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Monday, December 3, 2012

Bangalore Airport - A Vision Bankruptcy

Team Being Cynical

I got to read this news yesterday in TOI. There is a rapid decrease in the domestic traffic at the Bangalore international airport. If not the news, the statistics given therein were scary. I am no economist but looking at the figures, I don’t have any doubt what the future holds if the trends continue to be what they are now for next couple of years. That is, our airport authority guys would have no option but to shut it down since it no more would remain economically feasible, both for the governing authorities, the airlines that fly out of there and GMR as well.
This is something which I wanted to write since the first time I flown into this new airport. While the old HAL airport was pathetic in terms of infrastructure, this new one might boast of an international quality infra, but at the end of the day it is no better than pathetic in many other terms. One by one comparison of all such pathetic parameters between HAL and the new airport would give us a feeling that, had we stuck to the old airport it would have been judicious and would have done a great service to ourselves. In nutshell, though the new airport showcases a lot of hogwash regarding our so called booming economy, in reality it has hampered the economics of many in more ways than one.
First look at the distance of the airport from the city center. Again, I am not a chap from our survey of India team but a conservative estimate will put it anything around 45 kilometers. Those who have heavy nefarious monetary interest involved to even think of coming with the airport that far may want to differ but I would believe my car’s trip meter which showed a staggering 34.6 Km from Hebbal. Now how far the city center is from Hebbal is known to each one of them who are staying in Bangalore city. Hang on; I haven’t even started on the plight of the people staying around Electronics city, Kormangala, Bangalore University area. Poor chaps as they are since their plight is nothing but despicable. Despicable because a large chunk of the air travelers are from that part of the city and yet they are so conveniently overlooked from the scheme of things. Now nobody should complain if I say 60% of domestic travelers from Bangalore belong to the places I mentioned. Places which house a good chunk of the IT companies ought to have the maximum air travelers emanating because of the nature of the business. I would rather stick my neck out and say – not only domestic but this logic might very well apply to the international travelers as well.
Where is the concern for these common travelers, the companies they work for or even the dreaded word called micro economics when the idea was first conceived to have the airport at a different city altogether? And please don’t disagree that you don’t feel the airport is at a different city. Might sound like an exaggeration but I always feel like going to Hyderabad every time I pack my bags for Bangalore airport. There would be many who had the same feeling like mine. I am sure.
The other day I touched down at around 11 P.M after a flight from Delhi. It was raining like cats & dogs for last couple of days in Bangalore because of that Neelam storm or something. After considering some civility, I can say it was complete mess and chaos at the airport. There was a huge line that greeted me to hire a taxi. When I say big line, I really mean it since it took me good one hour standing in the queue before I could get my ass on one of those squawky ‘Airport Taxis’. And the reason for this delay and complete mismanagement in public transport? You couldn’t have guessed the reason better since I am sure you have traveled through the dangerously horrible road that connects Bangalore city to the airport. Don’t you? Irony, we still call that a highway. Anyway, back to the topic. Since this torrential rain has created havoc in the city, it has also thrown the traffic out of gear on the Bangalore-Hyderabad highway. Water logging; metro construction going for the good part of the stretch; potholes spilling over and flowing perilously, giving an impression of a river bed; all of this has cumulated together to force the incoming traffic to go at a snail’s pace. To top it, near Yelahanka our honorable chief minister has encrusted half of the road to build a huge barricade at his new house. For some reason the statesman wanted to have his housewarming function on the Karnataka day, that followed the next day. All these factors has resulted in a huge traffic blocked for hours leaving the taxis stranded at middle of nowhere and so as the commuters at the airport. So there you go; the common traveler can go to hell since us as the authorities are useless and already have our priorities clearly chalked out.
