I grew up in a Bangalore which was far removed from the hustle and bustle of the central business district or the older ‘culturally rich’ areas. It could be best described as the industrially active and emerging area of Bangalore post independence, and the foundation for the IT revolution that was to follow in the 90s.
Jawaharlal Nehru’s idea of a technologically self reliant India provided the impetus for the setting up of Public Sector Units across the country. Since Bangalore had already taken a leap forward in this area, (Did you know that Bangalore was one of the first cities in Asia to have complete electrification and street lights? and to think that we suffer from constant bouts of ‘load shedding’ sigh!), with the setting up of the Indian Institute of Science and similar institutions, the very favourable climate and distance from over zealous neighbors it probably was the ideal location for these future industrial giants.
Many were setup in 50-60s years, HMT, BEL, BHEL, BEML, ITI, HAL, NAL to name a few. In addition to providing employment to large numbers, what these companies did when they were given large tracts of land was to create a planned township around each of their industrial units. I spent my growing years in these ‘colonies’ which had the unifying factor of the ‘company’, even to this day a visit brings back fond memories. Far removed from the city as they were, they still provided all the necessary amenities ensuring that traffic to the ‘city’ was minimal (maybe there’s a lesson here for town planners, satellite towns is the answer to the chaos, look at NCR around Delhi). In fact a trip to the centre of the city was reason for celebration as we watched awestruck the fine houses, old buildings and snazzy cars.
HMT and BEL were given land near Jalahalli, a strategically important location with the Air Force Base nearby and the Peenya Industrial Area which already housed a large number of medium and large industrial units, close by. They setup everything for their employees; houses, schools, playgrounds, parks, hospitals, theatres (movies & plays), banks, post office, restaurants, gyms, recreation centres, libraries & stores. What else does one need?
The other interesting contribution to the cultural diversity of this city was the large influx of skilled and unskilled workers (thankfully no Raj Thakeray kind of petty politicians then) that moved here to work in these large industrial units and thereafter called Bangalore their home. But the demand for skilled labour was fast exhausting the supply, leading to a lot of private players establishing schools, training institutes and colleges, making Bangalore an ‘education’ nerve centre too.
Coming back to the planning and beauty of these townships, you will find gulmohars, jacaranda trees lining the roads in these townships and in summer when they are in full bloom, truly a sight to behold. Children have huge playgrounds that can have at least 100 mini cricket teams playing simultaneously. Parks with plenty of green space for all, to physically exert themselves in the morning and relax in the evenings.
Maybe the IT companies that are very similar in their stature both in terms of revenues and employee strength to these PSUs can take a leaf out of this book and reduce the load on the city (Did you know that there are 50,000! cabs in Bangalore that ferry IT & ITES employees?) instead of just clamouring for better roads and infrastructure. Take care of your own and the rest will fall in place…