Subways BBMP’s No 1 shame

Subways BBMP’s No 1 shame

Built with your tax money, they have turned into urinals and havens for pimps and drug peddlers. India’s tech capital can’t even maintain a simple public utility

Seshadri Road is in the heart of Bengaluru, near Freedom Park. This is the state of its subway. Dh PHotos by S K Dinesh

Most pedestrian subways in Bengaluru, built at huge public expense, are not only unfit for use, but have also become a haven for drunks, drug addicts and sex workers.

Citizens, especially women, shudder to use them after dark. Metrolife found a majority of subways of little use to pedestrians.

The ones near Raj Bhavan and Basava Bhavan remain locked all the time. Pedestrians are forced to dart across the road, risking their lives. Nrupathunga Road alone has three subways. While two remain locked, one stands out for its cleanliness: it is used by many, including employees of the Reserve Bank of India.

The subway at the CBI junction, near Hebbal, is also an exception to the general rule of neglect and shoddy maintenance. The subways near Seshadri Road and K R Circle have turned into urinals.

Sheshadri Road

Would any BBMP official walk here?

There are five colleges around the subway located on Seshadri Road. Built in 2009, it ought to have helped pedestrians cross at a junction that connects five roads leading to the Vidhana Soudha, Freedom Park, Gandhinagar, Malleswaram and Cottonpet. The false ceiling is chipped off at many places, and broken electrical boxes stand testimony to neglect.

What users say

Palani Swamy, a teacher, says, “I came here from Hosur to write an exam. When I passed through this stretch, I felt like vomiting. We have subways at Hosur as well but they are clean. Bengaluru is a big city with poor infrastructure.”

Opposite RBI

This subway begins at RBI on Nrupathunga Road.

Spic-n-span. Thank you, RBI

This is by far the neatest and cleanest subway in the city. It is located opposite the Reserve Bank of India. It is painted from the inside and has proper lighting. It is locked at night and opened only during the day.

What users say

Paramashivan, a coconut vendor, attributes the cleanliness to the interest taken by RBI to keep it clean.

Basava Bhavan, Chalukya Circle

Booze lane

The electrical junction board is broken, and wires
are pulled out. This is not a place where you feel

This subway remains locked from one end and is open on the other, making it useless for those who want to cross the road. The ceiling is broken and you also find empty alcohol bottles lying around. The floor is dirty and strewn with cigarette butts, and people relieve themselves here.

What users say

Rajkumar, who works at a hotel, says, “Most people consider this a public toilet. The subway is not cleaned and it clogs up whenever it rains. And it is always locked on one side.”

KR Circle

This one is near KR Circle, adjacent to a famous
engineering college.

A disgusting tunnel of muck

One of three subways on Nrupathunga Road. The road connects the railway station to many southern parts of the city, and that means a never-ending stream of speeding vehicles. This subway is an absolute necessity, with at least four colleges and two hospitals, including the huge St Martha’s, in the vicinity. Broken lights, alcohol bottles, dry tree branches, and a clogged subway is what you see. People who ignore the dangers and get in have to wade their way through muck to get to the other end.

What people say

Ramkumar, a peon at Central College, says the subway doubles up as a space for prostitution and drug abuse after dark. “I used to take it but now I walk across the road at the signal. The stench inside the subway is terrible,” he says.

Kavitha K, a student, attends an evening college nearby. Her classes are done by 8 pm. “I am scared to take the subway because boys are always sitting around in groups at the entrance. There are no lights, which makes it scarier,” she says.

Rajbhavan Road

Loo and behold!

This is right next to the governor’s sprawling
bungalow, but who cares?

Located near the Governor‘s sprawling residence, this subway is strewn with paper and dry leaves. The electrical junction boxes are broken and live wires hang out. The floor is filled with garbage, and the walls are used as urinals.

What users say

Nikhil S, student at Atria Institute, says, “It stinks and you don‘t know when you will step into a puddle of urine. I have never seen anybody clean this place. When it rains, rainwater gets mixed with the dirt and forms bigger puddles.”

Roopa S, student, takes a bus from a stop just a few metres way. “I walk past this subway but I have never used it. The policemen stand right next to it, but they never stop anyone from going in and dirtying the place,” she says.

CBI Junction, Hebbal

The false ceiling isn’t so great, and this subway is
used by beggars.

Beggars chase you for money

This subway is well-maintained and people use it regularly. But it is poorly lit after dark. It becomes a shelter for beggars at night. Some settle in with their families. The paint on the walls is peeling off and the false ceiling broken in many places. The floor is also broken too.

What users say

Shantala Rajeshwari, school teacher, uses the subway almost every day. “Beggars sometimes run after you and harass you for money,” she says.

Pushpa N, garment worker who works in Peenya and lives in R T Nagar, says, “There are no lights and people inside are drinking and sleeping,” she says.

Subways are a liability: senior BBMP official

The BBMP top brass is aware the pedestrian subways are dirty and used for crime.

“Most of them were constructed between 2008 and 2010 at a cost of not less than Rs 1 crore each. We agree they are poorly maintained. It is not because there is a lack of funds in the BBMP, it is because there is no demand for maintenance,” he says.

If the public demand cleaner subways, BBMP will be forced to pay attention to it, he says.

“We find public not keen on using them,” he says. Security concerns, poor hygiene and illegal activities keep people away, he admits.

The “most benevolent” of the crimes is encroachment by hawkers, but other “nefarious activities” are common, he says.

“We understand this has become a meeting place for drug pedlars and pimps,” he says.

He blames a commissioner for building subways as an answer to pedestrian problems.

“He wanted to replicate a design that worked well in some developed Eastern nations. He implemented it here without any consultation. The maintenance was later transferred to the zonal level and that’s where it got neglected. Today, subways are a liability,” he says.

What’s a good subway?

Dr Ashish Verma, associate professor, civil engineering, Indian Institute of Science, says subways should have:

- Escalators and elevators, besides stairs.

- Ample lighting: every corner should be well lit.

- Limited vending: People inside instil a sense of safety.

- Railings. Subways should be inclusive.

- Anti-skid flooring, and overall cleanliness.