Finally when I boarded the taxi it was well past 1 in the night. After few kilometers of ride, just to pass my otherwise boring time, I strike a conversation with the taxi driver. The words of that poor guy not only reflected the apathy of our administration towards guys like him who are solely dependent on the airport for their livelihood but also showed how badly the basics of economics has been systematically screwed because in want of some foresight. For starters, it was the seventh day running since he has last visited his home. Don’t be surprised if I say his family stays in Bangalore city only. I could guess it but still asked for the reasons of this self-imposed exile. Here comes the horror. For each trip he makes to the city from the airport, after deducting every cost he earns a scanty Rs 120/-. Not a great amount, you all will agree. His family stays around Narayana Hrudalaya and I am told that place would be good 70 KM from airport. As per him, a round trip from the airport to his place would cost him a good 1000 bucks and he can’t afford such luxury everyday. Hence he is heavily dependent on the travelers from that side so that he can pay a visit to his family only when he has someone to drop there. So there are times he couldn’t managed to visit his place for months together. Painful, No?
His lines, made me think about so many others who earn their livelihood by working at the airport. Got to think of that poor girl who makes Rolls at a Kaathi roll counter; or that coffee serving hunk; or that guy who wipes the floor clean 24/7. If a guy having a car at his disposal can’t make it to his place for even once in a week, how precarious would be the situation for these low paid people is anybody’s guess. Even to commute to city center in transport busses would cost you Rs 300/- in one direction. Do you think these Rs 5000/- per month earning individuals can afford such tenancy and that too quite regularly at that? Well they can, provided they are God gifted with the talent of Mahatma Gandhi to make out a Dandi March of around 15 KM on daily basis to catch the regular torn out and noise polluting general busses from the highway. No denying few of the desperate and needy might very well be doing that also. Obvious, no thoughts were put in for these poor chaps when the airport was built thus far. Fair enough; we never cared for the poor in anything, anyway.
Forget about the poor; what about the airlines? Won’t the cost of ferrying their employees from the city to the airport would have quadrupled because of this distance? At a time when the industry is flying through some real rough weather an additional cost brought about because few guys were powerful enough to play dirty politics so that their vested interest sails through is a double whammy for the investors. Could these already bleeding budget airlines afford a cost of more than Rs/- 20000 extra per hour on daily basis? I am not an airlines guy hence can’t comment much but looks like paying through the nose for many of our loss making airlines.
Look at other bizarreness that involves our airport and few of the many hopeless and dumb explanations given thereof. Every time the traveler’s comfort was popped up, we were told how 1500 extra taxis were pressed into service for this purpose only. Not sure if I should laugh or cry on our administrators for such brilliance. Anyone who has driven around the city would agree with me that it is little less than nightmare driving in Bangalore. The city is already overcrowded with traffic that has surpassed the limits that the existing infrastructure can manage to handle a long time back. Everywhere you look around you will find one traffic congestion or the other. But hell, who really bothers? No relief for the common commuter since we have injected 1500 more vehicles to choke our traffic system once-and-for-all. This is a classic case of vision bankruptcy when we build our airport at such a faraway place for reasons nobody can find logical enough and then make our traffic situation more precarious by having thousands of new vehicles thrown onto our already half broken and shrunken roads. Complete idiocy? Or we have outright useless hacks filling most of our decision making posts?
And by the way, has anyone thought about the Autorickshawa walas? I am told there were around 5000 autorickshawas who were dependent on airport traffic when it was there at HAL airstrip. What those guys would have done or doing? I am sure many of them would have sold their autos and borrowed money on high interest rate to buy their cars so that they can be part of this ‘Airport Taxi’ nonsense. Even if they have, from the words of the taxi driver that ferried me on that dreaded night, I am sure they won’t be making much money either. Some NGO agreeing to do a case study on these autorickshawa owners would be a good pointer on how a bad decision laced with politics and self-greed has affected many the wrong way; even to the tune of losing their established livelihood. We have number of documentary for the Gujarat riot victims, lets have at least one for all these wrongly affected individuals.  
That said, all know the reasons of such hara-kiri. All know how people like HD father-son duo have made millions by having this airport absolutely at an insane place. This is no secret how in the pursuit of inflating your property price in-and-around few rascals have played with the lives of many poor people. It is known to everyone how the comfort of all such people who frequently fly for their job, work or otherwise have been compromised heavily since that is the way few handful hawks could have made huge amount of money. We all know the real motives and reasons behind any such incomprehensible decision but do we really bother much? Tough question? Well then, playing ostrich is our national game and we can safely forget all such uncomfortable questions; but hey, we have Bollywood to find solace out of this pain even. Don’t we? This is what I got as a reply to my tweet which was nothing but my displeasure of the arrangements.

