Monday, January 25, 2010

Cosmopolitan Shanti Nagar is a constituency of contrasts

Cosmopolitan Shanti Nagar is a constituency of contrasts

In this first of a series of articles ahead of the civic polls on February 21, Bhargavi Kerur focuses on Shanti Nagar constituency. She finds that although the malls, multiplexes, pubs and restaurants, boutiques and shopping complexes give it an upmarket look, its residents are facing a host of problems

Bhargavi Kerur

This is where the new Bangalore comes to spend time and money. The area also plays host to some of the oldest heritage structures. Yet, Shanti Nagar is a constituency of contrasts.
The assembly segment has seven wards with about 1.80 lakh voters. The constituency boasts of posh business and residential localities, including MG Road, Brigade Road, Langford Road, Richmond Town, parts of HAL II Stage and Johnson Market.
Malls, multiplexes, shopping complexes, pubs and restaurants, boutiques and small industrial units give a mixed character to this constituency.
This mix makes it rich. There is variety and it brings in money. It is one of the most prosperous revenue pockets. The Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) makes huge collection in terms of property tax and other state coffers are filled because of large number of commercial establishments.
But the high-flying Shanti Nagar suffers from mundane issues and problems on the civic front. Water scarcity and stray dog menace are on top of residents' list of complaints. Posh areas of Shanti Nagar suffer from the most fundamental problem: poor drainage system leading to clogging and flooding even when it drizzles.
The upmarket areas like Brigade Road, Residency Road, Magrath Road, Richmond Town, Shanti Nagar, Ashok Nagar, and Domlur consume more water than normally required for a residential area.
"The main problem here is water scarcity," says Elizabeth S, a salesperson in Ashok Nagar. She stays in the shadow of the popular Garuda Mall. Although there is water supply every alternate day, a few hours of supply is not sufficient, she says. "The main tap should be kept open at least till evening so that we get enough water," she says.
And the stray dog menace is second only to water problem. This could probably be due to careless and unscientific disposal of food waste, considering the high concentration of eateries in the area.
Residents have bagful of complaints on the canine culture of Shanti Nagar. "It's unbearable for the morning walkers," says housewife Sangeeta Jain. "Every morning when all is quiet, street dogs establish their kingdom, and are ready to jump on the walkers," she says.
She wants the BBMP to pay urgent attention to this threat. "The Palike officials must visit these streets and see for themselves," she says.
"Pets that go with their masters for the morning rounds suffer more," says Vijay Reddy, president of Residents' Welfare Association of Richmond Town and Langford Town. "Perhaps this may be a citywide problem," he tries to console himself.
Reddy says dogs are not the sole problem. "There are footpaths that are occupied by hawkers. Bikers, who are in a hurry to reach their destination, get on to the pavements, risking pedestrians' life," he says. Reddy should know better as he is the voice of the residents and they are his eyes and ears.
Then there is the garbage issue. "Since we are so closely located to the malls, their backyards face the garbage problem. This becomes worse during the rainy season. Water stagnates and poses a health risk," says P Maheshwari, resident of Viveknagar.
The constituency, which was reserved earlier, was made general for assembly elections. The area comprises major attractions of the city like Garuda Mall, Bangalore Central, Life Style, Home Stop and other showrooms drawing large crowds, specially the floating population during the weekends. It is estimated that a few lakh people throng the posh streets of the constituency during weekends.
The commercial activities have brought in huge traffic to the constituency. Since the area is part of old Bangalore, the roads are narrow. Hosur Road and Double Road (KH Road) are famous landmarks. They are also notorious for the heaviest traffic seen in this part of India.
The Shanti Nagar bus terminal is home to both city and outbound traffic. The traffic on Double Road is likely to be chaotic with more services being shifted from the main Kempe Gowda bus terminal.
Obviously, the residents are apprehensive and are demanding a flyover at the Vellara junction. A signal-free corridor is also coming up on Hosur Road.
An order in traffic may bring in some relief and smile, especially for parents. A large number of them always remain tense, as most educational institutions open on to busy roads. Some of the institutions are St Joseph's Commerce College, St Joseph's Arts and Science College, Baldwins Women's College, Bishop Cotton's Boys and Girls' schools, St Theresa's School, Cathedral School and Baldwin Boys' College.
Even the defence areas dotting the constituency cannot remain isolated from the problems dogging Shanti Nagar. The Bangalore Military School is a major landmark in the city. It has churned out many fine officers. The school has given up a major land portion for road widening project.
The constituency, which comprises a substantial Muslim and Christian population, has the maximum number of mosques and churches in the city. It also is dotted with burial grounds for both the communities. Still Shanti Nagar retains pride in its name and the communities co-exist in peace.
The solution
Lay concrete roads
One solution to bad roads, say residents and shopkeepers of the area, is to lay plastic roads or concrete roads rather than black-topped roads, because the plastic or concrete formations last longer and pose no problem during heavy rains. Authorities should try this. While constructing the roads, the drainage pipes should be either repaired or replaced. Flooding can be avoided if drains are properly covered and cleaned regularly.


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