A couple of weeks ago Minister for Housing and in-charge of Hassan district V. Somanna was travelling from Hassan to Belur to take part in a private programme. As his car crossed N.R. Circle and took a left turn to move towards Belur Road, he noticed potholes on the road and dust rising from the ground.
This is the state of the national highway connecting Bangalore to Mangalore. He instructed his driver to stop the vehicle and summoned the Executive Engineer concerned to the spot. The officer was told to fill the potholes immediately and ensure the road improvement work begins soon.
The Minister shared his experience with journalists later at a press conference. Many times in the past he had admitted that whenever he travels on Hassan's roads he develops breathing problems. This is the experience of a Minister who occasionally visits the city in a swanky car. Imagine the plight of residents of the city who walk/ride on the same road every day.
It is a nightmarish experience for two-wheeler riders on the stretch between N.R. Circle and Tanneruhalla in Hassan city. As the work on widening of the road has remained incomplete over the years, bike riders have to compromise with potholes and never-ending columns of dust.
The stretch of the road was earlier maintained by Hassan City Municipal Council. Following an accident in which three persons died at N.R. Circle due to poor maintenance of the road, the then government decided to handover it to the National Highway Authority for maintenance.
During the Mahamastakabhishekha of Gomateshwara at Shravanabelagola in 2006 the State Government took up the project to improve BM Road between Bhoovanahalli Cross and Tanneeruhalla at a cost of Rs. 16.32 crore. The work has not been completed so far. The stretch between Bhoovanahalli Cross and N.R. Circle has been improved but the rest is not due to opposition from a section of shopkeepers and businessmen.
Hundreds of buses connecting Chikmagalur and Sakleshpur pass through the road. Sakaleshpur-bound buses take the by-pass to avoid the particular stretch of the road, while those reaching Belur and Chikmagalur have no alternative routes. The passengers, particularly visitors to Belur, a major tourist attraction in the district, have to face this ordeal. Ramachandrappa N., a teacher, who travels by bus on this stretch daily to reach his work place, blames the government for the bad state of roads. “As per the initial plan the work should have been completed two years ago. It is sad that the government did not show the commitment to meet the deadline,” he said.
Pedestrians pass this stretch covering their face. Many people who reside close to this stretch of the road complain of breathing problems due to dust. B. Manjunath, a resident of Tanneeruhalla , said that he had no option to but to commute on this stretch to reach to centre of the city. “People might feel I am exaggerating the problem, but I feel as if I passing through hell when I commute on the road. I fear I might develop serious breathing problems,” he said. Many organisations have staged protests demanding improvement of the road. “The Ministers and senior officers travel by cars. They are least bothered about the condition of the road. We the poor citizens suffer,” said Prakash, a shopkeeper.
The story of many other roads in Hassan is no different. The KSRTC has shifted its services from the old bus stand to the new bus stand constructed on Hassan-Mysore Road. Except this road, which is intercepted by a railway track, there is no alternative to connect the city with the new bus stand. As a result the pressure on Hassan-Mysore Road has been going up gradually. Two months ago two people died in an accident occurred close to N.R.Circle. Demand for a railway overbridge to avoid piling up of vehicles has not been fulfilled so far.
For the last couple of years people of Hassan have been demanding upgradation of the Hassan-Dudda Road which connects Hassan to Arsikere. The stretch connecting Hassan and Dudda is in very bad shape, forcing commuters to prefer alternative roads. The government has now taken up the work to develop the road connecting Chiknayakanahalli to Hassan via Dudda and Gandasi at a cost of Rs 238.45 crore. The work has begun from the Chiknayakanahalli end. The people's representatives and the public want work started from the Hassan end as well so that journey to Arsikere would be smooth.
During the JD(S)-BJP rule the government sanctioned a ring road connecting Dairy Circle and Belur Road (9 km) at a cost of Rs. 7 crore. But the work was not implemented completely. So far the road has been laid only for 3.18 km, leaving the remaining work untouched. Had this project been completed by this time, the pressure on Bangalore-Mangalore Road passing through the city would have been reduced as travellers wishing to reach Chikmagalur or Belur would have taken the ring road. Because the project is incomplete, even the stretch which is complete has not been useful. According to the officials concerned, the project has not been completed as there are disputes over land acquisition.
Outer Ring Road
The government in 2005-06 had planned an outer ring road (ORR) to reduce congestion in the city. The plan was to lay a 52-km stretch connecting Tiptur-Dudda Road and State Highway 71 through Belur Road. The estimate for the project was Rs 187.17 crore. The project is still only on paper as the successive governments did not show interest in implementing it.
Many roads in Hassan city too require a facelift. The Hassan CMC and Public Works Department have been delaying the upgradation works citing rainy season as the reason. At a recent meeting Minister Somanna directed the officers to fill the potholes soon. The work is yet to begin.
Dust, potholes, traffic jams… major roads in Hassan are in a pathetic condition