How are you doing? Hope all is well with you. Things haven’t been going so great with me for a month now, as I have been bedridden after being injured on a faulty footpath. But that’s another conversation for another time.
I write to you today because of a tweet by the BBMP Commissioner that caught my eye about a week ago. B H Anil Kumar tweeted that the Palike had identified 35 junctions in the city for “beautification” to raise the standards of Bengaluru.
The Mayor of Bengaluru, Gautam Kumar, then elucidated that the idea was to turn us into a world-class city with these improvements. The estimated cost of this project is Rs 100 crore. “The redevelopment of these junctions will also ease the flow of traffic in Bengaluru. All these junctions will have beautiful artwork, sculptures, and greenery,” said the Mayor.
A facelift worthy of a global city. It is a fabulous idea and it is great we didn’t even wait for the state visit by a US President to spruce ourselves up. You ought to be applauded for taking the initiative.
I have a few questions about it though.
What do you mean by beautification? Who are the artistic minds who will help with it? How long will it take? And is it synergised with the other major projects you are planning for the city?
The thing is, while it all sounds very fancy, the details seem to be somewhat lacking. And the devil is always in the details. Beautification can mean a lot of things. I personally love the idea of creating Miyawaki forests in these junctions as was done at Cantonment. The design pattern released for Chalukya Circle also looks impressive – but on paper.
Imagine 35 of the busiest junctions in Bengaluru – including Mysore Bank, Chalukya Circle, Minerva Circle, Anil Kumble Circle – all being done up! The mere thought of disrupted traffic is enough to make me shudder.
Anybody who has had remodelling done in their homes will tell you, it isn’t for the faint-hearted. The chaos that ensues before, during and after the project can turn Nirupa Roy to Lalitha Pawar. And this is after you have finalised the details of how you want things. But here, we haven’t seen any other details except the names of the 35 junctions. Don’t mind me pointing this out, but your planning needs a little attention.
And remember the last time you tried to beautify Bengaluru?
That was in 2011. In May of 2011, BBMP tied up with CREDAI (Confederation of Real Estate Developers’ Associations of India) to develop and maintain 60 traffic junctions in the city. The then-Deputy Mayor of the city, S Harish, who spearheaded the project, wanted it to be reminiscent of art one would see through the winding lanes of Europe.
BBMP had identified 198 junctions and asked CREDAI members to choose from these. The consortium chose 60 junctions to beautify, develop and maintain. By October 2011, the plan fell through, the partnership went sour and nothing came of it. Five reminders from BBMP, and none of the CREDAI members responded.
But by then, in July 2011, you had tied up with Bharati Cements for four junctions – Mekhri Circle, Chalukya Circle, Race Course Road, and Millers’ Road near Cantonment. Designed by a single artist, the structures were meant to represent Bengaluru. There was no expert panel of artists who looked into the “beautification”, and the project and art were approved by corporators who were part of the Standing Committee for Major works.
Each of the cement structures cost approximately Rs 2 crore (which was paid by the the private company). The four structures – prancing horses at Race Course; modern art at Chalukya Circle; cement statues of children holding hands around a cement tree stump asking us to protect the green (oh the irony!). The last junction – Cantonment Circle – gave us art that is truly beyond my powers of description. There is an elephant which has a rhino perched on its back, upon which there is a turtle; and on top of the turtle is a bird. There’s also a panther/cheetah(?) sitting atop the elephant. It has been eight years, and we still haven’t figured out what was being represented.
When the statues were unveiled in May of 2012, famous artists in the city – the likes of Balan Nambiar, Gurudas Shenoy and M S Murthy – were scathing in their criticism of this “beautification”.
Have you learnt any lessons from this previous experience? Well I guess we will have to wait and see.
While I applaud the ambition, I have to question your priorities. As a city that often makes an appearance on the global map, there are standards that Bengaluru needs to maintain.
Of course it does.
But changing your curtains won’t help if your roof is leaking. We have some serious fundamental problems that need to be sorted. And 100 crore is a lot of money. I have to wonder if our list of to-do-things are upside down.