Monday, August 02, 2010

Fears subside as a wall of hope rises

Fears subside as a wall of hope rises

New barrier at Palace Grounds leaves enough room for widening Jayamahal Road

Shilpa CB



Jayamahal Road is home to the powerful, the influential and the small-time trader. MP Renukacharya, Gulihatti D Shekhar, justice NK Patil, and K Sreedhar Rao are among the famous residents. Interestingly, all their properties have been spared of BBMP's red markings associated with its road widening project.
Is the Palike going to clear out space on both sides or will it just make do with land from the Palace Grounds? There are no answers yet.
"We have been assured that properties on this side won't be touched. The owners are not reacting. They are just waiting for information," says Rahmat Khan, a businessman. Khan, a tenant for 10 years, is not worried about losing his livelihood for now.
"We've not been told to move out of here. They've just marked a few walls. We just hope this side of the road is spared," says Venkatesh M, a cobbler.
Gopal K, who has been running a pharmacy for the last seven years, believes there is no threat for the time being. "My landlord had received a notice. But acquisition of land on this side has been put off since the maharaja has offered some land from the palace ground," he says.
Neighbour Ramesh BM living here for two decades has also been at peace for the last 15 days since he heard his shop will be spared. "We will be inconvenienced. We've established our businesses here. It is tough to go elsewhere and start afresh," he says.
They have reason to believe that road widening has been shelved. A wall has been coming up inside the palace ground and the old one is being demolished. That will add more road space. Nothing will be demolished on this side, they say.
Questions about road widening do not perturb them as they have been mentally prepared to lose it all. "Ever since the markings came up about two years ago, we have lived with the threat," says Gopal.
Residents and shopkeepers take refuge in the fact that there are three burial grounds along the road and it would be tough to acquire them. "It won't be right to acquire our property. We won't allow that," says Abdul Razaq, a senior member of the committee of one of the three dargahs located here.
Residents do not question the road-widening project. It might in fact help traffic movement, citizens say.
"There is just one lane. If vehicles slow down to turn or stop, others behind are forced to wait even if they have to move straight. Widening the road will help in creating lanes," says Vijay K, a real estate agent.
Khan feels the road plan will help thousands of commuters. "A few turn, a few don't. Drivers might slow down to ask for directions, or pick up people. Plenty of BPO vehicles too use this road to pick up employees. They need space for that," he says.
While the case for widening is a strong one, the Palike must acquire land from the Palace ground. "This is a special case. Nowhere else is this option available. Since the maharaja has agreed to part with land in exchange for TDR, the government can increase the road width using that," says MB Shetty, owner of an apartment.
Shetty, along with a few neighbours, petitioned to the BBMP a few days ago putting forward his objections and suggestions. "The water tank, the electrical lines, the sanitary lines are all in front of the property. If that area is acquired, all these will be affected. The road will come close to our balcony. We want this side of the road to be spared," he says.
But Shetty has not received any confirmation from the BBMP about the shelving of the plan.
"What the hell is TDR? How will apartment owners share it? And foundations are made to support a certain number of floors. One can't build as many floors just because he has TDR. And what will happen to the transformers and other things on the footpath," asks Ajit Kumar, who returned from abroad to settle down in Bangalore.
H Naronha, a retired citizen, agrees. "Let the Palike put a CCTV camera and observe the traffic pattern for a month. After that, they can come up with solutions," he says.
Naronha also points out that the railway underbridge that was recently completed near Cantonment Station and the one near St John's Church Road cannot be widened. No matter how wide Jayamahal road becomes, it would run into these bottlenecks.
"Let them leave the old city alone and develop infrastructure on the outskirts," says Naronha and gives an example to support his view. "The city went along with the new airport. Traffic was reduced on Old Airport Road and things began to shift towards BIA. In the same manner, people will go with the changes," he says.
Along the way, the Palike will have to take the interests of citizens into account. "Pedestrians should be offered more footpaths and tree cover. No matter how wide the road is, it will always be full of traffic. Bringing more cars to the roads is not development," says Regina N.

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