Jayakar Jerome (April 2000)
Must have been just days into the new millennium and one person was burning the midnight oil. Pouring over facts, figures and providing finishing touches to a presentation he will soon have to make. Because, on January 24th he, along with six other key stakeholders were to disclose they're ambitious plans to take Bangalore forward. Make this the best Indian city. A "Singapore" of sorts. The enormity of the task was pretty much evident to Jayakar Jerome, the new Commissioner of the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA), whose job is to plan the metropolitan region and decongest the city. Besides allotting housing sites, it has to ensure that the amenities and basic infrastructure are in place.
A sixth generation Bangalorean, born and brought up in Richard's town, Jayakar Jerome studied in St. Joseph's, completed his Post-Graduation in Personnel Management and Labour Relations, though he once wanted to do journalism. A short stint in the private sector, he appeared for the civil service exam, got through and eventually joined the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) in 1974. If he didn't like it he could always quit. So he thought. The best part is that even after over 2 decades, he still likes his job, is committed and is now a key member of the Chief Minister's team. He says, "For the first time I've got a job that involves development of the city. I have grown in this city and obviously, to me it means a lot." Despite the rot in the system for the past so many years, Jayakar's enthusiasm is understandable and in his new avatar, he's focused on the target he has set. Which incidentally, happens to be the development of 5000 new sites by June, 10,000 by the year-end and a staggering 30,000 by 2004. Smooth sailing so far.
From day one, he launched into a massive clean-up drive. He ousted those occupying BDA land by unauthorized means. Enforced stringent rules on visiting hours at the BDA office, which had always swarmed with people, like flies around a honey pot. Or was it "Money Pot"? The Bangalore Contractor's Association, which had an office on the premises, was thrown out. "This is government property" and hence they had no business being there. And the construction speed of the outer ring roads would make the snail community guffaw. "I'm on that," says Jayakar, aware of the fact that here was the solution to decongest the city from heavy lorry traffic. "Every Monday I visit these sites. Twice a week I go unannounced," he adds - a reminder that the pressure is on to meet deadlines.
"Promises Galore" was one such leading newspaper headline after the Bangalore Summit. Jayakar ignores such statements. He and his colleagues mean business. "Its not easy but you have to start some where. A beginning has been made that's evident all over," he states vehemently and admitting at the same time that "we should hold on to what we have got and ensure that no matter what the cost or constraints, we should develop the city." His opinion? "Bangalore will definitely be better than what it is today."
There comes a time in a man's life when he has to reflect on what he has done and if at all, was it worth doing. Jayakar Jerome will have a lot to reflect on, come judgment day. When rot sets in, resurrection is a tough task. But then, that's what Jayakar Jerome and his committed colleagues have set about to do. Clean up the place. With the government's backing and the Chief Minister's vision, there is hope, yet.
Has anybody ever asked, "Which is faster? The tortoise, the snail or the administration?" Never bothered to find out. Let's hope Jayakar Jerome & Co spring a surprise.