To whoever has replied – I didn’t find Sekhar Kapoor anywhere since he probably had gone by the time I reached there; perhaps to never fly back to Bangalore again.

12 comments:

  1. Maldives take control of GMR airport. Indian crony capitalists will be the biggest failure of this decade the moment they step out of umbrella of corrupt Indian politicians.

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  2. Agree with your views. Now the least that the authorities can do is build real highways connecting the airport to different parts of the cities. If the current road remains the only way to commute to airport then it is surely doomed.

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  3. Come mumbai you'll find things no better. May be you'll forget your bengaluru woes.

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  4. Not sure if I have said this in another post or tweeted back to some one. I am not from Bangalore but from Pune and have visited both Mumbai city and it's airport almost uncountable number of time. Still then I would put Mumbai airport far, far better in terms of the parameters I mentioned.

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  5. you must also see chennai airport and the environment just outside the airport near entrance and comment.....probably u will feel sorry that u commented badly about bangalore...

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  6. I have been travelling every week from Bangalore airport both domestically and internationally, the airport has now become like a railway station with passengers increasing by the hour, its surprising to hear your rant on this. Bangalore may not have the best airport, it certainly is better than Chennai or Mumbai, only better ones are Delhi and Hyderabad, Kochi also does a good job. Traffic in BLR is killing and that is a completely different topic, however going by the number of passengers that I see on a regular basis , HAL would have crushed the airport road and jammed the traffic till whitefield. To locate the airport here is a good decision, govt must ensure better amenities, the travellers are actually increasing by the day and not decreasing.

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  7. One more thing, there is a new terminal under construction and they will have 18 KM , 8 lane highway coming up, it may take time , but when done will ease traffic the way Electronic city over pass does..Give the government time , I am not a Indian govt supporter and I have strong views on what they do, but BLR airport will help in longer run. Also one last thing, it is important for BLR to grow, it cant spread beyond Electronic city , however there is space between BLR-Hyderabad region for expansion, and simillarly between BLR and Tumkur.. these places will grow and grow faster with the afore mentioned highway.. Not everything can happen overnight , have patience ..

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  8. GMR owed 35,000 crores to Indian Banks.

    In August 2012, the Zurich-based bank Credit Suisse released a report that pointed out 10 Indian business groups, each owned by a different family, owed Rs 5.4 lakh crore to Indian banks.

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  9. It was because of Kingfisher which operates 45% of domestic flights from BIa we saw rapid decrease.Eventually KFA will be thrown out and new operators will fill in that void .An article which has no logic or sense is used to project what one wants in a cheap way

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  10. That's the whole point dear. When you spend 30K crore and your business-model depends on something which doesn't have any business but only models is scary enough. KFA WILL be thrown out; other operators WILL fill the void - you can't possibly spend so much of public money with so much future tense in play. Should you? Give it a thought sir before shouting for the heck of it. Sent from my BlackBerry®

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  11. New Bangalore International Airport is awesome, but it is far from the city. So people spend more money to reach their. Auto rickshaws are not run to airport, so best way to hire airport taxi in Bangalore. But it is expensive. There are also some online taxi service.

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  12. Cabs services Bangalore have more demand after shifting new airport. There is no auto rickshaws service available at airport. BMTC runs ac airport buses from different parts of Bangalore, but for more people taxi is always convenience mode of transport. There are too many online taxi service portals in Bangalore where you can easily book your cab .

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