Monday, May 03, 2004

It was once a sign of progress...

Long before Prime Minister Vajpayee ascended the throne and announced his grand National Highway Development Programme, Bangalore had such a road, one of the then handful ones in India that came anywhere close to being worthy of being described as "international standard roads". The 50 kilometre stretch of Hosur Road that runs from the Central Silk Board junction to the Tamil Nadu border, near Hosur town. Hosur Road is the thoroughfare that leads to the 800-acre Electronics City, home to some of India's leading IT companies, notably the Infosys City campus which is now a must visit for every head of state visiting India. Back in the mid-90s, it was a different story. The road was a narrow stretch of potholes filled with trucks, inter-state buses, bullock carts and geeks rushing to work. Quite a sorry sight indeed. Commuting the 18-km distance from the city to Electronics City took two hours. The IT honchos protested. Newspaper articles bemoaned how lack of infrastructure would impede development. The Government turned a blind eye. Sometime in 1997, when Bangalore was just about gaining some international visibility, some leading IT CEOs including the likes of Narayanamurthy and Azim Premji led a novel protest by sweeping the Hosur Road with brooms all day to draw the attention of the administration. The act made it to international publications like Time, Newsweek and Wired. And the Govt. swung into action. It wrangled a loan from the Asian Development Bank and came up with a plan of converting the entire road into a 4 lane highway. By 1999, Hosur Road was an impressive sight, a sight that warmed the cockles of many a Bangalorean's heart. A 4 lane highway with each lane of 30-feet width, smooth as a baby's bottom, service roads lining the entire stretch neatly separated from the main road by concrete separators, barely any intersections on the way. Commute times were reduced to 30 minutes as cars zipped across the road. Surely this was a sign of the progress that the city was making.

2004. Layers of sand line the side of the roads effectively reducing motorable width by 30%. The median has been illegally cut open at several places to create loads of intersections for everyone to cut across at his convenience. The surface is back to resembling that of the moon's. The service road has been encroached by trucks on the wait and makeshift shops. Volume of traffic has increased 100% in the last 6 years. And its back to two hour long commutes. Who's responsible? And the PM is not coming to the rescue.


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