Finally, steel flyover scrapped

Finally, steel flyover scrapped

In damage-control mode, George springs surprise

Finally, steel flyover scrapped
The state government on Thursday scrapped the vexed steel flyover project that had kicked up a huge political storm. The unprecedented collective citizens’ protest against the controversial project has finally had its desired effect.

The decision spelled a big victory for all those who had vociferously campaigned against the project questioning its utility, its huge financial and environmental costs. For nine months, the state government had refused to budge, despite stiff resistance to the flyover from different quarters.

Citizens were concerned that the Rs 1,791-crore project, based on a car-centric mobility vision for the city, would also require the felling of 812 fully grown trees. A group of citizens had also approached Governor Vajubhai Vala seeking his intervention.

The public outcry, combined with incessant social media campaign, received a boost when the National Green Tribunal stayed the project’s implementation.

Designed to ensure a seamless commute to the Kempegowda International Airport, the flyover was to connect Basaveshwara Circle and Hebbal and, by the government’s reckoning, ease traffic on the busy road. But much cheaper and feasible alternative road options to the airport were ignored till the recently concluded airshow forced a rethink.

The project had caused huge embarrassment to the Siddaramaiah government after the Opposition BJP accused the ruling Congress of taking a bribe of Rs 65 crore to award the contract.

The sudden decision to scrap the Rs 1,791-crore project was announced after a meeting convened by Bengaluru Development Minister K J George to discuss the drinking water needs of the city with the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board and elected representatives.

George made the announcement after hearing the opinions of some elected representatives, a few of who demanded that the minister take a stand on the project in the wake of allegations and doubts looming over it.

At the meeting, Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee Working President Dinesh Gundurao said the party would invite blame even if the project was executed well.

“Why should we take risks and get a bad name?” Gundurao said, offering friendly advice to his party colleague. When Mahadevapura MLA Aravind Limbavali demanded an inquiry, George lost his temper and said he would speak to the chief minister right away and see if the project could be scrapped.

“We don’t want people to see the completed project and say the Congress built it by looting them...If people are caught in traffic chaos, you people are responsible for it,” he told Limbavali. George meant the BJP when he said ‘you people’.

In the midst of the arguments, George called Siddaramaiah. After the meeting, George said, “I am really pained to say the project has been called off. The chief minister has said I can cancel it.” The paper work for the cancellation will be initiated after Cabinet approval.

“The project was meant for the public and we have not taken a single rupee, contrary to the allegations made in connection with the diary,” he said. He was referring to the BJP’s charge that the Income Tax authorities had found a diary in the house of MLC K Govindaraju, showing how much politicians had pocketed for sanctioning the project.

Faced with the prospect of an adverse National Green Tribunal ruling, the government decided to abandon the project, sources said. By seemingly giving in to the Opposition demand to scrap the flyover, the government has not only saved face, but also regained the moral high ground, political observers said.