Saaku — Enough Is enough–residents stage protest walk to reclaim Malleswaram

CITIZENS WALK IN PROTEST

Malleshwaram residents protest walk
18th Cross Bus Stand, starting point of the #Saaku walk. Pic credit: Ajay Ghatge

Walking on the streets of namma Bengaluru is an adventure in itself. Not a road left untouched and footpaths non-existent or in disarray; all in the name of development.

On March 6th, 2022, to highlight the multiple problems residents are facing because of the unending work on their roads and other infrastructure for months and years, residents of Ward 45, Malleswaram took to the streets to conduct a peaceful walk called #SAAKU walk. The half kilometre walk was from Malleswaram bus stand at 18th cross to 11th cross, 4th Main.

Here is what the residents of Malleswaram did:

The problem

There is practically no road in Malleswaram that is not dug up. BBMP, BWSSB, BESCOM, and even private telecom companies feel free to dig up any road at any time. When we leave our homes, we have no idea which roads are open and which roads to avoid.

Road blocked due to excavation on 18th Cross road, Malleshwaram
Vehicles navigating the 15-foot deep holes dug on 18th Cross road, Malleshwaram. Pic credit: Krishna Panyam

Earlier, we used to ask children and seniors not to venture outside the house as the roads were unsafe for them. But now the roads are impassable even for healthy adults. Pavements are in such poor condition that walking has become an obstacle course for residents. While dust from the works and all the rubble lying around makes it extremely hard for those with respiratory problems.

The ground reality:

  • Practically every road in Malleswaram is in very bad shape.
  • Sankey Tank, the only large lung space in the area, has been inaccessible to senior citizens or people with disabilities for much of the pandemic period, and is still not ready.
  • Many people are worried about the construction work going in the 18th Cross grounds which is used by a large number of people from Malleswaram and surrounding areas.
  • Margosa road was under construction for years, causing serious hardship. When it was finally completed, we found that the ramps were unusable, making the footpaths inaccessible to senior citizens.
  • Now BBMP is taking up works on Sampige road, which will take at least two years to complete, based on our past experience.
  • Both 17th and 18th cross, the main east-west transit routes, are under repair.
  • Bus traffic from Sampige is being diverted to 4th main, which is a residential street and had also been dug up recently.
  • The narrow 8th Main road is already crowded with vehicles, which will now become even worse, with the additional traffic diverted from Sampige road.
Open manhole on 13th Cross road Malleshwaram
Open manholes on 13th Cross road Malleshwaram—apparently manhole covers “are not available”. Pic credit: Aparna Desraj Urs

Read more: How roads are built in Bengaluru. Or not


Saaku: Enough Is enough

A few days ago some of us had had enough and started the process to organise the March 6th walk. This was precipitated by the authorities starting work on both 17th cross and 18th cross simultaneously and without any warning.

On March 5th, there was a Ward 45 committee meeting held at RTO, Yeshwantpur. Officials of BBMP, BWSSB, traffic police, ex-corporators of wards 45/65, and multiple representatives of the MLA’s office were present. Having sensed the anger of the residents at the state of things in Malleswaram, they were making half-hearted attempts to improve the situation.

For example, we were promised that the 17th cross road will be made ready in five days, and one half of the road will be open for use all the way through. We were shown one large poster with details of the project being executed, contact numbers, etc. These were displayed at the site, tut on a flex board (which is not allowed officially)!

Dug up road on 17th Cross road, Malleshwaram
Malleshwaram 17th Cross road has been closed for weeks now. Pic credit: Krishna Panyam

The MLA’s office has been in touch, and we were requested to stop the March 6th event. The excuse used was that media attention will cause official trouble to the BBMP/ BESCOM engineers who are doing the work.

We in Malleswaram Social have worked closely with many BBMP, BWSSB, and other officials. and always appreciate those who do good work. We want to make it clear that the walk was not about any one particular project, or any agency. It was to bring awareness among residents, and to bring a change to the system of how municipal agencies do things. BBMP and others must engage with residents, and keep them informed about works being planned.


Read more: “Revamp the entire system of road repairs – Why wait for rains?”


First walk draws encouraging response

It was heartening to see how many people turned up for the walk at Malleswaram 18th cross bus stand. Everyone had their own issues, but the common theme was that we can not let the situation continue in the same manner. Many residents made their own placards. We estimate that there were between 80 and 100 residents at the starting point.

From the bus stand we walked toward the corner of 18th cross and 4th main, and then turned left along 4th main. We paused at the major culvert at 17th cross which has caused the road to be closed for weeks now. We then walked up to the MLA’s office near 11th cross. Once we reached there, some residents spoke for a few minutes each to give their perspective on the issues bothering them.

Seeing the enthusiastic response, we decided to make this a recurring event. Given the concern about the fate of the 18th cross grounds, we decided that the March 13th walk would focus on that location. At this point, police officers came over and asked us to disperse. We then left our placards at the gate of the MLA’s office and left.

Residents placed placards at MLA  gate Dr Ashwath Narayana office gate
Placards left outside the Malleshwaram Constituency MLA Dr Ashwath Narayana’s office after the walk. Pic: Ajay Ghatge

Residents understand that most of these projects are necessary. But the lack of planning in executing these works is apparent to everyone. There is no consultation with residents. The authorities do not even inform residents about what is planned. The BBMP ward committee meetings do not happen on schedule, and when they happen, there is no information on ongoing projects. The residents of Malleswaram are tired of these unending disruptions to normal life.

After the success of the first walk, the elected representatives and officials reached out to us. The BBMP engineer in charge shared the details of the works commissioned; lighting, walking path, drains, levelling, etc. This was in contrast to what we needed; which was water and toilets.

The works being undertaken would potentially damage the tree roots, and the ultimate goal seems to be to widen Sankey road by cutting down the trees!

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About Krishna Panyam 2 Articles
Krishna Panyam is an active member of Malleswaram Social and Council for Active Mobility. He is an engineer by profession. He is interested in public policy, sustainability, origami and cycling, among other things. He has been living in Malleswaram for the last 20 years.