Brown roads are suddenly covered in a wafer thin coat of shiny black, potholes are disappearing fast, parched faucets are spouting clean water and drains have stopped overflowing. The life and vigour of the elections appear to have infected development projects too. One almost wishes it were election season all year long.
Take Shivajinagar’s drain of sorrow for instance. In the last few years, it has become routine for journalists to head to the drain every time there is a heavy downpour. We come back with stories of kitchens drowned in sewage, walls caked with night soil and children felled by cholera.
Flurry of activity
More than three years after these stories of subhuman existence became an annual ritual in the media, there seems to be a lot of action around the drain. “There has been no work on the drain for almost two years. Last month, bulldozers suddenly appeared on the scene and started excavating the silt,” said D.S. Ramachandran (28), who owns a shop on the Old Market Road. His shop has had no electricity for the last three years ever since the project to remove the silt and widen the drain started.
“Every time we would ask the local MLA (Roshan Baig) about the project and he would say that the funds have not been sanctioned or that the tenders have not been called. How did they get the funds now when the elections are here?” asked Mudassir Khan (28). He had to move his family of 10 to a relative’s house on Tannery Road last monsoon after his house was drowned in sewage. Nearby, on Armstrong Road, work is apace on an underground drainage. “The money for laying the drainage line was sanctioned in 2009. Work has started now,” said Aslam Khan (42), a pharmacist.
Fresh asphalt coat
Ramamurthy Nagar’s Kalkere Main Road, which was almost unmotorable until 20 days ago, sports a fresh coat of asphalt. “The road could not be laid because the pipelines had not been laid. And the pipelines hadn’t been laid because the funds had not been sanctioned. But suddenly everything seems to have fallen into place,” said Vishnu Vardhan, a software firm employee.
Lakshmi, who sells bangles from her little shop in the same area, said that the garbage is being cleared every day for the last few weeks. “Earlier, there were heaps of it in front of my shop,” she said.
M. Thangaran pointed out the Jayanti Nagar Main Road hadn’t been repaired for four years. “Now they have asphalted it in a hurry without laying drainage lines or footpaths,” chipped in Sheikh Imran (28), an autoricksaw driver.
However, such rabbits pulled out of a political hat seem to have worked with voters like V. Sridhar, a resident of the same area, who gushed: “We are now getting Cauvery water and the roads are neat and clean. The BJP is doing a great job.”
The situation is no different in Vigyan Nagar, Basava Nagar and Vibhhutipura areas of east Bangalore where roads were asphalted just two weeks ago. In fact, a stretch of the Basava Nagar Main Road is still being laid. “We are just finishing what we started,” shrugged a Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike engineer. Faced with close questioning like when the project was started, when the funds were sanctioned and when the tenders were called, he hurried away without identifying himself.
Yet, many residents here don’t see a problem with the last-minute development scramble. “The local MLA promised us a road before his term ended. He is keeping his promise… such a gentleman,” says Indira Subramaniam, an architect. Asked why he waited this long to “keep his promise”, Ms. Subramaniam argued that the previous elected representatives had not even done this much.
(Inputs from Songbriti Nath and Gitika Gitanjali)