Saturday, July 03, 2010

LOOK WHO IS FED UP OF THE TRAFFIC

LOOK WHO IS FED UP OF THE TRAFFIC
Bangalore’s First Citizen wants a full security convoy to clear the way for his car on roads, for he can’t bear to be caught in jams like the rest of us
Hemanth.Kashyap @timesgroup.com


Being the first citizen of a city affords you several benefits: house rent from the government, a chauffeur-driven car with a klaxon, and an armed constable who accompanies you wherever you go. But fed up of being inconvenienced by traffic jams in the city, Mayor S K Nataraj is seeking another privilege - an armed convoy that will clear the road for him.
He wants this entourage, consisting of a pilot in front and another escort car behind, to coordinate with the traffic police through wireless sets, and to ensure that he doesn’t have to stop at red lights. Ironic considering that, as head of the city’s civic affairs, tackling the growing traffic problem in Bangalore comes directly under the Mayor’s purview.
Nataraj has written letters to the city’s police chief Shankar Bidari and Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa, copies of which are with Bangalore Mirror, asking for the convoy, ostensibly so he can make his various official commitments on time. “As Mayor of Bangalore, I have the utmost responsibility of receiving and sending off chief guests at the airport. Moreover, as the first citizen of Bangalore, I have to travel from one end to the other. But due to heavy public and vehicular traffic in Bangalore, it is very difficult for me to reach the place in time,” Nataraj has written in the letter, a copy of which is with Bangalore Mirror.
“While Mayors have a provision of using pilot vehicles for quicker movement in different cities around the world, there is no such system in a metropolis like Bangalore. Hence, I request you to provide me with a pilot convoy and escort vehicles,” he has added.
A detail of this kind - including both pilot and escort cars - is accorded only to the state’s Governor, Chief Minister, Home Minister, and visiting dignitaries who’ve been given Z or Z+ security.
When asked why he wanted this elaborate arrangement despite no clear security threat to him, Mayor Nataraj said: “While commuting, I’m wasting a lot of time at traffic junctions. The police escort will mean that the personnel traveling with me can effectively coordinate on their wireless and ensure a smooth passage. The escort will also act as a security cover for me. Isn’t the Mayor entitled to a minimum facility like this?” he said.
Nataraj, who lives in Sarakki near JP Nagar, takes approximately 50 minutes to cover the eight kilometers to the BBMP headquarters at N R Square (see box). With no traffic, the distance could be covered in about 10-15 minutes.
Police Commissioner Shankar Bidari confirmed that he had received the request for the Mayor. “We can’t immediately provide the security that he’s requested. We’ll have to examine it and see what can be done,” he said.
Sources in the police, however, said the request was sure to be denied because there was no precedent or provision for it.
TWO STEPS BEHIND We tail Mayor S K Nataraj to his office on Friday morning to see what the fuss is all about
10.00 AM Sets off from home at Sarakki, near J P Nagar, in his Toyota Corolla. Just 400 metres from his house, the vehicle has to stop for a few minutes due to a herd of cows blocking its path. The driver gets out and physically chases the cows before the car can go further.
10.05 AM As the car reaches Indira Gandhi Circle, traffic has been stopped by a constable, who notices the Mayor’s car and allowed it free passage.
10.09 AM The vehicle halts for a few seconds at Sangam Circle, where a constable is directing the traffic, before heading towards Jayanagar 8th Block.
10.15 AM The car stops at the red light for about a minute before heading towards the unmanned Yediyur crossing, where it is struck in a traffic jam for a couple of minutes as vehicles converge from all sides
10.22 AM The Mayor reaches Basavanagudi, where he get off at Tagore Circle under-pass for an inspection. Total halt is about 30 minutes.
10.55 AM In a traffic jam at Krishna Rau Park for almost five minutes
11.00 AM Joins the road connecting to Minerva Circle. Gets stuck in slow-moving traffic before clearing the red-light.
11.10 AM Is caught in heavy traffic on J C Road, which leads to his office at the BBMP headquarters via Hudson Circle
11.20 AM Reaches office, taking almost 10 minutes to cover the last kilometre

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