The sound of a bullet being fired could trigger panic in any neighbourhood. But for the residents of H.S.R. Layout, it is commonplace. They know the day of their weekly practice schedule and time at which gunshots can be heard. With the Iblur Firing Range of the Army Service Corps (ASC) adjoining their layout, there is no escaping the sound of firing.
However, the residents, who were concerned about bullets straying out of the range and posing a hazard to civilians till a few years ago, do not appear to be rattled by the presence of a firing range in their vicinity.
After a couple of mishaps including the one in which an IT employee stuck in traffic jam was hit by a bullet, the Army was spurred into action. A ‘Baffle Firing Range’ has been built now as a security feature within the range. The enhanced safety measures essentially include practice with baffle walls made of concrete as well as practising in deep pits dup up within the range.
The Iblur Firing Range is the second to have a Baffle Firing Range in the country after Mhow in Madhya Pradesh.
Troops from military and paramilitary units located within the Karnataka and Kerala Sub Area’s jurisdiction are sent for firing practice at the range.
Between 2003 and 2007, four people were seriously injured after being hit by stray bullets on the Outer Ring Road. Another issue was the damage caused to houses near the firing range due to the heavy shells tested there. This had also led to a debate about Iblur being a notified range for the past 100 years while the layout was developed only in the 1980s.
HSR Layout ward councillor K. Latha Narasimhamurthy said problems from the firing range had all but ceased as it was only being used for practice now.
She also said another conflict had been resolved at the beginning of this year. “As part of the H.S.R. Neighbourhood Improvement Programme, we are developing the 27th Main Road as a pilot project. The issue over the road was recently resolved as the Army had blocked the road claiming ownership. They were finally allotted alternate land and the road was handed over to us,” she said.
M.K. Shankarlinge Gowda, former Commissioner of the Bangalore Development Authority and the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), said there was a proposal from the State government to shift the firing range to Kollegal forest area. “But regimes changed and that did not go through. A firing range can coexist with a civilian area when precautions similar to the ones taken around airports are implemented,” he said. He also advocated defence layouts coexisting with civilian ones due to their “orderly maintenance and green coverage”.