Broken Windows state

EducationWorld June 2022 | Magazine Postscript

The once clean, green and well-governed state of Karnataka is fast-transforming into a Broken Windows society. Researched and developed by American academics James Q. Wilson and George Kelling in 1982, Broken Windows theory posits that if civic neglect and petty crimes are unpunished, there will be an outbreak of serious crimes and criminality in society.

In the once salubrious city of Bangalore, continuous tolerance of petty everyday criminality — road traffic offences, shoddy public works execution, bribery in government offices, arbitrary garbage dumping — has precipitated a major crime wave. Recent news headlines report mass cheating in police recruitment exams; ruling (BJP) ministers demanding 40 percent commission for awarding civic work contracts and clearing contractors’ bills as alleged by the president of the Karnataka State Contractors Association, in a press conference.

Evidence of a rising crime wave in this once well-administered state (pop.66 million) is piling up. On April 12, a civil contractor committed suicide because a cabinet minister refused to clear his Rs.4 crore bill without payment of a 40 percent bribe. With margins of civic works contractors reduced to razor thinness because of routine extortion of bribes by government employees, pot-holed roads, abandoned civic projects and collapsing bridges have become normative statewide. Moreover at a media conference, a BJP leader stated that cabinet ministership can be purchased for Rs.100 crore and the chief minister’s post for Rs.2,500 crore.

Although Bengaluru city’s buildings aren’t pockmarked with broken windows as yet, the garden city’s obstinately potholed roads and rising crime wave are proof of the validity of Broken Windows theory.

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