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Best city to live in is on a downward slide

Chitra V. Ramani
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Despite big budget allocations, very little is being done to improve infrastructure in Bangalore

WHAT PROGRESS?:Work on the bridge over the drain near the Gali Anjaneya temple on Mysore Road began in 2006 and was to have been completed in a year. After six years, this is what it looks like. Moreover, heavy rain floods the temple.— PHOTO: K. MURALI KUMAR
WHAT PROGRESS?:Work on the bridge over the drain near the Gali Anjaneya temple on Mysore Road began in 2006 and was to have been completed in a year. After six years, this is what it looks like. Moreover, heavy rain floods the temple.— PHOTO: K. MURALI KUMAR

Bangalore may have emerged as the best Indian city to live in, according to a recent survey by Mercer, a global HR consultancy firm. However, there is no denying that the backbone of the city’s infrastructure — roads — is far from being the best. So the best city to live in has roads riddled with potholes, unscientific medians, footpaths and road humps that don’t conform to the Indian Road Congress (IRC) guidelines. Add to that gigantic infrastructure projects progressing at a snail’s pace, ploughing up roads and slowing traffic.

Big talk

Bangaloreans have long since reconciled themselves to crumbling roads despite the State government’s occasional noises about development packages.

A year after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in the State, then Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa announced a Rs. 18,000-crore package in his 2009-10 Budget for the city. Of this, Rs. 2,000 crore was earmarked to upgrade important roads.

Later, the government prepared a Rs. 22,000 crore investment proposal to address infrastructure bottlenecks and proposed 12 projects to be implemented over a three-year period (2009-12).

This included 12 signal-free corridors, widening and asphalting of arterial and sub-arterial roads in new extensions, elevated viaducts, railway overpass and underpass, remodelling of storm-water drains, among others.

Three CMs since then

The State has had three Chief Ministers since then but the city has been left high and dry. The BJP in the BBMP Council too announced several development programmes in its three budgets. The outlay for 2010-11 was Rs. 8,848 crore, for 2011-12 it was Rs. 9,380 crore, while for 2012-13 it was Rs. 9,499 crore. But, the BBMP appears to have barely managed to implement about 40 per cent of the projects announced in the budget.

No funds earmarked

A senior BBMP official, on the condition of anonymity, said that no funds had been earmarked for road repair and maintenance in the BBMP budgets. Some money was allotted in the 2010-11 budget.

“However, it was not utilised and the works reappeared in the 2011-12 and 2012-13 budgets as spill-over works. They are stuck at various levels, and some are part of the multi-crore bogus bill scam being investigated by the Criminal Investigation Department,” he said.

The city has around 10,000 km of roads and the BBMP needs a minimum of Rs. 100 crore annually to maintain them.

The 2,000-km long arterial roads require urgent attention. But despite the gargantuan budgets, the BBMP has been unable to re-lay and maintain arterial motorways such as Richmond Road, Residency Road, J.C. Road and Double Road over the past four years at least.

Charge

M.K. Gunasekhar, Opposition Leader in BBMP Council, said: “It would not be wrong to say that the BJP has neglected the city, which contributes nearly Rs. 70,000 crore to the State exchequer.”

The BBMP’s Town Planning Department should have a greater role in city planning. “Its activity is restricted to only sanctioning building plans.”

However, Mayor D. Venkatesh Murthy believes otherwise. He said that the government had earmarked funds for overall development.

“There is development work happening. Citizens don’t realise this as they are overwhelmed by the garbage crisis, which both the BBMP and the government are trying to resolve. Works worth Rs. 30,000 crore are being currently executed. Infrastructure will greatly improve after these projects are completed,” he said.

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