What is the IT sector giving back to the city, asks academic Michael Goldman
When Michael Goldman read Thomas Friedman's popular book The World is Flat, he intuitively disagreed with his understanding of Bangalore.
“Freidman put Bangalore on the global map, but his argument about the information technology sector and how its entrepreneurial ingenuity could take a country like India out of poverty is wrong,” Goldman says.
A sociologist by training, the curly haired and easygoing Goldman was familiar with India as he had done research in Rajasthan in the nineties, trying to understand development. His disagreement with Freidman's work brought him to Bangalore in 2006, for a year, to continue his research on the ‘city'. This is how the tryst of this American academic with Bangalore began.
Goldman has been visiting the city every year since and has published about Bangalore in international research journals. He has studied how the big projects in the city are financed, the mandate given to them by the government and how the various parastatal agencies are facilitating these projects.
His research finds that a large number of people are being dispossessed by these huge projects and these projects are financed by speculative capital. “These projects will be finally used by a very small elite but the bill will be paid by all Bangaloreans,” he said. Another important point that Goldman constantly makes is the growth of the IT sector in the city has changed the economic profile of the city; there has been a great increase in contract labour with work being outsourced. This has led to lesser job security and reduction in salaries and wages of workers, he argues.
“The IT sector is disconnected from the city; they have exclusive gated work places and they are connected to the city by the way in which they use its resources, but what are they giving back?” says Goldman. “They pay incredibly low taxes and have economic subsidies and they might just pack up and leave if they don't like the State's policies,” he continues.
Bangalore, of course, has also charmed the academic, who teaches at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.
Some of his favourite spots in the city are the City Market, Commercial Street and Shivajinagar. He says, “The life on a street, the commerce, that's where people are, your family is. That's where you stroll, you buy, you laugh, and I think it would be sad if streets are cleansed of that kind of humanity [in the name of development],” said Goldman.