Saturday, August 27, 2005

Mission Ruin Bangalore: Gowda steps up efforts to scuttle Metro

Gowda shoots off missive on metro
Deccan Herald

Janata Dal (Secular) president Deve Gowda says the project will cause demoltion of houses, shops and places of religious worship and traffic chaos.

The campaign by former prime minister H D Deve Gowda against the Bangalore metro project continues. After raising a stink over the metro project, Mr Gowda has written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh demanding reconsideration of the project and suggesting two alternatives.

The Janata Dal (Secular) president, a strong votary of monorail, in his four-page letter which has four annexures, has also asked Dr Singh to appoint an expert group to study the entire issue. The letter comes in the backdrop of Mr Gowda’s meetings with several key officials and ministers over the last few weeks in the Capital. It was, however, not known whether the issue came up for discussion during the meeting Mr Gowda had at his residence here with Finance Minister P Chidambaram and Planning Commission Deputy Chairman M S Ahluwalia to discuss the flood situation in Karnataka on Thursday.

‘Financial wastage’

This letter, the second he has written to Dr Singh on the subject, reiterates that the metro would involve huge financial wastage, consume massive power, cause substantial demolition of houses, shops, places of religious worship and result in intolerable dislocation of traffic. “Most of all, it will take five long years to build just 33 km,” Mr Gowda notes in the letter.

Significantly, Mr Gowda says in the letter – a copy of which was obtained by Deccan Herald from sources in the Union government – that after his first letter to Dr Singh, a “re-thinking” on the project has been set in motion. The letter has been circulated to related ministries although the response of Dr Singh to the letter is not known.

The letter written in July-end notes that there are “quicker, better and much more economical solutions” to Bangalore’s need for a mass rapid transit system.

He says the two alternatives would be an elevated light rail transit system (ELRTS) and a hybrid monorail system. The ELRTS was initiated in 1994 by then chief minister Veerappa Moily and cleared when Mr Gowda succeeded him. “But in 2004, the then Congress government of Mr S M Krishna suddenly buried it and decided to go for the metro project.

“The metro is twice as costly and involves a much higher percentage of government financing than the ELRTS negating completely the so-called rationale for the decision.”

Interestingly, the letter begins by saying that he is “not against any infrastructure developmental activity for a fast developing city like Bangalore in particular and my state of Karnataka in general”.

In the first paragraph of the letter, Mr Gowda talks about the Bangalore-Mysore infrastructure project and the changes to which he was strongly opposed.

“Some sections of our political elite have tried to create an impression that I am a stumbling block for all infrastructure developmental activities and they have mercilessly used the media for this purpose.”

Track record

“This has pained me so much,” he says, as he recounts some of the steps he took as chief minister and later as prime minister. These included the Tata-Singapore Electronic City, BMIC, power and steel projects, the Bangalore inner ring road, construction of flyovers, grade separators and road widening schemes. He also says the MoU for the Bangalore international airport was signed when he was prime minister.

Why no metro?

*Huge financial burden
* Massive power consumption
* Dislocation of traffic
* Demolition of many buildings
* Five-year-long construction


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