On Mahatma Gandhi MG Road, there are signs on the lamp posts that read "City of Empowerment", "City of Opportunity".

Not far away there is a billboard advertising daily Lufthansa flights from Bangalore to Frankfurt.

You are late for appointments. It's unprofessional. A lot of roads are atrocious, full of potholes
Businessman Abhai Kavakar

There are new office buildings, international banks with ATM cash points. Name a big IT company and they are probably here in Bangalore.

They are certainly written up on the notice board in Gautam Sinha's office. Mr Sinha runs TVA Infotech, which recruits top-grade graduates for these firms.

He spells them out - "Logica, Fidelity, Hewlett Packard, Microsoft, Sun, Oracle, IBM, Accenture, Reuters... Then you have the Indian companies, Wipro, Infosys, PCS..."

Mr Sinha is quite happy to admit he was responsible for writing "Greed is good" on the wall.

It sits alongside slogans like "Never wait for others to do something and then follow them" and "If you want something you've never had, do something you've never done".

Groaning streets

Out on the streets there are similar signs of success - pubs, bars, roof terrace cafes and designer stores.

Bangalore pothole
Beneath the glitz, the infrastructure is a cause for concern

Recruitment consultant Roopa Habib says the lifestyle and earning opportunities make Bangalore attractive.

"It's a fun place. Every other day you will have different kind of eating joints and a lot of shopping malls coming up," she says.

But not everything in the city's garden is rosy.

Ms Habib's colleague, Andrew Solomon, fears the booming Bangalore bubble might burst.

"It seems to have slowed down. Lots of problems. We've enjoyed the success and the benefit. We haven't done anything back."

The rate of expansion is almost too fast for the city to cope with.

Equality

In the rush hour the streets are groaning with buses, lorries, vans, cars, hundreds of motorcycles and dozens of three-wheel auto rickshaws.

Software company in Bangalore
Academics say IT alone cannot support Bangalore's growth

The air is thick with exhaust fumes, making it hard to work efficiently, says local businessman Abhai Kavakar.

"You are late for appointments. It's unprofessional. A lot of roads are atrocious, full of potholes.

"You just don't feel like concentrating on your work as you are completely stressed out."

Bangalore academic Ramchandra Guha, who has been writing a history of post-colonial India, says Bangalore is a "premature metropolis" that has grown too much too quickly.

"Twenty years ago it was a town of a couple of million people. Now it's eight million. Public systems simply can't cope," he says.

He says economists, policy makers, politicians and the media have got carried away thinking Bangalore can become the new San Francisco.

"Information technology, which is what Bangalore specialises in, can only have a limited employment effect. It can generate huge amounts of wealth but it can't actually absorb that many people," Mr Guha says.

But amid the difficulties he also sees many pluses - the city is succeeding in rendering equality in gender, caste and nationality.

"People of all communities mix together. Lots of women are working there. No-one bothers whether people are Hindu or Muslim or Christian," Mr Guha says.

"There's also a kind of social intermingling that this wealth creation is leading to, which I think leads to a more broad-minded, more universalistic outlook among young people."


SEE ALSO
City plan for 'boiled beans town'
13 Dec 05 |  South Asia
Rains drown India's hi-tech hub
26 Oct 05 |  South Asia
'Talking library' records success
11 Mar 05 |  South Asia
Bangalore faces e-waste hazards
31 Jan 05 |  South Asia

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