Yella OK. Kingfisher Police Station yaake?

ASHWINI A. writes: Public Private Partnership has willy-nilly become the mantra in namma Bangalore. It is the magic wand that is waved, sometimes by government, sometimes by NGOs, sometimes by the media and other drumbeaters, but most times by the corporates.

On the face of it, nothing can seem more noble: the prospect of private organisations dipping into their deep pockets to paper over the problems facing the public. It’s a win-win. But, look around you, and the initiative is fast becoming mindlessly annoying.

Consider just one example: Public-Private Partnerships in police stations.

Police stations in Silicon Halli used to operate from buildings that were falling apart, dying for maintenance, and held up by hope and prayer. Successive governments with budgets of thousands of crores of rupees somehow did not seem to have enough dough to have decent and modern buildings for the law keepers.

Enter, the corporates.

They ‘adopt’ one or two police station buildings, spend anywhere between Rs 20 lakh and Rs 50 lakh for cosmetic alterations, and renovate them. UB Group, Metro, Brigade Group, Indus Apparel, Infosys, Toyota have all stepped in and chipped in. These corporates then go to town boasting about their corporate social responsibility initiatives, hog media limelight, and are happy.

Nothing wrong with this, actually. The policemen get a decent place to work from, the government saves a bit of money, and the corporates bag some bragging rights for cheap.

But…

Have a look at the branding the police stations (and the public) have to bear with, and you will start seeing a different picture.

The Cubbon Park police station nameboard has huge signage of Kingfisher Beer. Sadashiva Nagar police station is dwarfed by Indus Apparel. Yeshwanthpur by Brigade. Seshadripuram by Metro. Kengeri by Toyota.

The corporate branding on police station nameboards and entrances is so overbearing that it sucks. One gets the feeling that these corporates—by doling out a few thousand rupees—actually own the police stations and We, the People (policemen included) should be grateful and thankful to the corporates for their benevolence.

Police stations are most often the first and most important interfaces for the government with the people. Can we allow these to get branded (and bandied about) just because our governments do not have money to spend for their upkeep?

Is this kind of branding of police stations is sensitive/appropriate? For example, is the public wrong to wonder if Kengeri Police Station will look at an industrial dispute in Toyota through the sponsor’s eyes rather than through the workers’?

Can corporates get away with brazen branding of government institutions? Are we allowing public spaces to shrink by allowing them to become private properties in a way?

Should there not be a more organised way to welcome corporate donations meant for providing better infrastructure for police stations?

Can’t we have a PPP pool to which any corporate or individual can contribute and the total money then used for achieve a set goal? Government could honour or thank the corporates for their gesture. But should the corporates /brands sit on the heads (name boards) of police stations dictating brand usage in return for their donations?

Are we heading towards time when a board outside a police station will read: “Kingfisher is the official beer of this police station”?