A chaotic gateway to Bangalore

A chaotic gateway to Bangalore

From being a labyrinth of vehicles parked haphazardly, Kalasipalya was to transform into a multi-facility traffic hub. But,  behind-the-scene lobbies.

Traditionally, Kalasipalya has been a sacred place for both Hindus and Muslims, as they believe it was a place where saints walked. By the early years of Independence, the area had transformed as a major gateway to Bangalore, eventually turning into a huge traffic hub and a large market for perishable goods like vegetables and industrial supplies.

Today, sadly, even as lakhs of people depend on its strategic importance, the legacy of Kalasipalya has deteriorated to abysmal chaos, a nauseating concoction of dust and dirt, noise and unrelenting traffic congestion.

When one walks through Kalasipalya holding his nose, calling it ‘chaos’ does not seem to be an exaggeration. Worse, if you dare to ride through the stretches. An absolute chock-a-block welcomes you. Making sense of the mess in Kalasipalya is not hard. For, every stakeholder, starting from a hawker to corporator or minister, is well aware of it.

A PPP of another kind

To put it succinctly, the Kalasipalya mess is the result of a unique Public Private Partnership (PPP) model with the last “P” missing. While as many as 500 buses of the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation ply through Kalasipalya every day, the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation operates more than 100 buses to destinations such as Hosur, Kanakapura and Harohalli.

Besides, there are thousands of buses run by small and big private operators, including National Travels, Sharma Travels and Annamalai Bus Transport (ABT) services, which ply vehicles to different South Indian destinations. Private operators are aplenty, offering transport services to Wayanad, Kochi, Kozhikode in Kerala, and Chennai, Coimbatore and Erode and beyond in Tamil Nadu.

However, the infrastructure to endure such a large volume of vehicles here is shockingly inadequate. As Shivaswamy, a traffic manager with BMTC, says, there is not a single moment through the day when you feel the traffic flow is smooth. “Most of the private buses leave Kalasipalya at night and during the day, the operators use most of the road space for parking their vehicles. Many of them carry out repair works of the buses, which further worsens the scene. Sometimes, I wonder whether it is a bus stand or a workshop. Any government bus entering the Kalasipalya corridor takes at least half an hour to one hour to pass through it,” he says.

Manjunath K, a KSRTC driver, notes that whenever he requests private bus drivers to take their vehicles away, they react as if they are the owners. “There are many instances wherein we have been threatened by goons and henchmen of local politicians for raising our voice. And when the traffic cops arrive, private drivers tell them the vehicles will be removed soon; but a few moments later, nothing happens. Adding to the woes are bad roads,” says the driver.

‘Don’t blame us’

On the other hand, private bus operators have their share of woes. “We are blamed for all the mess in Kalasipalya. But this is the area where most of the sheds of private operators are located and many of us have been operating the services for many decades from here. If the government plans to improve infrastructure, we welcome it. But show us the alternative first,” says K Nagaraj, a member of the State Private Bus Operators’ Association.

According to Nagaraj, a few months ago, a local elected representative removed a few encroachments in the area to create parking space for private buses. “However, within a few days, illegal sheds came up in that space and we are back on the roads,” he adds.

Time to bell the cat

Is there no solution at all to the sad state of affairs at Kalasipalya? “It is not so,” says traffic expert M N Srihari, who was instrumental in preparing a report on remodeling commuting in Kalasipalya and setting up a multi-facility bus complex here. “But, lack of political will and  private lobby are the major hindrances,” he feels.

Srihari says the report was submitted to the State government about seven years ago and till date, there has been no real action on it. “As part of the report, we had proposed decentralisation of bus services, both public and private, from Kalasipalya. The multi-facility bus complex proposal included specific plans to establish stalls for traders, including vegetable vendors,” he says.

Sumitra K, a historian, says the area is of historical importance as it houses temples of rich tradition (Kote Maramma temple), structures of Tipu Sultan era and more. “However, over the years, the authorities have failed to clear encroachments and other illegal activities. Even though there are plans to reform the place, the people who have to implement them have succumbed to various pressures,” she says.

Dinakar K, another traffic expert, says the immediate step the government should take to save Kalasipalya is to clear the encroachments. “When there are rules in place, why are there obstacles to implement them,” he questions.

Big plans on paper

In July 2012, Deputy Chief Minister R Ashoka had conducted a spot inspection of Kalasipalya and promised that the work on a Rs 300-crore modern bus terminal would begin there soon. He had also said the new structure would feature 70 bus bays, including space for private buses. Also, there was a plan to create parking space for 700 cars and 200 two-wheelers. However, the project is still on paper.

Asked about the implementation of the plan, a senior official from the BMTC said the project would begin soon. “We are resolving some land-related disputes in the area, wherein a bus terminal has been proposed,” he said.

Bangaloreans can only hope the hurdles are cleared quickly and Kalasipalya regains its glory.

Encroachments galore

Hundreds of encroachments at Kalasipalya are also to blame for the woes linked to it. Be it a roadside vendor, a petty shop, hawkers, garages or makeshift sheds, there are violations at every corner.

Sampangi R, a regular commuter, says only a single bus can enter the road to Kalasipalya from the Victoria Hospital side. “Footpaths have been appropriated on both sides by illegal shops of all kinds. Also, there are cattle and dogs that get attracted by organic and non-vegetarian waste generated here. The corners of the Bescom transformer have been dangerously occupied by vendors,” he says.

Rajamma R, a vendor, agrees there is filth and garbage all around, but she has no alternative but to continue her business there. “Be it garage, fruit and vegetable stalls or restaurants, we have been running our small businesses here for many years and we are not ready to relocate at any cost,” she says.

The BMTC shelter is in a very bad shape and it might collapse any time. “There is hardly any space for passengers to even stand in the shelter. Come rainy

season, you won’t be able to stand here for a second because of the stench. Private buses occupy the road space round the clock,” says Sohail Abbas, a passenger. Toilets are very dirty with nil water supply. Still, a user pays Rs 2 for using them, he adds.

Cattle owners in the area leave the animals on the roads for grazing. “During night, the cattle are tethered to the poles on the roadsides. Boards announcing that the encroached properties belong to the BBMP are just a joke,” says a BMTC official.

Water tanks installed by a religious organisation have become defunct due to lack of maintenance. Private bus cleaners shouting on top of their voices to draw the attention of potential passengers is a usual scene, he adds.

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