Kannadigas Should Grab the Corridor of Opportunity

The government of Karnataka will unveil a new industrial policy in about three months to give a boost to industrial development in the state and proposedly build the much awaited Bengaluru-Mumbai industrial corridor. The proposed corridor would establish connectivity from Bengaluru to Belagavi covering 11 district headquarters and 20 towns, thus enabling large scale economic transformation in the region. An effort worth appreciation indeed !

The Bengaluru-Mumbai Corridor

The corridor, if implemented in true spirit, would definitely alleviate the cries for development in North Karnataka region. The proposed corridor has all the ingredients en-route to make it a big success. The existing airports at Hubballi, Belagavi and Bengaluru, the abundant water resources available along the corridor in the form of Krishna, Tungabhadra and Kaveri rivers, the hundreds of Institutes producing quality graduates every year in the region makes it an ideal location for such an industrial corridor. Tumkur, Davanagere, Haveri, Hubballi, Dharwad and Belagavi, the most conducive places to conduct business, also fall in the same region. The government is proposing to develop industries along 100 to 150 kms on both sides of the proposed corridor, which will create thousands of skilled and semi skilled jobs for Kannadigas, thus helping to boost the economy around these regions. Government should work to create Hubballi or Belagavi as the Industrial hub for region, much on the lines of what it did to build Bengaluru as an IT hub.

An opportunity for budding entrepreneurs

The proposed corridor should end up creating more and more Kannadiga entrepreneurs. The state government should provide necessary incentives, including tax concession to budding entrepreneurs in the region, thus helping create a pool of entrepreneurs, who tap this opportunity to create more employment, more wealth for the region. There is definitely no dearth of qualified people in the region. The state government should leverage the experiences of successful entrepreneurs of the region in formulating it's policies. Veteran industrialists of the region should be taken into confidence to guide budding entrepreneurs towards success.

Leaders bring development

Development requires a set of leaders dedicated to the cause of their respective constituencies. The amount of development of any region is directly proportional to the effort put by the politicians and industrialists of the region. The lone thing that would put the areas surrounding the corridor on the track of development is some serious political pursuance on the part of politicians and industrialists of the region. Strong political will is what it takes get this corridor from a proposal phase to implementation phase and let's hope this will be a reality in the coming days !

And Now, A Passport Website With Junk Instead Of Kannada

The Star of Mysore reported a rather welcome story on June 21st:


Bangalore, June 21 (DV)- The Regional Passport Office here has launched a new website in Kannada and English.

The website is http://www.rpobangalore.gov.in/. This is being managed by National Information Centre here.

The already existing website www.kar.nic.in/passport will also be functional along with this. Till the new website is fully functional, the old website can be made use of.

The new bilingual website with complete information is user friendly and easily communicates with other websites. To see the Kannada version, Baraha should be downloaded to the computer.

Information in Kannada is available along with English. The web site contains information on passport application, rules, method of obtaining passport, documents required, speed-post, list of post offices, information on district passport cells, Tathkal scheme etc. Regional Passport Office has already made arrangements since May 5 to submit applications in the morning and to obtain token online.

Applicants seeking passport can get their names registered online by submitting the application a day in advance and get the token, says a press release.

However, the website (Kannada home is here) is encoded in an obsolete Baraha font called "Baraha Kan New" which is not supported by the latest versions of Baraha. Also, it's just too careless, shortsighted and ignorant of the RPO to not make the website in Unicode which is the only international encoding supported by every browser and operating system worth its name. The net result - the website displays junk characters instead of Kannada on most browsers and operating systems. We've tried Windows XP, Windows Vista, Linux, Mac and Solaris operating systems, and Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari browsers. Nope. It's junk instead of Kannada everywhere.

Does all this carelessness simply display the lack of seriousness of the central government in implementing Kannada in administration? Does the central government have in its DNA what it takes to take Kannada seriously?

And by the way, any guesses on what it takes to have our passports printed in Kannada and English instead of Hindi and English?

Indian cinema = Hindi cinema?

An academy of Indian films and filmmakers with a charter to help them achieve wider coverage across the globe - sounds like a desirable proposition, doesn't it? Well, that is exactly what the IIFA - the International Indian Film Academy sounds like it should focus on. And to as though support this guess the academy has put up its definition of Indian cinema, which actually throws up a very basic question on its face - are Indian cinema and Hindi cinema, one and the same?

Suprising charter this...

While at the outset, a charter to project Indian cinema on screens across the world sounds good and of huge value to movies of all Indian languages, what the IIFA has been actually doing brings big surprise. In one of its advertisements this is what IIFA boasts itself of having achieved...

Wherever IIFA has left its mark, it has promoted the business of Indian Cinema and provided it an impetus. The sale of tickets of Hindi cinema grew by thirty five percent in the UK in the six months after IIFA. In South Africa, Hindi films moved from matinee shows on weekends to mainline theatres and now there are competing distribution chains vying for the rights to exhibit Hindi films across Africa.

The difference needs to be clear!

