Friday, July 09, 2010

Displacement Fear haunts them

Displacement Fear haunts them

BBMP's ad hoc ways shock Whitefield residents, they slam road plan

Shilpa CB. Bangalore



Residents of Old Whitefield settlement are living in fear. The cause of their worry is neither thieves nor natural disasters. It is the BBMP's ad hoc ways that have got them worked up.
Recently, a huge vehicle came into the 105-year-old Whitefield Club, dug a furrow and left. Civic authorities did not call the club members or send them a notice seeking permission for this surprise operation. Before the members could recover from the shock, some contractors came in a few days and identified the trees to be cut inside the premises.
"We are taking them away. Palike has given us permission to cut them," one of the contractors said when questioned.
Residents, a few of whom have roots here from the 1880s, are alarmed.
"This is private property. How can they just come in and take away the trees that belong to us, that too without our consent," asks Deepa Peck, a resident of Whitefield who works as senior manager in one of the companies in the area.
These "illegalities" are allegedly being committed in the name of widening the Whitefield Road using the transferable development rights (TDR) model.
Whitefield has one of the best roads, footpaths and bus connectivity in the city. Traffic does slow down during peak hours but most of the time, it's smooth, residents say. What's more, the road was widened before the BBMP elections. It even got a fresh coat of tar before a midnight marathon held here. Recently, the authorities permitted two new commercial establishments to come up close to the road. Construction work is under way at a few plots abutting the road. Despite all this, BBMP is embarking on a wasteful exercise.
"There is a peripheral ring road coming up just one kilometre from here. That can take the load of heavy vehicles and provide connectivity to the airport. Why are they constructing that stretch if they want to widen this one? All they want to do is appease foreigners and fill their own pockets. What about the concerns of the locals," they ask.
Bungalows and many old residences here are likely to pay the price for BBMP's "ill-planned, indiscriminate road widening and tree-cutting". The settlement is part of the city's heritage with a history that goes back to the 1880s.
"It is not a modern addition to Bangalore as most people assume. Whitefield is only from Forum Value Mall up to Hope Farm and includes Borewell Road, two circles built around the village greens (as designed and built by David Emmanuel Starkburg White). All the other areas that have come up around are technically not part of Whitefield. It has just become a fashionable brand name for everyone to use in their addresses," says Peck.
Her husband's ancestors settled here in 1876 and she herself bought a property in the 80s. She could lose up to 25 ft of the frontage to what she describes as "BBMP's ad hoc ways".
Dr Thyagaraja V, who runs the 35-year-old Pushpa Nursing Home, and 75-year-old retired teacher Shirley Davis too find themselves at the receiving end. "Once the BBMP came with the police, bulldozers and muscular men and, without any warning or notice, broke down my compound wall. I watched helplessly. Later, they said they had made a mistake and just left! I had to shell out from my pocket to rebuild the wall," says the doctor.
Shirley Davis had a similar experience. "One day, they just broke down my wall without notice and left," she says. Davis lives in a house that is over 100 years old. The fragile structure may cave in if disturbed. It needs plenty of repairs too, says Davis who lives with her sister and gets by with a modest income she earns by giving tuitions.
"We have no alternatives. There's nowhere else to go," she says.
Dr Thyagaraja too wonders where he would run his practice if the nursing home is demolished.
For this close-knit community, Whitefield was once paradise. "Whitefield was most suitable when we wanted to move out of Bangalore. It was truly a pensioners' paradise," says Sydney Smith, a retired teacher who runs a small play school here.
Now, their haven faces the threat of being wiped off the map for no good reason. "We want our children to inherit this," they say. Is the BBMP listening?

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