Roadwidening stuck at the High Court

Over the last few weeks the state government, BBMP and city officials have been dilly-dallying over roadwidening in Bengaluru. The project itself has spurred a number of protests across the city and has also resulted in the forming of several associations and groups to jointly fight this.

Former Mayor P R Ramesh filed a petition in the High Court in December 2009. File photo.

But if you thought it was only public outrage that was stopping the city administration from carrying out roadwidening work, here’s the real story.

Over 100 roads, notified for roadwidening, are actually stonewalled because of an ongoing case in the Karnataka High Court (HC). This is the infamous ‘midnight tenders’ case wherein former mayor P R Ramesh (Congress) and others filed a petition in the HC in December 2009. Ramesh filed the case against the Urban Development Department (UDD), BBMP, BBMP’s Special Commissioner (Projects) and BBMP’s Engineer-in-Chief. Interestingly, Ramesh contested for the city council elections earlier this year from Vishveshvarapuram (Ward 143) and lost to S Anil Kumar (BJP).

September 23rd 2009 notification.(click on image to enlarge)

The case entered the High Court amidst the BBMP council elections drama, when the corporation approved tenders for some of its projects ahead of announcing the election schedule.

One of the projects in the ‘midnight tender’ was strengthening, widening, asphalting of selected arterial/sub-arterial roads. For this, the BBMP issued an invitation for pre-qualification of contractors on September 23rd 2009. (See photo).  On October 1st 2009, the BBMP announced a similar notice for widening and strengthening of a different set of arterial roads in what it termed ‘old BMP area’. (See photo)

October 1st 2009 notification.(click on image to enlarge)

Why did P R Ramesh go to court?

  •   Tenders were called for even before the Detailed Project Reports (DPR) were placed before the state cabinet for approval. In the absence of a DPR, rates quoted by bidders are likely to be ‘imaginary’
  •   The UDD was then delaying the BBMP elections, with the sole intention of taking up several civil works in the absence of an elected body in BBMP
  •   The UDD violated provisions in both the Karnataka Municipal Corporations (KMC) Act, 1976 and Karnataka Transparency in Public Procurement Act, 1999
  •   Rule 17 of the Transparency Rules specifies the minimum time for submission of tenders. For tenders up to Rs 2 crores in value, 30 days. For tenders in excess of Rs 2 crores, 60 days. Any reduction in time has to be specifically authorized by an authority superior to the tender-inviting authority for reasons to be recorded in writing. However, the BBMP gave only 30 days time in the September 23rd notification, and only 22 days time in its October 1st notification, thereby violating the Transparency Act
  •   Rule 10 of the Transparency Rules says that for projects over Rs 10 crores, a notice shall be published in the Indian Trade Journal, which has not been done for any of these projects
  •   The projects envisaged are far in excess of budget available. With an annual income of only Rs 600 crores and pending bills, the BBMP virtually has no money to start the projects
  •   Foundation stone for the work has been laid even before the expiry of time fixed for tender submission

The case itself is likely to conclude within a week. The court order will then determine the BBMP’s next course of action with regard to these mega projects.

23 roads being widened

Meanwhile, the BBMP has started widening work on 23 arterial and sub-arterial roads which are not caught up in the HC case. This work has been taken up under grants given by the state government. These 23 roads are being widened at a total cost of Rs 110 crores. See the complete list here.

Tenders for these roads were awarded much before the other projects landed up in the High Court. Work began six months back and is expected to be completed in the next one year.

The state government and BBMP are however continuing to mull over the overall direction for roadwidening itself. In recent media reports Mayor S K Nataraj was quoted saying roadwidening work will not be carried out in the city. This was immediately countered by district-in charge minister R Ashoka’s (also state transport minister) statements contradicting what the mayor said. Ashoka reportedly said that roadwidening is necessary and will not be stalled.

Mayor S K Nataraj remains non-committal about the BBMP’s road-widening plans. File photo.

With no clear and formal order from either the state government or the BBMP, the public is not clear whom to believe and confusion looms over the status of widening the city roads.

Speaking to Citizen Matters, Mayor Nataraj maintains that roadwidening has been put on hold for now, but quashes media reports that suggested that the entire ‘project’ was shelved. The mayor maintains that the corporation will carry out roadwidening work in areas where least inconvenience will be caused to citizens. He, however, remains non-committal when asked about specifics.

BBMP Commissioner H Siddaiah echoes the mayor’s statements. He admits to the resistance they have been facing from residents in core areas. "In the newly-added areas, there hasn’t been much problem because very little acquisition is needed".

However, a top official in the corporation says they have not received any communication about roadwidening having been put on hold. The official, who spoke to Citizen Matters under the condition of anonymity, says roads that have been notified for widening in the Revised Master Plan (RMP) 2007 will be widened since they have already been approved by the state government. These are 216 roads in all.

BBMP Commissioner H Siddaiah.

On whether a public consultation will be held, following several protests against roadwidening, Mayor Nataraj says, "No work can be done without asking the public." For his part, Commissioner Siddaiah says the consultation is likely to take place, corridor-wise. He explains that these consultations will include those who are affected by roadwidening (whose property is marked for acquisition), town planners and urban experts. "If there are any alternatives which are viable options, we will consider", he says.

But then with the ongoing court case, the entire project is hanging in the air. Even as the city is protesting against roadwidening, there is actually little that the corporation can do right now.

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About Vaishnavi Vittal 139 Articles
Vaishnavi Vittal is a Bangalore-based journalist.

4 Comments

  1. The Times Of India is already on the job writing about each corporator.
    My locality Corporator, MLA and the Minister all belong to the ruling party. We have no avenue except this ePaper to vent our feelings and helplessness.The BBMP budget is full of glaring mistakes and false claims on funds which are impractical.
    The BBMP has committed large number of irregularities in building sanctions all these years and is now trying to encash on them from the same Public.

  2. The Mayor is non-committal about road widening plans because he and the 197 other (corporators benefit) from these plans. I hope Citizen Matters (CM) will do an investigative series on each of these 198 (corporators).

    This comment has been edited to conform to CM policy

  3. Did’nt realise Road-Widening tenders were stuck in court along with the midnight signal free corridor tenders. Good find!

  4. Thank you for bringing out this great news to the Public. This clearly shows how mean the Govt and its agencies are. The concerned ministers have no shame left to loot the public through unscientific Road widening Schemes and the Sakrama Scheme.Justice Hegde had clearly told about the nexus between politicians and Bureaucrats who brought the State of Karnataka as topmost in Corruption. The thousands of crores of money available through loans and from squeezing Public on illegal projcts, the politicians have become more and more thick skinned to understand the problems of the Public. At this rate the present Govt will not come to rule our state hereafter because of the increasing Public wrath.

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