On NICE road, show statesmanship

The Supreme Court has dismissed one more petition challenging the Bengaluru-Mysuru Infrastructure Corridor (BMIC), raising hopes that the much-delayed project might finally see the light of day, that is, if politicians do not continue to play spoil-sport. The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in 1995 and the subsequent framework agreement signed in 1997 by the then Janata Dal government, first headed by HD Deve Gowda government and later by JH Patel, and Nandi Infrastructure Corridor Enterprises (NICE), the executor of the project, envisaged a total investment of over Rs 18,000 crore and land allotment of 20,193 acres to develop a peripheral ring road, an expressway between Bengaluru and Mysuru, 16 commercial hubs at inter-changes and five self-sustaining townships. Ironically, it was Deve Gowda himself who first threw a spanner in the works, inspiring a plethora of legal cases, including the present one by social activist TJ Abraham, all of which have been dismissed by the apex court.

In all, over 500 cases have been filed against NICE, about 12 of them against the alleged violation of the framework agreement: allocation of excess land, failure to build a concrete road, and acquisition of land away from the main alignment. The Supreme Court, which has held that BMIC is an integrated development scheme and not merely a road project, has not found merit in any of these allegations. Yet, there is an unseen hand behind one petition after another being filed with unfailing regularity before various courts under the same grounds, albeit with some window-dressing. As a consequence, the main component of the project, the 111-km Bengaluru-Mysuru expressway remains incomplete, with the government refusing to acquire and allot the required land.

When the project was conceived 23 years ago, Bengaluru was still a sleepy pensioner’s paradise and nobody imagined that the land around the BMIC project would one day be worth its value in gold. It appears that the motive behind many legal cases is not the larger public good, as is portrayed, but the insatiable greed of politicians and other vested interests, keen on extracting their pound of flesh. With all legal hurdles cleared for the umpteenth time, Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy and his father Deve Gowda should don the mantle of statesmen, set aside all previous ego hassles and pave way for the completion of the project as per the framework agreement upheld by the courts. As a first step, the half-complete 12-km portion of the expressway connecting Bengaluru to Bidadi should be fast-tracked as it will drastically reduce the congestion on Mysuru road. Any further disobedience of judicial orders or delaying tactics by the state government on specious grounds should be viewed seriously and acted upon by the Supreme Court as it amounts to wilful contempt.

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On NICE road, show statesmanship

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