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Meeting with Adviser to the CM on road-widening issues

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The meeting was convened by Dr A Ravindra, advisor to the CM on urban issues, at the instance of the Bangalore Environment Trust (BET), on the matter of 'road-widening', on 23rd June, at the Vikas Soudha. Along with Dr Ravindra was his deputy Dr Ashwin Mahesh. Though the Commissioner had apparently been requested by Dr Ravindra to be present, along with some of his top officials, only a Superintending Engineer turned up, that too some half way through the meeting.

There were about 20 invitees, largely from Civil Society groups, including Capt Prabhala, Mr Govardhan, Mr Nityananda, Mr Devare from BET, Ms Kathyayini Chamaraj from Civic, Dr Harini Nagendra, a Doctor who is spear-heading the 'Sankey road widening opposition' movement, apart from yours truly representing Praja and Koramangala Initiative.

It started with Mr Nityananda of BET making a presentation, making out a case for widening, where need be, in a more tree-friendly way, citing examples of some specific roads.

The 2nd presentation was by Harini largely bringing out the relevance of avenue trees, backed by some scientific data, countering the opinion of certain experts that they should be confined to parks.

The 3rd presentation was by a lady from Basavanagudi (Ms Sumathy - if I got the name right), who, after introducing herself as an ordinary citizen with no expertise in any field, did an excellent job of pointing out the futility of the present spate of road-widening, citing the specific case of the Tagore circle under-pass project, as an example.

I found an opportunity to add that, if some arterial roads have necessarily to be widened, the jobs have to be engineered properly, like in the case of the Vittal Mallya road, and quite unlike the new airport road, more particularly the stretch between Hebbal and High grounds police station. In addition, I stated that due consideration should be given in the design to pedestrians, cyclists and other non-motorised forms of vehicles. Here, I went on to cite my experience as I was heading for the meeting - check http://praja.in/en/blog/murali772/2010/06/23/forced-jay-walking. I also brought up the matter of the authorities not touching the shrines springing up all over, even as the mute trees were targeted first in the widening process. I then went on to question the logic behind widening of the Hosur road stretch near the NDRI, felling all the beautiful trees there, when there was no guarantee that the army was going to be giving land on the stretch adjoining the Bangalore Military School. How does it help to have so-called corridors where you have a few wide stretches interspersed by a number of bottle-necks? I had of course to add that while there have been claims of BMTC's services having improved in the recent past, there are limitations to government monopolies, and they should consider licensing private operators, at least for the much needed last mile connectivity, for which I myself have put in an application. Lastly, I added that PRAJA has drawn up a comprehensive feasibility report for Commuter Rail Services, which will be published within a week, and the government should consider this seriously, it being amongst the most cost-effective of solutions compared to the various options under consideration now.

The Doctor (from Sankey road assn) endorsed most of what I said, adding besides the problems the four schools along the Sankey road are going to be faced with with the road widening. He stated that everything was fine with the road till such time as the poorly designed Cauvery theatre under-pass came up. He added that all that was called for was good junction design.

Kathyayini raised a whole lot of legal and policy issues, including the question of the legitimacy of holding such meetings.

Dr Ravindra readily conceded that there was no legitimacy to the meet, and that they had convened the meet only at the request of BET. Besides, all that they can do is to convey the feelings of the group to the CM, as also the Mayor.  

Dr Ashwin Mahesh added that if things could be got done through the elected representatives alone, which undoubtedly is the most legitimate route, they needn't be there in the picture at all. Here, the Doctor ( from Sankey assn) intervened to say that neither their MLA nor their Corporators were responsive. Both Dr Ravindra and Dr Ashwin Mahesh then emphasised on the need to convince the elected representatives, since after all, they were the ultimate authority in a democracy.

The meeting concluded with an offer by Dr Ravindra to try and organise a meeting for the group with the CM, and Mayor, at the earliest.

The above notes are my version of the proceedings. Others present may add their views, and the Janata is of course welcome to comment.

Muralidhar Rao

 

Comments

idontspam's picture

Thanks

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 Lastly, I added that PRAJA has drawn up a comprehensive feasibility report for Commuter Rail Services, which will be published within a week, and the government should consider this seriously, it being amongst the most cost-effective of solutions compared to the various options under consideration now.

Thank you, much appreciated. 

idontspam's picture

Elected Reps & solutions - oxymoron

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Dr Ashwin Mahesh added that if things could be got done through the elected representatives alone, which undoubtedly is the most legitimate route, they needn't be there in the picture at all. 

The competency of elected representatives to take up anything intelligent needs to be definitely questioned. They either do not understand where the city needs to go and how it needs to be or they dont care. Either way they are stuck on cheap politicking or making money to recover election expenditure. How many elected representatives have conducted such public hearings on issues. I havent seen one in Ward 19 where all citizens have been asked to participate and issues gathered. Sanjaynagar main road lies in disrepair for more than a year.

The nature of politics in this country needs to change if we are to expect our elected representatives at any level to take up issues of such importance. Without strategic thinking they will be reduced to transactional town criers. Which also they dont do well these days, How many corporators have gone to BBMP spandana and picked up the complaints relevant to their wards and followed up?

Elected representatives shouldnt be expected to design solutions. They place requirements of the people in appropriate forums and get it executed to the satisfaction of the constituency they serve. Civic society participates in solutions as a part of stating requirements with ideas of how they expect the requirements to manifest itself on ground. There are pan constituency requirements that may need the civic society to place demands directly with the executors and designers. 

vmenon's picture

what about people's lifes

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That the road widening exceicise of 216 roads is an illiinformed decision , I do niot think there can be a doubt.

Especially as mobilty and transport excericse , especailly there are oprions such as commuter rail, amongst a whole host of other options.

However, as green and tree loving I might be, I do not see the argument of trees lost as any principle argument. 

A thought and a serious one at that needs to be on lives and livelhoods lost.It is no different from a "narmada dam" non rehabilation excercise or a SEZ displacement of farmers without adequate compensation.And compensation to mean not real estate value but a cost of displacing lives.

Our legal framework for this kind of compemsation excercis is woefully inadequete, arising from I think ,a societal apathy  for the human life.

Trees can ber replanted , green cover can be brought back.Not so lives and livlihoods.

vijayan menon 

 

     

Naveen's picture

Always a battle for nothing

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Mr Menon

We do have examples such as BMRC - they have given fair compensations including inconvenience allowances, etc in addition to real estate values, isn't it ? Most of the effected people have surrendered land without a murmur. The problem is who does the weighing exercise & will such assessed values be accepted by those effected. Take CMH rd shopkeepers assn. Nothing had seemed acceptable to them. So, do we accept their demands as just or do we think of the city, at large ?

Is the individual's land more important than overall benefit to society or do we keep demanding that the individual is to be placed before the city /state or nation ?

It's just that every time the question of land acquisition comes up for any public cause, it immediately begins to take political connotations with politicians, social workers, media, etc etc aligning themselves on opposite sides for a needless battle.

I agree that in many cases, there is the question of the inadequacy of the whole network that assesses & distributes compensation  comco, no doubt, but then it's only that that needs to be improved. Our society needlessly worries too much for those effected even when compensations have been fair & just.

I believe that I can comment on this since our farm land was also lost for a public cause, but with fair compensation (in Mangalore).

psaram42's picture

Ultimate authority

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“Dr Ravindra readily conceded that there was no legitimacy to the meet, and that they had convened the meet only at the request of BET. "


There is no ultimate authority in a democracy. The elected representatives have a moral responsibility for fulfilling the aspirations of the people they represent. In short we get what we disserve.  

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