Kalasipalya: A public-private chaos

Kalasipalya: A public-private chaos

Kalasipalya, which was an integral part of the City’s image in the early 1900s, has been forgotten in more ways than one by the administrators. For proof, just try boarding or alighting from a private or State transport bus in the area. You will come face to face with absolute chaos triggered by potholed and unpaved roads, water-logging, leaking sewage lines and mind-boggling traffic jams.

Here’s one big reason for the chaos: According to Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) Assistant Traffic Manager (ATM) K M Khappa, about 1,394 trips comprising 34 trips by Pushpak buses, 108 by City buses and 1,252 buses to the sub-urban areas are operated by the Corporation through Kalasipalya. All without the required infrastructure!

Add hundreds of private buses operated by big names such as National, Sharma and ABT to various destinations in South India, including Chennai, Coimbatore, Erode, Wayanad, Kochi, Kozhikode and more, and the experience couldn’t get worse.

To avoid the main roads, a large number of buses, both private and BMTC, use the narrow roads of Kalasipalya, triggering further trouble. Most of the private buses also use the roads here to park their vehicles, exasperating the problems in the area. As if these weren’t trouble enough, roads are routinely dug up by various civic agencies. Unscientific planning, dumping of construction materials and debris have only made the condition of the roads worse.

So in all, with as many as 1,500 scheduled trips, including local (BMTC) buses, operating from Kalasipalya on a daily basis, you would expect the authorities to take at least some interest. Well, don’t. Just like in many other parts of the City, the area continues to suffer from the State’s apathy –– with even projects that were announced aiming for a renovation not taking off due to lack of will.

A project on paper

Although the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) and BMTC have agreed to build a modern bus station at Kalasipalya, modalities are yet to be formulated.

The property on which the BMTC wants to construct a multi-facility bus station here belongs to the BBMP. Last year, Transport Minister R Ashoka, who is also the minister in charge of the City, took the initiative to develop the bus station that was expected to cater to both government and private buses. The terminus is meant to bring down the chaos on the roads due to the uneven parking of buses at Kalasipalya. The terminus will be designed in such a way that private as well as public sector buses could use it. The terminus will also have two-wheeler and four-wheeler parking station.

“It is a dream project worth nearly Rs 250 to Rs 300 crore. But it is still stuck at a nascent stage and many modalities have to be cleared,” a Palike official said.

The BMTC has agreed to bear the entire cost of the project, which should not be a burden on the Palike, but the project is caught in  bureaucratic clutter. According to sources, the bone of contention delaying the project is — who will collect the rents or the lease amount of the shops.

Another confusion between the two government agencies is about who will collect the parking fee. Also, the Palike officials do not want the ownership of the property to go to the BMTC. The BBMP wants their engineers also to look at the design and approve it because the design should bring in people to the shopping centres, the sources said.

BMTC officials also conceded that the project is, at least for now, not moving at the desired pace. While the government projects have failed to take off on time, private bus operators, who make a killing operating from Kalasipalya, are not bothered to invest a part of their revenue to fix the problems plaguing the area.

Narayanappa (65) and Shantamma (58), who visit Melmaruvathur near Chennai every month, complain that Kalasipalya is one of the worst places for boarding a bus.
“We have had to go there only thrice in the last one-and-a-half years as we could not book the KSRTC bus ticket at Majestic and our experience was very bad,” Shantamma recalls.

Neither the government nor the private owners have understood the need of supporting infrastructure for bus service.

Waiting for buses, which sometimes get delayed by hours, is a common complaint in Kalasipalya and the absence of infrastructure that can accommodate passengers just adds to the woes.

“Some buses leave here only at night and if we were to wait for a bus with family in odd hours, there is no guarantee of any security. Besides, standing on the road is not something we enjoy after having coughed up so much money,” says Vikas Talreja, a frequent traveller.

Another commuter Padma Swaminathan is convinced that boarding a bus at Kalasipalya should be avoided at all costs. “They do not even have registration counters or waiting rooms or seats here... Don’t we have the right of demanding basic amenities while we pay so much money for travelling,” she asks.

Private operators unhelpful

Although private bus operators do not care about the facilities in the area, or in any other part of the City, the authorities do not subject private bus owners to enough scrutiny. According to Transport Department officials, private bus operators are issued licence to operate from the area without verifying if they have provisions for parking, resulting in buses being parked all over the place.

Kalasipalya being a market area only makes the traffic heavier. The haphazard parking of buses considerably slows down the traffic flow, particularly on the narrow roads for which the area is notorious.

But road congestion is not the only acute problem. The area does not even have toilets, especially for women; the drainage system is unscientific and people have to cope with waste floating on the roads after a rainy day.

“Sometimes we have water up to our knees when it rains heavily and we reach home with filth sticking to our clothes,” says Arshad, a local shop owner.

Whether the new bus stand that is being planned can help give Kalasipalya the much-needed facelift will remain a question. But what is not in question is the need for a concentrated effort by all the civic agencies to solve the problems that plague the area –– once a great chapter in Bangalore’s books.

Proper infrastructure supporting the operations of buses (both private and public), either separately or in an integrated manner, however, should be the first priority.

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