An underpass none wants

An underpass none wants

An underpass none wants

After thrusting the multi-crore grade separator at Tagore Circle upon the local residents against their will, the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) is now applying pressure on them to part with their property.

The Palike has disregarded all basic guidelines in a bid to execute the project funded by the Centre under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JnNURM).
The project was begun in a hush-hush manner on the night of October 25, 2009, and the Palike hid many facts about the project from the residents, the foremost being acquisition of private property.

From the beginning, the project was shrouded in secrecy. The BBMP did not place in the public domain all the details of the project as required under the RTI Act, 2005.

After claiming that a mere 12 trees would be felled, it chopped down 75 trees. The BBMP justified the project, stating that 10,000 passenger car units (PCU) ply there during peak hours. This lie was immediately nailed by the traffic advisor and consultant to the State government, M N Sreehari. According to a study he conducted, the figure was around 5,000 PCU.

Palike officials claimed that the work would be completed in a year, but after a year and half, the physical progress of the project is a mere 40 per cent. Officially, the BBMP claims it will complete the work by August this year, but sources say it would take more than a year for completion.

The Palike also claimed that the project would cost Rs 19.51 crore and the work had been awarded to the contractor on turnkey basis, with no revision of the project cost. However, in January 2010, the project cost was increased by 25 per cent to Rs 25 crore.

Palike major works committee chairman H Ravindra visited the spot a month ago to assess the progress. He told mediapersons that a small portion of private property would be acquired for the project. According to him, three feet wide setback areas of private properties would be acquired, and no buildings would be razed.

However, the compound wall of East West School, two roads away from the spot, has been demolished. The Palike said the school management had agreed to give a portion of their school for the underpass. “They have readily agreed to accept our TDR (Transferrable Development Rights) because they want to construct another building behind the existing structure,” says a Palike engineer. On the other hand, school authorities claim that nobody had come to them asking for school property.

They state that they had not agreed to TDR.

“Initially, there were no plans to acquire private property. Recently, the high-powered committee headed by the chief secretary approved acquisition,” said Ravindra. He reiterated that the Palike would not demolish any structure, but would acquire only the compound walls of buildings. “We will give them TDR. After all, they are losing their property,” Ravindra said.

The Palike intends to acquire land from 26 private property owners and seven government buildings. The total extent of additional land required for the project is 2,419.35 sq m, including 540.68 sq m from private property owners. N Mukund of Citizens' Action Forum (CAF) asks, “Why did the Palike not inform residents that it is going to snatch their property before the commencement of the project?” He questions whether the plan of acquiring private properties was submitted to the JnNURM as part of the feasibility report and whether the Palike informed the High Court when arguments were heard on a petition relating to the Tagore Circle project.

Residents are up in the arms against the project after coming to know about the Palike’s plan to acquire land. Local resident C N Gopinathan, who is among the property losers, is fuming over the way the BBMP handled the project.

“The Palike officials neither informed us about acquisition of the property, nor did they hold any public meeting to seek our consent. We petitioned the Palike commissioner four or five times to stop the project as it would cost us our properties, but our pleas fell on deaf ears,” said Gopinathan.

The executive trustee of Civic Bangalore, Kathyayini Chamaraj, objects to the way the project was started. “As per the RTI Act guidelines, the Palike should have placed all details of the project in the public domain but that was never followed. We kept on insisting on it but we were never heard,” said Kathyayini.

Unplanned infrastructure projects

The question is what made Palike to start many infrastructure projects in the City hastily, including the one at Tagore Circle. The cash-rich JnNURM (a Rs one-lakh crore project) launched in 2005-06 will conclude in 2012-13.

The project was started to give a thrust to infrastructure projects in cities in view of the swelling Indian population and migration of rural populace to urban areas.

During the period, many unplanned infrastructure projects such as the underpasses at Kadirenahalli, Tagore Circle, Puttenahalli and Cauvery Theatre and many more began in the City. What comes out is that the projects under JnNURM had wide scope for corruption.

Take Kadirenahalli underpass, for instance. It is far from completion but once ready, it would be a brand new accident zone, as it does not cover the road junction linking it to Kumaraswamy Layout. Commuters speeding from the DG Petrol Pump end towards JP Nagar are not able to see the vehicles rushing towards Kumaraswamy
Layout due to the stationary sand trucks, heaps of soil, sand and other construction material. V N Rajashekhar of the Save Bangalore Committee said such projects were not designed with public interest as the objective, but were intended to further the interests of unscrupulous bureaucrats, politicians and contractors. “The Tagore Circle underpass and most other BBMP projects are not in the public interest. People refuse to walk on most of the pedestrian subways, as they are either locked or have turned into public urinals,” said Rajashekhar.

The Project

Initial project cost     Rs 19.51 crore
Present cost            About Rs 24 crore
Contractors             PMJ Construction and
                             Simplex Pvt Limited
Work order issued     July 11, 2008
Actual work started    October 25, 2009
Stipulated time           12 months
Type of contract       Lump sum turnkey
Clearance height                 5.5 metre
Length of covered height     5.5 metre
Length of retaining wall      177.83 metre towards NR Colony 120.56 metre towards
                                       National College
Total length of the underpass     378.39 metre
Width of open portion            16.8 metre
Number of carriage ways           2 x 7.5 metre
Width of service road             5.5 metre
Width of footpath                 2.5 metre

Present Status

Present status
* Project shall be completed by August 2011
*  Traffic will be allowed in underpass by June 2011
*   Physical progress - 40 per cent
*   Financial progress 36.74 per cent

                                                 LAND ACQUISITION
                                                   No of
                                                  property    Extent
                                               Private    26    540.68 sq metre
                                                   Govt    7    1,878.67 sq metre

Bundle of untruths

Palike’s claims                                              the fact
*12 trees will be cut                          *75 trees were slaughtered
*10,000 PCUs in peak hour                 *About 5,000 PCUs (as per M N Sreehari)
*Work to finish by October 2010          *By April 2011, progress is only 40 per cent
* Project cost Rs 19.51 crore             *Cost escalated by 25 per cent
*No land acquisition involved              *26 private properties to be acquired

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