Hostile civic infra keeps people away from public spaces

OU monthly pass for walkers, bus shelter benches with spikes are a few examples

December 27, 2021 12:27 am | Updated 12:27 am IST - HYDERABAD

Some of the city infrastructure that is hostile towards citizens. Photos: Serish Nanisetti

Some of the city infrastructure that is hostile towards citizens. Photos: Serish Nanisetti

Hundreds of morning walkers and joggers used to pound the pavement lining the road of Osmania University. Now, about 800-1,000 walkers show their passes and enter the leafy avenue of the university established by Nizam Osman Ali Khan in the 1930s.

“There used to be more walkers and joggers but the number has come down. The entry pass is voluntary, we are not sending away anyone who doesn’t have a pass,” says an OU official.

But walkers have to get past the security guards posted near the entrance with a signboard about registration. The ₹200 monthly pass is just one more example of pushing out citizens from public spaces. “The Tank Bund, even after 400 years, remains the only open, egalitarian, and equitable public space,” says architect Shankar Narayan when asked about hostile public spaces.

Spikes on benches

Benches at bus shelters have spikes so that passengers don’t get comfortable. At the waiting stand for hired vehicles near Begumpet Metro, the benches have small projects making the place inconvenient to lie down. Other benches at bus bays are too short to stretch. GHMC public parks get padlocked by 7 p.m. to prevent people from loitering. At the Lotus Pond, a rope is stretched near the entrance to keep people from sitting on the steps.

Hostile public infrastructure is becoming a norm in Hyderabad. From park shelters carved with stones that lined the Musi to comfortable bus bays built with concrete, Hyderabad has come a long way.

Unusable spaces

Making spaces unusable are GHMC and Hyderabad Police signages that are too low to allow pedestrians to walk past them without bumping a head or nose. While the middle of a footpath is used for tree plantation, an 89-cm signage announces that it is part of ‘Telangana ku Haritha Haram’.

How citizens use the footpath or step onto the road with dangerously fast vehicles zipping by is another question. “Only the able bodied use footpaths during their morning walks. Older people know that footpaths are not intuitive and difficult to access,” says B. Sanjay, an architecture photographer who blames lack of design sense for this hostile infrastructure.

Even motorists are not spared of the hostile infra with road dividers wrapped in razor wire to prevent pedestrians from using them. Even outside the CM’s Camp Office, the barricade in the middle of the road is wrapped in razor wire to prevent pedestrians walking close to it.

Incidentally, the GHMC is in violation of its own laws that ask the municipal body to “remove obstructions and projections in or upon streets, bridges and other public places.” There is a penalty of ₹500 under Section 401 (1) for violating “Prohibition of structures or fixtures causing obstruction on streets.”

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