The IIFA talks about movies from India in the same tune as it talks about Hindi films made in India as though knowing no difference between the two. Well, the real difference, apparently, is not known to the academy. All it has done since inception in 2000 is advertise Hindi film industry across the globe with the label of Indian film industry, thus sending very very false signals about the Indian film industry across the world. This has also led to a noticeably biased growth taking place in the Hindi film industry and a noticeable decline in the worldwide presence of movies of other Indian languages, including movies from the Kannada film industry.

Made in India, not Hindi!

With all these biased stands towads the Hindi film industry, and calling it the Indian film industry, they even boast of having a very qualified advisory panel consisting of not a single character from non-Hindi film industry. What a pity, this board is advising on labeling Hindi films as sole candidates for the Made in India label.

If the stand of IIFA was so clear to project, showcase and promote only Hindi film industry, it would have been apt to call it International Hindi Film Academy (IHFA). Developments under IIFA have certainly benefited the Hindi cinema, but have done little to support their claims of improving the Indian film industry. Instead what is expected of such an academy is a system to enable uniform upbringing and showcasing of film industries of all Indian languages in an unbiased manner. Such academies should eventually pave the way for making Indian entertainment truly representative of the whole of India, which is a union of linguistic states.

Airtel reveals a hard truth

The news of Airtel launching Kannada mobile handsets is all over the papers. The June 3rd edition of the Business Standard carries the following story:

Cellular service provider, Bharti Airtel, today announced the launch of Kannada handsets and a strategic tie up with Indian Fertilizer Cooperative Limited (IFFCO).

This is as part of its marketing strategy to cover 90 per cent of Karnataka's population by 2009 and to achieve deeper rural penetration, Venkatesh V, CEO, Mobile Services, Bharti Airtel, Karnataka, said.

Announcing its "Grameena Mobile Kranthi" campaign, he said that the next wave of explosive cellular growth in the state is expected to ensue in rural Karnataka. Even though Karnataka has 17 million mobile users in general, the number of rural mobile users in the state was just five million, accounting for just 13 percent of penetration in rural market.

As part of the campaign to expand subscriber base and focus on developing the rural market, Airtel has partnered with Nokia to come up with two handsets that would have the menu and sms facilities in Kannada.

Many have shed a tear or two of happiness on reading this, considering this as a great development (which it is). However, if one looks at this closely, a tragic fact emerges - the fact that the urban population of Karnataka - which is no less Kannadiga than the rural population - has to this date accepted phones with the English user interface (or, some greater souls, a English + Hindi interface)!

Why is that? Why hasn't the average urban Kannadiga mustered enough self-respect to ask for a phone in his own language? Why has the same Nokia sold hundreds of millions of mobile-phones in Hebrew, Catalan, Korean, Mandarin, Greek, and not assumed that an English user-interface would suffice? The answer lies in the hard truth that the urban Kannadiga has forgotten his true identity - that of a Kannadiga. What a tragedy!

What really did the trick for BJP

Discussions are on till date as to what did the trick for the BJP to finally make that coveted mark in Karnataka politics. Few believe national issues like price rise, terrorism, internal security and few others say a result of a surging tide against the Congress, which has seen the party lose election after election. There is another set of pollsters who describe it as a victory for the strong regional identity shown by the BJP. Shekar Gupta of Indian Express felt it was a fight between one national party and a strong regional one. Pundits and pollsters described BJP's campaign in Karnataka as a "regional" campaign, led by a local chieftain, Yeddyurappa, on local issues pertaining to Kannada, Karnataka and Kannadiga and hence the second national party in the equation has actually become a regional party with a local leader, and is benefiting from that "localisation".

BJP's localisation efforts can be put like this:
  1. Instead of waiting for high-command's decision post-poll, BJP moved to clearly and unequivocally project B.S. Yedyurappa as chief ministerial candidate.
  2. Instead of raking up their original Saffron agenda, BJP in Karnataka took a dig at Mr.Karunanidhi for going ahead with Hogenakal project and showed courage that, it will stand up for issues affecting Kannadigas.
  3. Instead of their pet topic of hindutva & hindi, BJP talked about issues which are of importance to Kannada, Karnataka and Kannadiga. This included getting classical status for Kannada, employment opportunities for Kannadigas in Central Government organizations like railways, bridging the gap in development across the state and many more.
  4. The Kannada ad campaign by Sushma swaraj stuck a chord with the genaral public.
  5. Modi, whom millions of Gujaratis saw as embodying 'Gujarati asmita' and 'vibrant Gujarat' campaigned in Karnataka and BJP's campaign definitely took a lead from him and projected itself as a better regional player which can deliver on issues pertaining to Karnataka.

The lesson, therefore, is self-evident. even national elections are now no longer "national" in the conventional sense but a net result of elections in different states. In Karnataka's case, the BJP, which played like a true regional player reaped in rich dividends, while the other national party which looked at high-command for everything till the last moment has bitten the dust. Any national party which dreams of making it big at the center must sit down and take notice about the growing "regionalisation" of national politics. The party or coalition which has the best regional leader & which addresses the issues relevant to the state will win.

BJP, the party which always considered linguistic diversity as a hurdle to progress, a hurdle to unity has come a long way and has realized the importance of localisation. BJP's victory in Karnataka has thought a lesson to all the national parties that unity is practiced by way of upholding diversity as opposed to destroying it.