Friday, July 30, 2010

Displacement fear gets a 'new' face

Displacement fear gets a 'new' face

Locals on Old Airport Rd feel they are being edged out to make room for newcomers

Shilpa CB

The average Bangalorean has been feeling short-changed. The 'outsider' is being preferred to the local. The 'original' settlers of the city are being displaced to make room for the moneyed new-comers, alleges a resident requesting anonymity.
One can see this play out clearly on Old Airport Road where shop-keepers and residents have been living and working for more than half a century. Now they are being asked to make way for a bigger road to enhance connectivity to the clusters of IT companies and newly-formed layouts.
Thanks to this deep mistrust locals have against civic authorities, they are wary of handing over land to the BBMP for any project.
"Will they make use of all the land for civic amenities? I don't think so. They will acquire twice the amount they may need for roads, use part of it and sell the rest to outsiders. That's what is happening with the NICE Road and that is likely to happen all over the city," says Ramu S, a landlord.
There's no other explanation why Palike is proceeding with the project despite the public outcry. Traffic density has dropped drastically since the closure of the HAL airport. Vehicles move smoothly at the flyover. The flow is disrupted only when VIPs are driven in to hotels here after road closure. Such disruptions will be a regular feature. So adding more width to the already broad stretch will not make much of a difference, traders say.
However, if the authorities still want to go ahead with this project, they can do it without demolishing established businesses. "There is so much government land lying right in front. It remains unused. Why not convert it into a road," he asks.
Revenue-generating units can be saved by utilising the government land in a better way. Owners and shopkeepers with small establishments along the road agree.
"About 28 members rely on this space for their livelihood. They will lose a lot," says Nagaraj KC, owner of a bar and restaurant.
Local traders showed Google Earth images of the stretch to city planners to make them realise how the project would wipe out the commercial area. Though they got assurance from planners, the fear of losing businesses has not left them.
"They can take all of that (government) land. Instead, they plan to take 50% from this side and 50% from that side of the road," says Chandulal S, owner of a pharmacy.
The pharmacy functions in a building that was built recently. It is the only one that has plenty of space in front. Now it stands to lose the parking space. The GR Complex further down the road is not so fortunate. Although built recently with one-and-half metre setback, it could lose a few feet to the road project.
Lakshmipathi Babu Rao, owner of the complex, says: "We are filing an objection as the compensation they are offering is meager. TDR will be of no use. There is no demand for space in commercial complexes, so there's no point in building them."
The concept of transfer of development rights is a joke in a city where one can get any plans approved for a petty bribe. Who will agree to pay for a development rights certificate or transfer of development rights, businessmen ask.
Traffic problem is not a major issue, especially after the airport was shifted. But some attention to details can make travelling on this stretch more comfortable.
"There is no U-turn here. The board is placed much before the actual turn. If one misses it, he has to go all the way to Command Hospital point to take a turn. Anyone who wants to turn here will have to take a left turn, then a U-turn before entering this road. Those familiar with the road are aware of such intricacies. But anyone new will make a mistake and fall into the trap of the waiting policeman," says an employee at a shop.
These small violations continue to occur much to the benefit of policemen, who, instead of guiding traffic to follow rules, wait for violations to occur and then penalise drivers.
Making the road signal-free will kill all business activity on this road, traders fear. Instead, it will be sensible to wait for the Metro and then proceed with modifications to roads.
"We are sure that the Metro will slash the vehicle population drastically. Commuters will get off the train at Indiranagar station and use small roads to reach home," says Ramu. The Domlur bus stand being turned into a satellite bus stand could change the traffic pattern.
"People might stop taking autos and taxis to go all the way to Majestic to travel out of the city. Instead, they will catch buses right here. That will give a boost to our businesses as well," says Nagaraj.
There is plenty to wait and watch. Measures can be designed as changes occur. Road widening can wait or be shelved permanently.


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