Friday, July 16, 2010

Chamarajpet leads the way

Chamarajpet leads the way

The protest against road widening is an eye-opener for others

Shilpa CB. Bangalore

The busy marketplace of Chamarajpet decided to down its shutters in protest last month. The bandh was long overdue. The threat of shops and houses being demolished for an "ill-conceived project" had been hanging in the air for years. With that protest, the local community showed that the talk of transferable development rights (TDR) and road-widening was not just talk but a real concern, one that has now come to haunt residents and traders living along 200 roads.
"We've been hearing of road widening for over six years and we have been opposing this. Reports started appearing again in May this year. That's when we decided to take it up seriously," says MC Jagannath, owner of a textile shop.
Chamarajpet's lead has given the movement against road widening the much needed momentum and backing. Now, other associations are looking to Chamarajpet Traders and Landlords Welfare Association for inspiration. Association members are brimming with ideas for traffic management and preserving this heritage locality. "All eyes are on us. Apolitical, we're planning our moves carefully," he says.
"I have seen very old vehicles moving about here. Why can't the RTO do something to contain them," asks Rajendra Prasad who is the fourth generation owner of a business that is over a hundred years old. Prasad could lose most of his tiny shop. With that, about 15 people could also lose their jobs.
"No one here would accept development rights certificate. The few who might be willing to exchange their land for the certificates could be doing it to get rid of old tenants," he says.
Transferable development rights certificates have already been issued to the traders here. "When we met the mayor, he denied that such a certificate had been issued. We had to show these to him to convince him. We even met many politicians who assured us we won't be disturbed. But we continued to follow newspaper reports that such a project is in the pipeline. Strangely, a few roads that were on the earlier list have been dropped. We are not able to understand the rationale behind it. We have no clear information," says Jagannath.
The traders are clear that TDR is not acceptable. "People will kill themselves if this project is implemented," Prasad says.
Muthuraj HM of Venkateshwara Juice Centre breathes easy these days. "Whatever happens to my neighbour will happen to me," he says with a smile. He operates out of a building owned by the Palike and has been assured that he would be given space on the first floor when the building gets more floors as part of TDR.
That won't work, says Sudhakar H who runs the popular Davangere Benne Masala Dosa centre. "A restaurant on the first floor will not do well. It has to be on the roadside," he says.
Parking is disorganised. The traffic police tow away vehicles of customers who stop by for a dosa. "They should provide proper parking spaces. The roads are so broad that there can be dedicated space for autos, two-wheelers, and cars," he says.
Traffic slows during peak hours and when it rains. The 3rd Cross, 5th Cross and 9th Cross are more burdened these days due to Metro work on KR Road. Now, most people moving from the city centre towards Hanumanthnagar and other areas around take this road as Metro has made most alternative routes unusable.
"This road can even be made a one way. Traffic police can be alert. That will help," Jagannath says. While some believe that Metro will be panacea for Bangalore's traffic woes, others think it may only make things worse.
"I have observed that there is hardly any space for parking near the Metro station being built at Lalbagh on RV Road. If this is the way all stations are planned, I don't think people will take to it," says Satish KR, a resident of the area.
His family business, a grocery store that has been serving people for the last 42 years, will lose substantial area to the project. "Earlier, one used to think that shops on the main road are the most advantaged. Now, it seems like they are the most threatened. If we go, our neighbours behind will gain," says Vikram KA, who runs a store. "We have been putting off renovation plans for the last three years due to the fear of road widening," he adds.
Jagadeesh G, who has been running a travel agency since 1984 says: "The road is quite broad, perhaps few roads in Bangalore are as broad as this. There's no need to tamper with it."

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