Ram Guha thinks Congress knows it's going to lose the next election, so wants to make money fast.

The larger the project the larger the cut Ramachandra Guha on steel flyover
news steel flyover Wednesday, October 26, 2016 - 16:47

Lambasting the idea behind large projects, historian Ramachandra Guha said it appeared that the reason the government was pushing so hard for the steel flyover, was the “cut”.

The long-time Bengaluru resident made these remarks at an event organized by Citizens for Bengaluru in Hebbal to discuss the steel flyover – nicknamed the ‘steal flyover’ – proposed to ease traffic heading towards the airport. 

The video of the speeches which discussed several aspects of the project including technical, financial and sustainability, was uploaded on YouTube. 

In classic style, Ramachandra Guha’s views were both educative and entertaining, on account of the stark facts that he brought to the fore. 

Using examples from history, Ramachandra said that Indian politicians are afflicted with the disease of giganticism, which had also led the ruling Congress government in Karnataka to pursue the project. Post-independence, he said that politicians believed that bigger was better, simply because they did not know any different. 

But, he said the government headed by Siddaramaiah had a more compelling reason to push the project as hard as it is doing, and when there are just 18 months left for the election. The idea, was simply this: Larger the project, bigger the cut. (Read snippets of his speech below)

Watch the video:

 

Beginning by stating that he was not an expert but a “student of Indian democracy”, Ram wondered why Indian politicians and planners were fascinated with mega projects. The first of these, was Nehru, who even called them “temples of modern India”. He said that the consequences of such projects were evident today - large scale displacement of people and environmental degradation. 

“What you don’t know, is that Nehru himself regretted some of the things he started,” Ram said. 

In 1958, in a little known-speech, Ram said that Nehru told engineers: “I deplore a disease that is growing in India, the disease of giganticisim. The idea of having big undertakings, doing big tasks for the sake of showing we can do big things, is not a good outlook at all.” 

He continued: “In Nehru’s time, the disease of giganticism was a product of folly. We were foolish to think that that is how (we should model ourselves).”

In Bengaluru, he said that the best example of “the folly of giganticism” was the Public Utility Building, which was “supposed to be our answer to the Empire State Building” (in the US). He said that large sections of the building cannot be used due to the fear of a fire hazard.

Today, he said, “gigantic projects are largely prompted by fraud, not folly. We have moved from folly to fraud. The steel flyover is an example of this. The larger the project, the larger the cut. This is a universal rule. It cuts across parties. The larger the project, the larger the cut. Overnight, this project has gone from 1,200 crores to 1,700 crores. The larger the project, the larger the cut.” 

He then said that the timing of the project was suspect. One, why push the project so close to the elections, when the Congress said that its predecessor – the BJP government – had initiated the project. 

He also asked why “a certain minister” who had to leave the cabinet began to push the project as soon as he returned. This point was met with loud applause. 

“Why the undue haste… if they thought it’s a viable solution to traffic. They could have had a proper discussion when they got elected,” Ramachandra said.

The more compelling reason, Ramachandra said, was that the Congress knew it was going to lose the 2018 election. He said he did not believe the argument that the party wanted money for the election. “I think the Congress knows it is going to lose the next election and they want to go away with something in their pockets.”

He finished by saying that the last word on the “foolish, foolhardy, fraudulent project” was in a slogan that someone held during a protest: “Thou shall not steal”.

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