Cauvery dispute: Brand Bengaluru has been hurt badly, Mohandas Pai tells Firstpost

Bengaluru, the IT hub of India, has been in the news in the past few days for violence and mayhem unleashed by disgruntled elements over the Cauvery water issue. The city, where leading MNCs and home-grown Indian IT firms -- think Wipro, Infosys, have been honed contributes 32 percent revenues of the country's IT and Business Process Management.  Brand Bengaluru has taken a knocking to its reputation by the vandalism in the state. Factories and companies were shut on account of the uncertain situation. The widespread damage due to the violent protests over the Cauvery dispute has caused Karnataka to suffer a whopping loss of Rs 22,000-25,000 crore besides denting the image of the state capital as India's Silicon Valley, industry chamber Assocham said on Tuesday.

TV Mohandas Pai, chairman of Manipal Global Education and a member of the board of directors of Infosys has been vocal about his thoughts and feelings on the city earning a new epithet of intolerance. He shares his thoughts with Firstpost on what the Cauvery water issue troubles mean to businesses in the city in the short and long-term.

Excerpts from the conversation:

Mohandas Pai. Image: Twitter

Mohandas Pai. Image: Twitter

Brand Bengaluru has been hurt by the Cauvery issue which has entered the third day today.

Yes, Brand Bengaluru has been hurt and hurt very badly.  One reason being that what happens in Bengaluru is  exaggerated across world. A large part of global outsourcing work takes place here. Hence, Bengaluru is very sensitive especially as business is concerned. If this were to happen in any other city in India, no one would care. The world cares about Bengaluru as it is the IT hub of India where global businesses have a stake.

Not just visitors from other states who come to Bengaluru for work or pleasure, but a large number of overseas visitors come here to conduct business. The present situation in Bengaluru has led to a scare to come here and do business. Riots happen in other parts of the world. Why, there were riots in some parts of London too, recently. But it did not lead to the city getting a bad name. Simply because the law and order situation was brought under control soon.

Brand Bengaluru has been hurt for a very important reason because the state government abdicated its responsibility when violence was unleashed by certain elements. This happened on Monday. On Tuesday, the Chief Minister Siddharamaih and the Home Minister were able to clamp down on the disgruntled elements that were causing much damage to life and property in the state. This only goes to show that the police was lax on Monday and abdicated its duty towards the State and its citizens.

This only goes to show that either the government was complacent and allowed the mischief makers to continue with what they did – that is what G Parameshwara, Home Minister said about the violence on the first day. Why was the police tolerant and allowed people to voice their anger about the Cauvery issue by destroying property?

What long-term setbacks do you see with regard to business and Bengaluru?

I don’t think any of the existing businesses in the state will be shifted to another state. No one can be sure about the safety aspect of any city in India. However, incoming businesses in the city will do a rethink. They will be worried by what is happening in the city. No one  wants to conduct or develop business in a perceived risk place. Changing that perception will be an arduous task. Multinational companies (MNCs) are more cautious than local businesses to come into an area which has witnessed violence like Bengaluru has in the last few days. Startups will also do a rethink before coming to Bengaluru and prefer to work from other cities. This situation will last for the next 2-3 months in both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu and both will think twice before going to the other state. But this fear won’t last.

The loss to businesses in Bengaluru in the last few days because of the Cauvery issue has been immense. Who will compensate businesses? Will the Siddharamaih government compensate it?  I think this situation of fear with regard to businesses will continue in the next two to three months.

Do you see an end to this issue?

It certainly can happen if there is political will in the chief ministers of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. All that they need to do is sit, talk about issues and use data to resolve the issue. The mechanism has been set up and the Supreme Court has said it will only go by that.  The data regarding the availability, consumption and use of the river water is available with the Water Commission.

The CM of Karnataka should act as  a CM and not as a person heading a political party. He cannot play party politics as a CM of a state. He refused to meet the PM when he was called last time.  But, I also think it is unfair to ask Karnataka to give a percentage of its drinking water – 2 crore people are depended on it, to Tamil Nadu for irrigation. Does drinking water get second place with regard to irrigation? I believe the tribunal order is a grave injustice to Karnataka. What is this adherence to an irrational treaty signed a century ago?

Updated Date: Sep 14, 2016 18:24 PM

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