Wednesday, August 11, 2010

You can't widen roads by driving out the legitimate residents

You can't widen roads by driving out the legitimate residents

Jacob Crasta



In a democratic set up, imposing something from above is anachronism. India is not a command economy but a democratic country, and yet, in this country, even schemes keep coming like bolt from the blue.
The road-widening imbroglio and the mass hysteria that followed is a case in point. Something between two and three lakh people involving over 35,000 properties saw in one fine morning a red mark on their compound walls and the share of the property to go. No more information was available and soon after, the council term was terminated and no councillor was there to turn to for any information.
Now, the question is what is the plan? Who drew it up and how are they going to use the property 'seized' from the public in over 270 roads ? The BBMP road plan is not backed by a well-thought-of roadmap which must have provision for pedestrians and cyclists besides automobiles. There was no effort to engage those affected in consultation and people were told to move over as if it was a divine order.
Litigations and protests continued, so did demolitions. Besides homes, we have lost quite a bit of small businesses. People engaged in hotels, restaurants, one-room offices and fabrics and provision stores have lost their livelihood and they were asked to take transfer of development certificate (TDR) which allows them to build elsewhere in the zone in lieu of the property lost. And, to most of them, the piece of paper had no meaning for they did not have another place to build and they did not know whom to approach for encashing the paper.
Since the mayor appears to be contrite and agrees not to bulldoze residential areas at night, it is time to pause and make amends to the gross mistakes the BBMP had done.
The lesson is that the Palike should not drive away residences and shops in the core areas. Nowhere in the world has any city recast itself which will spoil its history and heritage. Instead, build new areas and plan them well.
It is only in our country homes and shops are broken into half. Underground and overground (flyover) are generally done to leave the least scars on the cityscape.
If a property over 100 years is a heritage property, how come a home older than a century is not? Successive generations have been living there and you can't take away living homes for a plan that is at best nebulous. Therefore:

> The BBMP should have one-ways or tunnel service or peripheral roads so that traffic from south to north or east to west does not need to come into the city core.
> A centralised parking, preferably automated, should be made available at north-south-east-west junctions so that cars can be parked there and people can take a bus to come inside CBD.
> Footpath is sacred and nobody should be allowed to dig it up or encroach on it, be it a shop-owner or a vendor.
— The writer is chairman of state council, Assocham

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