Wednesday, February 10, 2010

THE ROAD-BUILDER

THE ROAD-BUILDER
Institution chairman uses own money after government turned down his plea to asphalt mud road even after college students met with near-fatal accident
B K LAKSHMIKANTHA


Anear-fatal accident of the college bus in 2000 prompted Acharya College at Soldevanahalli to use its own funds to construct a 2.56 km metal road up to Hesaragatta main road.
Now, the road is nearing completion. Besides the college, it will benefit at least six villages in the vicinity.
Earlier, locals used a narrow 8-km mud road. Since 1960, they had been pleading with the gram panchayat, zilla parishad and other authorities to construct a pucca road. Narayanaswamy, a teacher in a government school, was at the forefront of this demand.
He approached the local MLA, MP and ministers, including then Union railway minister Jaffer Sharief, but in vain.
Despite the poor connectivity, Acharya Group set up Acharya College at Soldevanahalli on a 120-acre campus in 1990. Even then, nothing changed.
TURNING POINT
The turning point came in 2000. B Premnath Reddy, chairman, Acharya Group of institutions, says, “One day, our college bus met with an accident after the driver lost control. The vehicle hit a house. Luckily, the occupants of the house and the students escaped with minor injuries.”
The BWSSB has a pipeline in the area and was maintaining a small 10-feet wide mud road.
Reddy says, “I requested BWSSB to open the road to the public. They agreed on a monthly payment of Rs 30,000, but refused to get it asphalted. Then, I decided to construct a road with my own funds.”
He called a meeting of local leaders and land-owners from the six villages. “All of them agreed to give their land for road construction,” he says. “We had to shell out Rs 60 lakh for land acquisition alone.”
It was not smooth-sailing though.
SOME HURDLES
A land-owner Subbashetty moved court alleging that Reddy was acquiring land by coercion. Reddy says, “Work came to a stand-still for nearly two years. Secondly, some anti-social elements, who were not happy with road work, threatened me and the contractor. I approached local MLA Prasanna Kumar and Transport Minister Ashok who told me to go ahead with the road construction without fear.”
COST ESCALATION
“When we began, the road was estimated to cost around Rs 1.5 crore. But, when it was nearing completion, the cost had escalated to Rs 6 crore,” says Reddy. “I want the road to be named after our ex-President late Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan who had been a teacher. But, some people want it to be named after a film star or some politician.”
ANY HELP FROM NETAS?
— Reddy faced difficulties getting funds from the local MLA. His college came under Yelahanka Assembly constitueny while the road was in Dasarahalli segment. He claims that he did not get any support from either MLA. — Dasarahalli MLA S Muniraju says, “I get Rs 1 crore for local area development.With this amount, it is impossible to develop every road in my constituency.” — Yelahanka MLA S Vishwanath says,“No one had approached me. The kind of road that they have built can only be done by the BBMP or the State highway department.” — MLC R V Venkatesh had given Rs 25,000 from his local area development fund when approached by Reddy.

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