However, the BBMP insists that they are following the rules. “RMP (Revised Master Plan) has been developed by BDA. We are not required to do consultation with the people. The three MLAs have been consulted, discussions are over. Along with them we’ve inspected the spot,” says BBMP chief engineer (Major Roads) T N Chikkarayappa.
While asked if they have taken their complaints to the three MLAs – Narendra Babu (Mahalakshimipura), Suresh Kumar (Rajajinagar), Ashwath Narayanan (Malleshwaram) – in whose constituencies the road passes through, the protesters say, “They are least bothered.” The Citizen’s Forum claims it has approached the MLAs and has even met with Ashwath Narayanan, who assured them that he would look into the matter.
The three MLA’s were not available for comments.
The Revised Master Plan2015 prepared by the BDA suggests that the road width be increased by 3m; locals believe, based on the BDA’s assessment, that this should be sufficient to solve traffic problems.
The BBMP’s plan is to build a signal free corridor. (The initial plan was to build an elevated expressway. This was scrapped.) The signal free corridor is not included in the BDA plans, only road widening is.
In 2008-09, the BBMP was taken to court by the Environmental Support Group and Hasiru Usiru for irregularities in the BBMP process for road widening. In a statement released then by ESG, they had said, “BBMP failed to comply with planning provisions, statutory public consultation requirements or even standards for safe road design.”
The PIL alleged that trees were felled in violation of the Karnataka Preservation of Trees Act, and that the BBMP seemed to, “arrogate a right for the private motor car over all other modes of travel, thereby extinguishing many fundamental rights.”
The Karnataka High Court, in its interim verdict in July 2008, instituted a review committee for the projects. In its verdict on 16 March 2009, the court ruled that the BBMP must adhere to the provisions of Karnataka Town and Country Planning Act and the Karnataka Preservation of Trees Act in its road widening projects.
The verdict, in effect, applies to the road widening project along Dr Rajkumar Road as well. As a result, if the BBMP continues with its plans for demolition, the protesters feel they have a strong case for contempt.
Road widening is turning into a highly emotive issue in the area. It is also in danger of turning into a standoff between the old and the new residents of the road.
“BBMP is only doing to ensure that the big malls coming up on RKR, it will help them directly,” alleges Kumar. Narasimha adds that the theatres, mall, swimming pools, over a thousand apartments, and large office space are, “for high living people”. “For those people’s sake, it is worth to kill the middle class man?” he asks.
CSG claims that since authorities are not forthcoming on information, they are using the RTI to build information, as they try to establish a connection between BBMP’s road development plans and possible irregularities in new constructions along the road. They allege large scale corruption and are trying to collect proof to substantiate their charges.
Allegations of foul play and intimidation are also made. CSG narrates that they received a threatening phone call for having asked for information under RTI, about the Occupation Certificate issued to the Brigade group. They claim that in early February, they were asked to, “Mind your own business,” by someone pretending to be from the BBMP.
While Chikkarayappa dismissed these allegations as “baseless,” Citizen Matters’ phone calls and email to representatives of the Brigade Group received no response.
“We are not against them,” Narasimha claims, while adding that they are only seeking answers. He says, “We don’t want to create problems for others, we are law abiding citizens. But as a mark of protest (against the entire project), we would like to have a silent, peaceful, non violent dharna, with the consent of authorities.”
Citizens believe that the project is on hold until after the BBMP elections. However, there is a feeling of uncertainty among the locals, and the rhetoric is high. Suresh Chandra, also a core member of CSG says, “We don’t want to trouble the government, we will trouble ourselves with fasting.”
About 200 people and properties are expected to be affected. Suresh also warns, “If the government continues with demolition, there are many small owners and aged owners who are ready to attempt for suicides.
“If at all we fail, in Rajkumar Road, we will never vote again,” Chandra says. ⊕