A few residents and a team from The Hindu on Saturday visited the recently constructed house of Mohammed Iqbal in Maroli and found that it is about 35 metres away from the middle of the National Highway 17 that passes along the Karnataka coast.

About 50 per cent of this building, which is yet to be occupied, is supposed to be acquired for widening the national highway into a four-lane.

The 20-year-old, 18-flat High Point apartment at Nanthoor Circle, which according to its owners, is farther from the middle of the road, will also be diagonally cut for the same purpose. The surveyors of the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), which is executing the project on public-private partnership basis, have made the markings on the apartment for demolition and confiscation.

The owners, mostly aged above 67, say the whole building will collapse if it is diagonally cut and will thereby render them homeless. While authorities are expected to limit the acquisition to 30 metres from the middle of the road, the owners of the buildings, which are located beyond this limit, sought to know why they were being victimised unnecessarily. People having properties within 60 metres of the proposed project area are not convinced that NHAI indeed needs so much of land. The Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged is likely to lose its administrative block and the area where 80-odd elderly persons pray and take a stroll.

The Sandesh School of Art will lose its entire open space in front of its building, though the area appears to be quite far away from the road. Many families in Maroli, like that of Ramachandra Attavara, will lose their entire houses while some like K. Shivaram, who is living there for over five decades, will lose a vertical half of their houses.

They all staged a demonstration at Thokkottu junction recently.

Rationale

The people say NHAI could provide all the facilities with less than half of the land being acquired now. Engineer P.C. Hashir, who studied highway engineering, has prepared a model of a four-lane road, complete with median, footpaths, drains and space for utility services, which is only 23.6 metres wide. President of the newly-formed Nanthoor-Tharethota NH 17 Citizens' Welfare Forum Mahafooz Ur Rahaman said that NHAI was already in possession of land required for a 48-m-wide road. People point out that Kerala and Goa had decided to restrict the width of roads to below 45 m.

Many residentsfear that the compensation would be less than one third of the market value and that would be insufficient for buying another property of same value elsewhere in the city. Deputy Commissioner V. Ponnuraj told The Hindu that the new road design was based on a policy of the NHAI. People should try to convince the NHAI about their demands, he said.

In Kerala and Goa, the NHAI had threatened to stop taking up further projects if its norms were not adhered to. “Karnataka cannot afford it (missing NHAI projects),” he said.

Mr. Ponnuraj said he would ensure that property-losers received a package that was close to market value.

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