Our first conversation with Vijayan Menon from Citizen Action Forum about the proposed steel flyover had raised a very valid point about the context of the project. Why was it only about getting to the airport? What about the people who live in the vicinity of the major choke points – Hebbal, Mekhri Circle etc? What did they want?
So we sat down with the President of Hebbal Sarovar Layout Resident Welfare Association, Vijay Kumar Saya to find out about the local sentiment. A resident of North Bengaluru, the elderly man has lived and worked in the area for the last thirty years. He started by saying “I honestly don’t think the problem of traffic congestion in my area will be solved by the steel flyover. It will only move the congestion from point A to point B. I would be more inclined to a metro line on the stretch which will carry more people have work as a more long term solution.”
However Saya was quick to point out that he is a minority voice. “If you talk to a majority of us in the areas that surround the choke points, they will want the flyover. Not because they believe it to be the best solution, but because they are frustrated with the amount of time it takes for us to navigate even the shortest of distances. An hour of travel in any direction for any distance is normal. There were many of us who were vehemently opposed to the project when it was announced two years ago. But today there are people in that group who have changed their stance, because we are fed up. The MLAs and MPs are also in agreement that we need the project to make life easier for North Bangaloreans”
Interestingly, while the steel flyover does not specifically talk about easing traffic for the people living in the area around the choke points (it is touted as a solution to those traveling to KIAL), people hope that with it the traffic going towards the airport will move onto the flyover allowing the at grade road with a little more space for those residents around.
But with the public narrative dominated by those opposing the steel flyover, where do the residents of North Bengaluru see their interests being represented at the table of public opinion? Have they spoken to those who have been leading the protests? “It isn’t about them approaching us to talk. We also can do the same and have spoken to them as well. But all of us will not agree,” signs off Saya.