On a sunny Sunday, members of the Bruhat Whitefield Residential Community Association stepped out on to the busy State Highway (SH) 35. Instead of watching a movie and spending time with their family, here they were, rolling their sleeves up and monitoring a road work.
Road work? Yes. Anyone who travels on the SH 35, that goes from Kadugodi to Hosakote would know the status of the road. The heavy rains during the last week of September unleashed havoc on this already spoilt road.
SH 35 is one of the busiest and densely trafficked roads of the city connecting peripheral areas like Hoskote to ITPL, Whitefield and Attibele. Though this road is known as State Highway, its maintenance doesn’t come under the jurisdiction of Karnataka State Highways Improvement Project (KSHIP). Instead the road is shared between two departments – BBMP Major Roads and Infrastructure Development and Public Work Department.
The 5-km stretch of the State Highway-35 from Seegehalli to Kattamanallur Gate falls under Public Work Department, while 3-km stretch of the road from Hope Farm Circle to Belathur part of the Kadugodi Ward is under Major Roads and Infrastructure Development Department, BBMP.
The community of residents nearby, who always bear the brunt of this bad road, under the banner of Bruhat Whitefield Residential Community Association (BWRCA) decided to take up the issue and get the road repaired.
So what does it take to set the ball rolling?
The fight to set these things right had actually started a few months ago. Manjunath Athrey of Samarpan and a group of people who met the Joint Commissioner of Mahadevpura, Devaraja requested him to fill up the potholes. “It gave a momentary relief, but after one heavy rain, the potholes were back. On realising that filling up of potholes doesn’t help much, we requested them to level the road again and the follow up began.”
Seetharam V S, Personal Assistant of R K Misra, founder of Navbharat political party, says, “First you need to find who is responsible for the work and then you connect the loops. In some cases it might work within a few days; sometimes it might take years, you need to push them till you get the results.”
“Fixing of footpaths, cleaning canals and removing encroachment along the road is a long-term planning which was promised to be included in the budget, which was eventually included and approved in this year’s budget,” says Ramasamy. These works are expected to start only from January 2014, as it still needs necessary approval from the councillors and tenders are yet to be passed.
What did it take to set BBMP in action?
Determination along with endless number of phone calls and networking helped them to set the BBMP in action, says Anantharaman Ramasamy, a resident of Chaitanya Samarpan and an active a member of the BWRCA. “For any community meetings to get people outside their homes, I need to make 250 calls. Most of the time I spent in meeting and talking to people, trying to get some work done.”
BWRCA drafted a memorandum asking BBMP and PWD to fix the bad condition of roads. It also highlighted the absence of footpaths and encroachment around the area. Signatures of 250 residents living along the stretch were taken. Appointments were fixed with the Secretary of PWD, Chikkarayappa, at Vikas Soudha and BBMP Chief Engineer of Major Roads and Infrastructure Development Somashekhar. The memorandum was submitted to the Secretary to Government, Public Works Department and Chief Engineer of Major Roads and Infrastructure Development, BBMP on Sep 21, 2013.
“We requested them to fix the road soon; the status from PWD was expected in 2 weeks from the date of Submission; BBMP Major Roads assured to include this in the budget.”
Somashekar mentioned that the necessary budget is allocated and will be presented for the council approval and will take upto January to get the work started. For the immediate relief, the Area Engineer responsible should take care, he added. Then the residents contacted AEE Dyanand and Area Engg Channakeshava, who also revealed the fund crunch within BBMP, says Ramasamy. However, assurance was given on starting the work within four days.
Finally BBMP starts working
Ramasamy requested a meeting with Channakeshava, inorder to tell him what is required to be done in the area. The meeting never took place, but one fine morning, on October 6, labourers were found repairing the road.
Seetharam immediately brought this to the notice of other members and R K Misra. R K Misra requested volunteers to monitor the work carried out on the road.
Manjunath Athrey of Samarpan was the first one to be there to monitor the work, along with Seetharam. Anantharaman, Jeydev, Sampath Ramanujam, Venureddy and members from Keerthi Residency were also there to monitor the progress.
The work started due to sheer pressure of the residents, stated the contractor, whose past payments are still due with the BBMP. He took assurance from the members of BWRCA, to make sure follow-up with the officials will be done so that he can get his payment.
PWD yet to start repairs
The fate of five-km road that falls under PWD is still hanging in balance. Because the properties along the road fall under BDA’s purview. BDA sanctions plan sanctions for these sites and takes betterment charges from them. “They are responsible for footpaths and drains along this road but fail to carry out work on account of ‘no funds’,” says Ramasamy. However, anything related to road – be it a construction work or repair work, it falls under PWD.
However, PWD is not responsible for the construction of storm water drains beside the road. this comes under BDA, therefore PWD after construction of road leaves the edges of the road as it is.
The residents followed up with Ramesh, Executive Engineer of Bangalore division, who promised to get back after 15 minutes. Promptly after 15 minutes, they got a call from Anand, Assistant Engineer of PWD, responsible for Whitefield area. He assured them that further meetings will be organised with his superiors.
Couple of months back, a meeting held at the Panchayat office along with the Assistant engineer of PWD, President of Panchayat and Development officer highlighted two problems that delay the work: Encroachments along the road and the lack of money. “However we believe that the PWD will get into action soon. There is a lot to do. But we have taken the first good step,” says Ramasamy.
‘When Govt fails to deliver, people should take charge’
R K Misra, an urban reforms campaigner and one of the influential leaders in the city, is the biggest support for BWRCA. “I just supported them and got them the necessary appointments. It was the efforts of the community that came together to take this work in hand,” says a modest Misra.
“When government fails to deliver its responsibility, people need to engage themselves with the government. Unfortunately people have to come out of their work place and get things done.”
Being critical of the city’s governance, he says, “Nobody pays attention to the requirement of the work and its cost.” Budget releases only 25% of the actual cost of the work.” He believes that the bureaucrats, politicians, councillors – all fail to think rationally, while engineers who have the expertise are overloaded with work and have no powers.
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