Tuesday, August 24, 2010

This stretch needs a straight solution

This stretch needs a straight solution

The curves are sharp at a few points on Mahalakshmi Layout Main Road and buses barely manage to pass without brushing against each other. There is grave risk to commuters. The problem could probably be solved by widening and straightening the stretch connecting West of Chord and Ring roads

Shilpa CB

For a relatively newly developed area, Mahalakshmi Layout Main Road that leads to Nandini Layout or Singapore Layout, as it is also known, is unusually crammed. Buses barely manage to pass without brushing against each other. Of course, vehicles do slow down during peak hours on the roads that go uphill and downhill.
At a few points, curiously, the curves are sharp. This stretch from West of Chord Road to Ring Road could get big and broad if the BBMP goes ahead with its plans. It is not the plan the residents are questioning, but the 'how' and 'why' of development that was allowed here in recent decades although rumours on the project were making the rounds.
That the stretch could be taken up for widening is old news for most locals. Some say they heard about it four years ago while others say rumours were afloat for many decades.
"There were only about 40 buildings here until five years ago. Nearly 400 buildings have come up since then. Who is responsible for that? Why did they allow it," asks Chowdegowda S, a businessman who has been running a small shop here for 18 years.
Many temples – about 21 including an impressive Ayyappa Temple – were allowed to come up along the 2.5km road. Also, numerous parks were developed for crores of rupees. All these developments happened during the last five years although most of them would have to be destroyed if widening were to be done, people claim.
The numbers related to temples were arrived at recently when members of Mahalakshmi Layout Residents' Forum gathered for a meeting initiated by the Save Bangalore Committee to discuss the plan of action to resist the proposed road widening. The response to the meeting was indeed poor, says Sudesh Kumar Clement, one of the organisers.
The road has been disowned by its 'original inhabitants' who were allotted houses and sites here. They have left the area after either selling or renting their properties. The new tenants do not want to get involved in any protest, says Clement, a businessman.
His father got a one-bedroom house allotted by the housing board in 1968. He renovated this recently, adding more bedrooms. "Why did they sanction the plan if they were planning to demolish part of the building for road widening," he asks.
His neighbour Shivraj B too renovated his residence and added a couple of shops. That cost him Rs5 lakh which he borrowed from a bank; he would have to return Rs3 lakh deposit to his tenants if he loses a portion of the property to road-widening. Shivraj has already undergone two surgeries and could not pay the installments on time to the bank because of big hospital bills. He wonders what he would do if bulldozers come to tear down his property.
"I have to take care of my widowed daughter and her children, too. It would be unfair if our properties are taken away and we are not compensated adequately by the civic body," he says.
Another employee of the IT sector, who pays more than Rs7,000 every month towards a 20-year housing loan, has the same worry. "I've asked the bank if it can intervene and protect our properties. Their answer is 'no'," he says.
Almost everyone living on this stretch for decades has a similar tale to tell. "We left 5ft from our property for the footpath when we built our house. Now, we just have an area of 40x55 sq ft. We are a joint family of 18. We are already falling short of space. If we are forced to give up the remaining land, we would have to disperse. I suspect the government does not want us to live together," says Margaret D' Souza, a resident living here for 42 years.
She had approached the area representatives and presented a memorandum during Dharam Singh's tenure as chief minister. "We'd known about this widening plan and we tried to get answers and solutions, in vain," she says.
The worried citizens offer alternatives that could help the cause of decongesting the road. Make this a one way, the parallel road could help lead traffic out, they say.
"It's quite peaceful here. Vehicles do crowd this road during rush hour. The rest of the time, it is calm. Besides, the Metro is coming up. The national highway is just about two kilometres away," says Madhu R, a sales person employed in one of the shops.
With 'strong roads' such as West of Chord Road and the Ring Road around, there is no need to tamper with this stretch, some say.
Gopalakrishna Menon, a real estate agent, says this road should be made a straight stretch connecting Chord and Ring roads.
Owners have received the BBMP's notices long back. But they have kept it under wraps, says Menon who smells an opportunity in the project and hopes that it takes off sooner than later. "Once the Metro is complete, this road will have to be widened," he says.


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