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On the outer ring of fame

It was a reader's letter in a local daily that spurred a debate on the City's traffic needs, culminating in the creation of the Outer Ring Road. Meet the man who thought of the idea in the first place.

Joseph Vannery, the man who conceived the idea of a ring road.

OUR CIVIC authorities are congratulating themselves on the nearly complete, 62-km Outer Ring Road (ORR) that has been laid on par with international standards, and reduced accidents and pollution in the City. It has made commuting much easier and the harried commuter does not have to negotiate unnerving city traffic to reach outlying destinations. The major bridges at Bennigananhalli and Krishnarajapuram are nearing completion. Construction of overbridges on the 11 km-long stretch of the ORR passing through the Magadi-Tumkur Road and Mysore Road has begun.

The website of Bangalore City Police says: "The plan to have an Outer Ring Road was thought of in the Outline Development Plan (ODP) more than 30 years ago. This was concretised by the BDA (Bangalore Development Authority). The length of the road proposed is 62.37 kms and originally was estimated at Rs. 67.8 crores. The Outer Ring Road will link all the major highways together, i.e., Mysore Road, Magadi Road, Tumkur Road, Bellary Road, Hennur Road, Old Madras Road, Varthur Road, Sarjapur Road, Hosur Road, Bannerghatta Road, and Kanakapura Road."

All very nicely detailed, except for one. About the man who conceived the idea in the first place.

Going through a collection of old newspaper clippings recently, I came across the following letter written by one J. Vannery that appeared in a local daily on September 21, 1977, under the heading "A ring road for Bangalore."

The letter reads: "Please allow me the courtesy of your columns to present here a Satellite Transport Plan to Bangalore for the active consideration of the Road Transport Corporation and the Bangalore Development Authority. Approximately fixing Shivajinagar as the centre of this expanding town, I draw a route traversing suburban Bangalore. "Let us start from Krishnarajapura anti-clockwise and we see in the proposed route, places of importance like Kalikere, Tanisandra, Jakkur, Hospital Town, Peenya, Kamakshipura, Pandavapura, Subramaniapura, Elachenahalli, Dorasanipalaya, Bommanahalli, Singayyanapalaya, and again Krishnarajapura.

"Approximately covering a distance of 70 km., the ring road will have a radius of 11 km. from Shivajinagar. If the proposed road is set right with necessary modifications, I am sure the adventure will pay its dividends, adding fresh beauty spots to the ever expanding city of Bangalore."

A stretch of road in the city.

The writer of this earnest letter is an unassuming septuagenarian who sits on the fourth floor of Barton Centre on Mahatma Gandhi Road, managing the office of a publishing firm. He was a surveyor with the Survey of India, engaged in the extensive mapping of Bangalore in 1970s.

He says: "One day, 25 years ago, while I was in the British Council Library on St. Mark's Road referring to a book on town planning, I figured out that England and America had decongested their key cities with a connecting road; and that is how I hit upon the word `ring road' - a spiral path for our City. And I shot off the letter to the daily. The letter had to be written in my pseudonym, J. Vannery, because as a government servant, the service rules prevented me from using my real name while indulging in such correspondences," adds K.J. Joseph aka J. Vannery.

Mr. Joseph's letter spurred a public debate, which drew the attention of various government agencies to the idea of the Outer Ring Road.

"But I did not really keep track of the developments on the proposed road, as I was posted out of Bangalore. It was a coincidence that in the 1990s, after I retired from government service, a private agency hired me for the mapping work of the Ring Road. It was then that I found out that in response to my idea, other letters had suggested a modification to the route I had proposed." Mr. Joseph adds with a child-like smile: "When the Ring Road was thrown open to traffic some time back, I wanted to run through it."

But, when asked whether he would at least like to cut the ribbon to officially open the 11 km. end-stretch of the ORR passing through Magadi-Tumkur Road and Mysore Road on August 15, 2002, he responds with a short story of his that has been translated into five languages. It is about a mason and his wife who have worked on the construction of the Vidhana Soudha during the early 1950s. They view it as their very own project. The mason even loses a leg when a part of the building under construction collapses. Once the grand structure is completed, they wish to take a good look at it. But the police do not allow them to cross the security cordon near the seat of power. "So what have I to complain about?" he asks philosophically.

Mr. Joseph has also surveyed the entire Sathyamangalam forest range, now Veerappan's favourite haunt.


Photo: Sampath Kumar G.P.

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