On April 30, Chief Minister D Sadananda Gowda laid the foundation stone for Bengaluru’s much contested Agara-St John’s signal free corridor. A few Koramangala residents assembled and protested at the event, but were appeased by Gowda who promised to hold a discussion with them on 5th May.
In December, CM had held a meeting with residents and BDA, but there was no outcome except that work was suspended for a short while.
In the meanwhile, two major institutions in Koramangala – St John’s Hospital and Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA) – may lose part of their land to BDA for this Agara-Sirsi Circle signal free corridor project. BDA plans to acquire this land for building a flyover and underpass at the St John’s Hospital junction.
BDA commits perjury?
A Public Interest Litigation(PIL) filed by Citizen’s Action Forum (CAF), Koramangala residents and others, challenging BDA’s project is already in the High Court of Karnataka. BDA had started work in four Koramangala junctions – St John’s hospital, Krupanidhi, Koramangala 80 ft road and Jakkasandra junctions, initially saying minimal or no land acquisition would be required along this stretch.
The High Court had ordered on February 27th that digging work should be stopped until work contracts were given. BDA filed its written objections on March 20th saying that it had already issued Work Orders (WOs) for the four junctions. Court noted this in its second order on March 28th, leaving BDA free to continue digging work. In the objections, BDA also said that no land acquisition was required.
But three days later, on March 31st, BDA shot off letters to Indian Institute of Astrophysics and St John’s hospital at the Madiwala end of Sarjapur road, saying land had to be acquired from them. IIA will lose about 384 sq m of land. From St John’s, 2067 sq m land will be acquired, most of it from along the IRR side.
The PIL petitioners have already pointed out that BDA’s action amounts to perjury. Sajan Poovayya, lawyer for the petitioners, says that this warrants a case in itself. "A separate criminal case can be filed against BDA for the offence of perjury. But our focus is on the original issue of grade separators, so we may not pursue the perjury case," he says.
Dr Radhakrishnan, CAF member and President of Koramangala 3rd block RWA, says that they plan to file an affidavit in court at the next hearing. This is scheduled for May 29th; though petitioners tried to get an earlier hearing citing perjury, the court did not grant this.
Also, there were no arguments in the two hearings so far. The court merely took note of petitioners’ and BDA’s submissions and issued very brief rulings, one issuing a stay, and the second one lifting it.
Work to start right away
BDA Engineer Member T N Chikkarayappa says that work would begin by May 2nd. An official at Nagarjuna Construction Company (NCC) – which has the contract for the project – says that construction work itself would start in full swing at all junctions by May 4th or 5th. "In two junctions – Krupanidhi College and St John’s – we first have to shift utilities like water lines. In Jakkasandra and 80 ft road junctions work can start right away," he says.
St John’s and IIA managements have not yet decided on further course of action. St John’s management is in talks with BDA. Chikkarayappa says that BDA is ready to offer alternate land, financial compensation or TDR as per the management’s requirement.
IIA Director Prof S S Hasan is reserving his comments until a report is out from CiSTUP (Centre for Infrastructure, Sustainable Transport and Urban Planning) of IISc. BDA itself had entrusted CiSTUP to prepare a report on the project as residents had been opposing it. This report is expected to be out this week. Chikkarayappa says that IIA should have no issue giving up the land as it is a government body.
On why BDA is acquiring land now, Chikkarayappa says that acquisition is only minimal. "As road width is not uniform throughout, small stretches of land may be acquired. This should not be an issue."
Petitioners suspect technical approval compromised
While the PIL had said that the project was arbitrary and not well thought-out, BDA had countered this saying that experts had approved the project. (The project was initially with BBMP and then transferred to BDA by a government order.)
In March at the court, BDA submitted minutes of both BBMP’s and BDA’s Technical Advisory Committees (TAC) meetings that ‘approved’ the project. TACs comprise independent experts and government officials.
The BBMP’s TAC meeting was in December 2009, and the minutes say that both the concept and DPR (Detailed Project Report) of the entire project was approved. But neither the BBMP nor the BDA are able to produce a copy of that DPR for the citizens. Citizens also filed an RTI application with the BBMP to no avail.
After taking over, the BDA held its own TAC meeting in September 2010. In its minutes submission to the court, BDA says four separate DPRs for the four Koramangala projects were presented and approved. But oddly enough Dr C E G Justo, one of the five TAC members who attended the meeting, signed the minutes document only in June 2011, nine months after the meeting.
It gets even more mysterious. BDA’s TAC had approved the works on the condition that a new traffic survey would be held. This approval was not based on DPRs, but only the project concept. The concepts were approved ‘in principle’.
However, BDA’s voluminous 700-odd-page DPR of November 2010 does show traffic numbers for the four junctions. When residents contested these numbers, BDA commissioned a fresh survey in September 2011.
The second survey’s numbers completely contradicted original traffic numbers in the DPR, a fact reported by Citizen Matters earlier. This is especially for Krupanidhi college and the Inner Ring Road intersections. This contradiction would have required the BDA to review the project as originally planned, argue citizens.
Instead the BDA continued to work on the project as it was. The only change that was made was increasing the width of proposed service road in St John’s junction by 2 m.
Citizens filed this as an objection in the court. BDA has not responded to this in its filings. ⊕