Halting a madness

The assurance given by Bangalore city mayor S K Nataraj at the Mahanagara Palike meeting to have a re-look at the controversial road widening plan and the dubious Transferable Development Rights (TDR) in the City should come as a great relief to thousands of citizens who dreaded at the prospects of losing parts of their homes and businesses. For the past couple of months, loud protests have been heard from several parts of the City ever since the corporation officials unveiled their plan to widen 216 roads, affecting nearly 40,000 properties, in part or in full. Chamarajpet, the oldest extension of the City designed in 1892, observed a bundh recently as the corporation’s demolition squad was getting ready to pull down the buildings for road widening. The mindlessness of the operation was evident from the fact that, ironically, Chamarajpet has some of the widest roads and the vehicular traffic is generally so smooth that it hardly merited such a drastic action. The same is the case with many other roads in other localities, irrationally earmarked for the widening exercise.

What was most galling about the whole exercise was that the corporation did not bother to hold citizens’ meetings or obtain the consent of property owners before embarking on its plan. Bangalore has a unique culture of small businesses operating in residential localities for decades and lakhs of livelihoods are dependent on them. Now, to suddenly evict them arbitrarily without alternatives or adequate compensation, would have been inhuman and against all canons of justice. As financial compensation as per current market rates would have been impossible to meet, the corporation came up with the ‘TDR model,’ which allows the property owners to put up additional construction elsewhere. The officials did not bother to find out whether such owners had the means or inclination to take up the offer. It was as bizarre as it could get.

The traffic congestion is definitely a serious problem in Bangalore, but widening the roads is not the only solution. Increasing the use of public transport, encouraging the construction of parking lots for vehicles at convenient points, ensuring that every large commercial building has adequate parking, halting the movement of heavy vehicles during peak hours, denying the registration of vehicles for those who already own a certain number of vehicles are some of the measures that should be considered. Thankfully, the mayor has promised to involve the experts in reworking the road widening plan.

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