Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A Blunder That Was A Government Advertisement

Chugging along, rather belatedly

This morning I was jolted by an advertisement in our all our dailies, and no, I am not decrying the falling standards in journalism – paid news, content that could have gone under the watchful eyes of an editor or poor quality of printing. Reading it made me wonder whether the Indian bureaucracy, wallowing largely in insipidity, was handed a crash course in sarcasm. Had it been the first of April, I would have taken it for a joke without batting an eyelid.
The advertisement in question was titled “Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) congratulates Bangalore Metropolitan Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL) on the LAUNCH of NAMMA METRO” (produced verbatim). This statement could qualify as the biggest misnomer of the century, with one unwieldy, utterly mismanaged, politics-ridden organisation lauding another of its ilk for launching a service, which among other glaring acts of omission, commenced work on a project after a full-year’s delay whose cost has already overshot by about 220 per cent (and still counting), failed to meet four deadlines, leaving two state chief ministers with egg on their face for having blurted out unfeasible inaugural dates, and most importantly burdening us Bangaloreans with a mode of transportation shorn of aesthetics – the eyesore that are its pillars, criss-crossing our roads, for starters. All this for a 6.7 km long overhead rail track with six stations in between. And the difficult stretch of work, laying rail lines and constructing stations underground, has commenced recently. Can we safely expect a dozen missed schedules in the second phase?

My first reaction was whether the BBMP was trying to belittle the BMRCL. A quick cursory scan did not reveal any such thing. Could the sarcasm be loaded in fine print? If it were it was either lost on me or not detectable to the naked eye. The absence of fine print set the alarm bells ringing in me. I realised that the joke was on the reader when I read the sentence “Namma Metro has become a collaborator with BBMP in enhancing the city”.

Sure, the Bangalore Metro can help lessen traffic on the roads, and hence, reduce pollution, not to mention the rapid commuting it offers. But must we gloss over monumental blunders by our government agencies and go to the extent of shamelessly edifying them? In delayed execution, Namma Metro probably ranks second only to the Kolkata Metro, which created an ignominious chapter in delayed execution – 16. 4 km, 17 stations, execution time = 23 years.

Unsurprisingly, the ad, as in any government agency ad, had the portraits of ministers and officials dominating it entirely, and devoting absolutely no space to features of the Metro, as if forcing us to go online to learn about them.

The advertisement, it seemed, was more like a demonstration on how two make an ass out of oneself.

Image: Nagesh Polali