11th May 2008. Heaps of mud, broken dividers with mud all over, main road dug up, traffic badly hit and people anxiously waiting to see things change. This was the intersection of J P Nagar’s 15th Cross Ring Road, a critical artery in south Bangalore, and the 24th Main Road, and the scene of a magic underpass construction.
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The notice board put up by Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagar Palike (BBMP) mentioned that the construction will finish by February 2009.
Eight months later, the scene looks exactly the same.
The magic seems to have faded even before the underpass comes into existence. People are still facing exactly the same problems. Traffic is still getting affected. 15th Cross-Ring Road remains blocked and vehicles have to take a longer detour to reach the other side of J P Nagar. The only thing that looks resolved is the matter of land acquisition: no land is to be taken from the residents.
On the morning of my visit, it looked like no work was happening. There was no engineer on site at around 11 AM. The workers in the bulldozers and rollers were taking a nap.
Vehicles are forced to jump over the broken dividers to come to the other side of the road and this, not by will. Traffic constables standing on the spot are directing all the vehicles to go over the divider. The two traffic constables who are standing at 15th Cross are also clueless about the project and say, “We are on this special duty because there were lots of traffic jams and people could not commute easily.”
A couple of months back, B. N. Vijaykumar, MLA (BJP), Jayanagar constituency, visited this site after a resident complained about the inconvenience caused by the never ending project. Vijaykumar was shocked and said, “The underpass was supposed to have been 80 percent complete by now according to the plan, but on the site it was not even 20 per cent done.”
He explained that an Andhra Pradesh-based engineering company was doing the work which had further outsourced it to a private contractor who is not fully equipped to undertake this construction. “I could see that the contractor was totally incompetent and would not be able to finish this work ever. I had requested the chief minister to come but he sent transport minister R Ashok to visit the site. The minister had given them a deadline of 10th February to complete at least 80 per cent of the work, and 30th June for total completion. But I am sure they will not be able to meet the deadlines because they are incompetent. They neither have enough workers nor equipments to finish this work,” he reacted with irritation.
In response the numerous complains from the MLA and the residents, A.K. Gopalswamy, engineer-in-chief, BBMP, said that he doesn’t think that there was much delay in the completion of the project. “We are just a little behind the scheduled time.” According to him all this delay was mainly because “we could not get a proper contractor.”
He further explains, “The contractor we earlier assigned this to was inefficient and so we had to give it to another contractor. The project will be completed by the end of June 2009.” Asked about the 10th February deadline given by the minister, he says that it was not a feasible deadline and “we took some grace period from them.” As far as the inconvenience is concerned, “some inconvenience is unavoidable, we cannot take up any construction otherwise,” he explains. This, according to him, is one of the major projects in the city and has been given high priority. “People should have some patience,” he adds.
People, as ever, are keeping their patience levels high but how long will they be waiting remains a question. While BBMP claims that the project will be done by 30th June 2009, the MLA has his own doubts. The residents remain clueless. The situation is not just the plight of one region. As more underpasses and new constructions are coming up in the rest of the city, Bangaloreans face similar problems everywhere. ⊕