Perhaps the best idea to come out of the Government of India in recent times was to require companies (beyond a certain size) to set aside 2% of their post-tax income towards investments of social value. Used properly, this can be a powerful fuel for localities and their corporate denizens to collaborate to solve local problems.

We’re seeing some of that happening in Whitefield, home to a good many companies. Interestingly, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) funds are now being used to directly address the bane of almost all workers, namely traffic jams. And why not? Traffic jams certainly do not decrease greenhouse emissions (i.e., the environment), nor do they improve anybody’s blood pressure (i.e., public health). They impact just about everybody. They cause a loss in not just health but also productivity.

Nooraine Fazal (left) of Inventure Academy, hands over the keys to a traffic signal to Police Inspector Narasimhamurthy.

A group of schools, namely Chrysalis High, Deens Academy, DPS Bangalore East, Global Indian Intl. School, Greenwood High, Indus Intl. School, Oakridge Intl. School and Inventure Academy came together to fund traffic signals at Varthur Kodi and Dommasandra Junction. The schools were motivated primarily by the poor road and dangerous traffic conditions in their general areas, and the signals at Varthur Kodi and Dommasandra Circle serve to regulate traffic on an important corridor through which thousands of school children pass daily.

Nooraine Fazal, Managing Trustee of Inventure Academy, said, “This is a great example of what members of our community, i.e., schools, police, citizen groups, etc., can achieve by working in collaboration with each other. As educators in particular it our responsibility to lead the way and protect our children and our collective futures. I hope this will encourage more citizen groups to embrace this model and work proactively on improving the quality of our lives.”

The project was coordinated by the Center for Smart Cities. (C-Smart).

Officials from Xerox Business Services India Pvt. Ltd. hand over to the police keys to a traffic signal at Vydehi Junction.

At the same time, two corporates with a large Whitefield presence, Xerox Business Service India Pvt. Ltd. and Prestige Group, have sponsored traffic signals at the Vydehi Hospital and PSN Junctions. (You might recall that several months ago, Xerox also sponsored the repair of the sidewalk in front of ITPL and a bus-stop there.)

Satish Mokhashi, Vice-President of Prestige Group, said, “Prestige Group extends support to the community not only by sponsoring the installation of the traffic signal at this crucial intersection, but also by constructing pavements and providing benches for elderly pedestrians.”

Officials from Prestige Group hand over to Inspector Narasimhamurthy keys to a traffic signal at PSN Junction.

What we’re seeing here is a greater, and even an interventionist, ownership of public issues by private parties. It could be argued that such intervention is in fact a symptom of abdication of duties by public authorities. Still, it is undeniably true that citizens are shedding their general sense of powerlessness. The events we’re seeing here —investment by private parties into public goods— really is a shout from the people, “Yes, we can change things! The city belongs to us!”