2014: A lingering hope

2014: A lingering hope

2014: A lingering hope

Most Bangaloreans want to believe the New Year will free them from the taxing urban struggles of 2013. Here’s a random wish list... 

Trapped in a tricky twister of uncleared garbage, pot-holed roads and dangerously unsafe zones, Bangaloreans endured 2013 in despair. Shaken by the dance of dengue and the crawl of the Metro, they yearned for a ray of hope. Stuck in traffic jams, they waited in vain as the city’s image took another beating. Reluctantly, the same Bangaloreans were asked the inevitable question: Would 2014 give them cause to cheer?
Imposing, the Namma Metro columns stood towering above the roads across the City.

Relentlessly, the Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation pursued the Phase 1 deadlines. Yet, as motorists struggled on the rundown roads below, they saw no end in sight. Their only wish for the new year: At least, get the roads under the Metro lines in motorable state!
For the record, the 9.9-km Peenya to Sampige Road stretch was to kick off commercial operations by December 2013. But the already overstretched deadline has been pushed yet again to March 2014. In the last two and a half years, Bangaloreans have seen the Metro run only on the 6.5 km MG Road – Baiyappanahalli stretch, dubbed as an appetizer for bigger things to come. BMRCL is sure that by March 2015, the entire phase I of Namma Metro will get fully operational. By September 2014, tunneling works on all underground stations are scheduled for completion.

Safety first

Attacked on desolate streets by chain-snatching culprits, women were always wary to walk alone. Yet, they harboured a smug belief that help would just be a shout away. But the November 19 attack on a 44-year-old woman inside a Corporation Bank ATM dealt a shattering blow to that comforting thought. That it could happen in daylight, right in the heart of the city was shocking enough.

The New Year had to be safer. For the lakhs of working women, for the teeming crowds of womenfolk returning home alone… Having served the city police for 33 years, retired Assistant Commissioner of Police, BB Ashok Kumar knows it can be done, if security is better integrated with technology. “CCTV surveillance, for instance, should be improved vastly. They should be installed even outside ATMs and near houses, and the police should monitor the network more closely. In 2014, better CCTV coverage should be their focus.”

Kumar has more in store for a safer 2014: Police posts at all important junctions and physical search of suspicious motorcyclists. “Seasoned crime staff can easily spot miscreants by their body language. As a traffic cop, I could make out whether they carried a licence or not. When you stare, they look away. It is possible to spot them,” asserts the former ACP.

Relaying roads

Seven years ago, when their areas were gobbled up by the new Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), lakhs of Bangaloreans on the city’s outskirts rejoiced. They dreamt of better roads, drainage, water supply, streetlights and more. In 2013, many got the water and sewage lines, but had their roads in total disarray. Dug up for the UGD lines, the roads remain unrepaired.

His two-storeyed house accessible only by a mud road, Mehboob Pasha awaits a visit by the local MLA in the new year. The last time anyone big visited the area was just before the State assembly elections. The candidates had promised big, but delivered little. But, as motorists negotiated the narrow, dusty, rugged stretch outside his house, Pasha harbours hope in 2014. For, he knows the national elections are just a few months away!

Commuter rail

Sweating it out inside crowded suburban trains, 1.8 lakh people had travelled daily to the city from the outskirts and back. It was like every other year. They had no choice, for they had to earn a living in Bangalore but couldn’t afford to stay within. These teeming thousands had a collective wish for 2014: A Commuter Rail Service that could use the city’s existing railway infrastructure to run several more dedicated trains at short intervals, and fast.

Urban rail experts and travellers alike had studied the CRS possibility, campaigned for the service for long. The City, they are convinced, couldn’t have a better facility than CRS to boost its connectivity with Mandya, Bangarpet, Tumkur, Hosur, Chickaballapur, Doddaballapur, Nelamangala and Kanakpura. With Karnataka’s own Mallikarjun Kharge as Union Railway Minister, 2014 could be the year of CRS, notes Sanjeev D., a transportation expert. Says he, “Kharge should push for it this year. No other big infrastructure projects are in the pipeline for Bangalore in 2014.”

Also on the railways agenda for the new year is the much-needed expansion of the crowded City Railway Station with the addition of the 3.5 acre Binny Mills land; upgradation of Yelahanka, Banaswadi and Baiyappanahalli railway stations and doubling of the Yeshwanthpur - Yelahanka and Yelahanka - Channasandra lines. 

Sustainable water supply

But a wish list for 2014 could not depend on mere announcements by the State Government, feels urban planning expert, V. Ravichandar. “The biggest challenge for 2014 is the widespread perception that the State does not care for Bangalore. To change this, the government will have to get into action mode. They keep saying they have set aside Rs. 600 crore for developing the city. I don’t see any effect of that money on the ground,” he points out.

Besides concrete action on better roads and traffic management, better garbage disposal mechanisms, the city will have to figure out ways for sustainable water supply, according to Ravichandar. With the ground water table depleting to irreversible levels, the government has to act fast. A multi-pronged strategy should involve arresting the unbridled encroachment of lakes, strict regulations on digging borewells, improved and enhanced treatment of waste water, and curbing water pilferage and wasteage. The much talked about rainwater harvesting could also make a difference, if serious efforts are made to spread awareness in the coming year.