When public opinion did not matter

Two major infrastructure projects in Basavanagudi, Bangalore South, the National College flyover and the Tagore circle underpass have not fulfilled all the aspirations of residents living in the area or people using them. Protest against both projects was very intense with most people in the area opposing their construction.

The governments went ahead and now the projects are part of the City’s landscape.
Sumathy Nagendra, who was part of the protests against Tagore circle underpass, told Deccan Herald: “The Tagore circle underpass has not fulfilled the objectives it was supposed to. At Rs 23 crore, it has been an expensive and ill-conceived project. While BBMP had estimated 10,000 car passenger units (CPU) per hour, the volume was not even over 3,000. And today we see only a trickle of vehicles using the underpass. Isn’t the project a waste of precious public money? The National College flyover too has not been as useful as it was projected.”

C R Gopinath of the Basavanagudi Residents’ Association told this newspaper: “No agency consulted us on the national college flyover or the Tagore underpass. Public studies have shown that the traffic volumes in both projects have not gone up and projected traffic estimates have not unfolded. This means there is under-utilisation of the projects, which also means, the projects were not necessary in the first place. But no one came forward to give us any details of projects and the basis on which they were undertaken. There is no proper foothpath around the underpass and its not possible to walk around safely and freely. How do we cross the road at the underpass with no traffic junction anywhere? These were all the issues raised but as you can see, the work went on and projects were executed with no consultation of any kind.”

The Save Bangalore Committee, Hasiru Usiru, Basavanagudi Citizens’ Association’s Gopinath and other NGO’s carried out a strong campaign opposing the projects.They argued that underpass was not necessary as there were no traffic blocks at the intersection of KR Road and BP Wadia Road, and on the surrounding roads too. But the projects went on. One theory floated then was that there was urgent need to spend money from the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JnNURM), else it would lapse. And people would not be aware about civic projects.

Critical green space came under attack and around 70-odd trees were chopped over a period of time, which is when NGO’s thought of filing a Public Interest Litigation. A lawyer however said that the PIL was late as the project had already begun and work was underway.

The then MLA of Basavanagudi constituency, K Chandrashekar had said at that time (2005) that the project was built with a 20-year vision for traffic. Built at around Rs 8 crore, it was supposed to help motorists of Basavanagudi, V V Puram, Gandhi Bazaar, N R Colony, Jayanagar, Hanumanthnagar, Padmanabhnagar, Jayanagar and Girinagar. The MLA had also stated then that BBMP could save Rs two crore in terms of fuel and time. Waiting at the signal junction too would come down, he had said.

But the location of the flyover had residents fuming. It was too close to the historic National College building, which first saw the Quit India movement in Bangalore in 1942, and to a school whose compound it was almost touching. A question was raised whether it would endanger the life of students who would cross the road at the end of the flyover. All these objections were brushed aside and plans were made to get work started. Nagendra asks why the authorities went ahead with the projects even when they knew well in advance that metro would be coming along that road. It appears that no authority was ready to listen to the citizens’’ grievances.

One other project which met with stiff opposition from residents was a proposed flyover opposite Ramakrishna Ashram on Bull Temple Road. All residents of the surrounding areas including members of the ashram launched a series of protests over a sustained period and persuaded then MLA K Chandrashekar that the project should not be taken up as it would make shrink the entire region around the ashram and affect free flow of people to the ashram. The plan was to have the flyover come down near the ashram. This would have caused havoc for school children and elders. But the sustained protest paid off and authorities shelved the project.

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