Confusion continues to loom over the status of road widening projects in Bengaluru. Recent media reports suggested that all road widening projects in the city were put on hold, after a statement made by Transport Minister R Ashoka. The Minister later backtracked saying that work on only the Mysore Road-Central Silk Board corridor will be stalled.
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Citizen Matters reconfirmed this with Ashoka who says, “I don’t know how many road widening projects have been stopped. I don’t have exact number. In JP Nagar we have stopped”. He went on to state that this project has been temporarily suspended because of objections from residents of Bangalore South, adding, “When we get objections we’ll stop the work”.
In contrast, BBMP’s Chief Engineer (Major Roads) T N Chikkarayappa, says the project has not been stalled. “No road widening project has been stopped. We have not received any order to stop the work in JP Nagar. Everything will go on as scheduled”.
Chikkarayappa says that even he received objections from citizens about road-widening in JP Nagar, which he then forwarded to the BBMP Commissioner. He also says that the BBMP submitted a report more than a month ago to the Chief Minister, stating the reasons for road-widening along this corridor. “We have said that the project is required because of the volume of traffic. It’s more than 7000 PCU”.
Chikkarayappa goes on to say that the BBMP will soon begin sending TDR (Transfer of Development Rights – Through the TDR scheme, the government offers compensation to the public in return to acquiring property for an infrastructure project. This scheme is meant to be optional. The land acquisition is done through the Karnataka Land Acquisition Act) notices to residents across this corridor, a total of 926 in all. On asking why the BBMP is not waiting until the Chief Minister’s Office responded to the BBMP report, he says, “Which project have people not objected to? No one wants to lose their property. We have not received any order from higher-ups to stop work”.
JP Nagar and Jayanagar MLA B N Vijaykumar, however, also states that this road-widening project has been temporarily suspended. Speaking to Citizen Matters, he says that the BBMP Commissioner Bharat Lal Meena has “partially agreed” to stop this project. “We had a meeting with the resident welfare associations, Ananth Kumar (Lok Sabha MP for Bangalore South), Ashoka and BBMP Commissioner. We have told the BBMP to first finish the two underpasses (at Puttenahalli and Kadirenahalli), by then Metro also will come, then if there is a requirement we’ll see”, he says.
Referring to the same meeting with Ananth Kumar (that took place on January 5th 2010), Dr D B Muendi, President, JP Nagar Citizens’ Association, says that the the leaders agreed to look at alternative possibilities. “The so-called TDR that they have proposed, it’s not working. It is not beneficial to people”, he says, adding that none of the residents in his locality have so far received notices from the BBMP. Muendi himself has a marking of 7.5 metres on his wall, indicating the proposed acquisition of the front portion of his Ring Road property.
Manoj Kumar, Manager of My Baby Store (located on the JP Nagar Ring Road) says it is a good thing that road widening will not be taken up. “This is a newly started shop. If they widen the road, then no one will come”, he says pointing to the eventual possibility of grade separators coming up and harming his business.
On August 31st 2009, at a public meeting (read Citizen Matters report here) organised by JP Nagar/BTM Layout’s Ring Road Property Owners’ Association, Chikkarayappa had assured the residents that the BBMP will not carry on with the demolition immediately and will think over this project before taking any steps. He had said, "I will certainly talk to higher authorities and people in the government to think over this project and come to an amicable decision." Rajavardhane, Special Technical Advisor to the Commissioner, BBMP, had also said demolishing personal property wasn’t right. He further added that, "I will certainly provide alternatives to the commissioner but the final call is that of the government”.
Even as the BBMP’s engineering department and the state government seem out of sync, Ashoka stresses on the need to have signal-free roads, and says that underpasses and flyovers will be constructed on ring roads without road widening. But the politician in him is quick to add, “On the other arterial roads the projects will go on. If we get objections we won’t do”. ⊕