Highway to hell

Highway to hell

Highway to hell
It was a nightmare that Bengalureans would not like to see again. When the North-Eastern monsoons lashed out at the City on Monday, the ugly side of a poorly planned city surfaced yet again. Aside from the pathetic transport system, it looked like the ‘hi-tech city’ was going down the drain, literally!

With the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board digging up several places across the City, the mess got murkier. Even as water logging created traffic gridlocks in many parts of the City, citizens were seen stranded on the roads, unable to get any kind of  transportation to reach their destination, and pedestrians attempted to differentiate between drains and the road.

Maya, a professional, narrates, “When I left office on MG Road in the evening, I knew the chances of getting an auto or a cab were slim; it had been raining for over two hours already and that made the search for transport harder. Since I live close by, most autos don’t come even when it’s not raining cats and dogs. After trying to get a few autos, I gave up and decided to walk (I didn’t even bother opening the Ola or Uber apps!). Turned out, walking was the most sensible option — every road was flooded with murky water and motorists could barely make their way a few metres. I spent 15 minutes just trying to cross the road at Anil Kumble Junction — no one was following the signals so I had to look in all directions for speeding and agitated motorists.”

She continues, “Although I’m glad I didn’t have to be in the traffic jam for hours, walking was another task. Instead of holding my umbrella over my head, I held it to the side, facing the traffic, in case any vehicle splashed me. And this helped! Most motorists forget that there are pedestrians when it rains. By the time I reached home, I was nearly drenched, shivering and plastered with muck. This is why I hate it when people spit on or litter the roads.”

The pre-fixed auto counter on MG Road was of no help either. Commuters were seen waiting there for hours together as autos sped by without stopping. “This is not surprising,” says Rama, who works on Church Street, “The autos blatantly refused to take the passengers to their destination.”

Meanwhile, the aggregators made hay while it rained — Uber charged four times the normal fare for its UberGO service. Even with that, citizens were seen complaining about the lack of can services. “The Ola autos just refuse to pick up requests of customers,” adds Rama.  

Hosur Road, Lavelle Road, Double Road, Dairy Circle and Bannerghatta Road were jammed for almost two hours, says Swati Raghunandan, a professional who was trying to get home on her two-wheeler. “You couldn’t distinguish between a road and a pothole. I lost balance several times.”

Those who were in a car like Ashish Patel, a resident of Thippasandra, had a different adventure. “It normally takes 20 minutes for me to travel from my workplace in Indiranagar to my house but on Monday evening I took more than two hours,” he adds. Ashwin Mahesh, an expert on urban planning and infrastructure, says that the basic infrastructural plan for Bengaluru has gone wrong. He adds that the City does not have a flood resistant design in place. “The government must create soak pits in storm water drains because this will reduce the flooding and allow water to percolate into the ground, leaving very little excess water.” He also points out that another reason why the water gushes out from the underground drains is because some of the underground pipes are “misaligned”. “This causes water to spill out rather than flow through a proper channel.” Ashwin says, “They must have a continuous plan to fill potholes rather than wait for hundreds of them to appear and then get a contractor to do the job.”

Additional Commissioner of Police (Traffic) MA Saleem describes the scenario as “an emergency situation to clear traffic”. When asked specifically about what action the traffic police will take against autorickshaws who refuse to ply, Saleem says, “We continuously book cases against autorickshaw drivers who charge extra and refuse to ply. In worst situations, we also recommend that the permits of these autorickshaws be suspended.” With more rains predicted in the coming days, citizens want to know whether the authorities are geared up to face it. Or will history repeat itself?