Infrastructure and other woes

I can’t believe I’m using this place to vent. I should not, it was not meant for this! But maybe if I just put this in the rants section it won’t really matter? I just had to get this off my chest.

So this petition was brought to my notice today and I was exhorted to sign. Here it is:

Petition regarding Bellandur Infrastructure

It has literally been years since I reacted to something like this. I have been good, I have! In my normal state of mind, I’d have ignored this and moved on but I had been arguing with the spouse which is a thing that always leaves me riled. That’s also why he doesn’t give me too many openings of the sort. Anyway, right when I was annoyed, THIS came along.

This is what the petition says:

Children are frequently stuck in jams and return home tired. It is scary to think the effect the pollution has on their growing bodies. Cases of asthma and allergic cough are quite common

If there is one thing calculated to get the attention of a parent it is their child and something bad that might happen to them. But beyond that one line acting as a hook, there was not one other word about pollution, it’s effects and reducing it in the rest of the petition. Not one word. I hate being manipulated and this put me off right away.

The Sarjapur road, adjoining ORR, houses Wipro corporate office – currently 10,000 employees. A new Techpark sprawling on 65 acres is coming up in Carmelaram, near Decathlon Sarjapur road. Many more residential units dot the scape from ibblur junction to Sarjapura. Haralur road, Hosa road and adjoining areas have apartments with thousands of flats and thousands more under construction. Sarjapura road and Varthur road connected by SH-35 also are home to around 30+ schools.

Lakhs of people live here, and lakhs more come to work…..

– Identify alternate routes, acquire additional land for roads, widen narrow access routes to reduce load on arterial roads.

So, when they say identify alternate routes and acquire land, my guess is they do not mean break down the tech parks or pull down a block in the new apartment or even a playground to make room for that road. What they mean is clear some houses in what is left of the villages that once surrounded Sarjapur Road, take over what is left of the fields, small shops – what they describe as narrow access routes. There is a sort of despicable elitism in this thought process that makes me shiver.

And this –

All residents rich and poor in this area are suffering due to rise in pollution, overcrowding and traffic congestion. Children are frequently stuck in jams and return home tired. It is scary to think the effect the pollution has on their growing bodies. Cases of asthma and allergic cough are quite common

…..

All these roads have not been widened or improved since Bellandur and Devarabisanahalli flyovers were built more than 5 years ago.

…Sarjapura road widening is a project pending since last 10 years.

– Release the DPR for Sarjapura road, call for citizen consultation and start work asap.

On the topic of reduction in private transport – complete silence. How can road widening, with the twin evils of increasing traffic and reducing greenery help improve children’s health? Can road widening and flyover building that need to be repeated every five years be a sustainable solution?

They do mention as long term strategy more buses, brts or other mass transit and cycle lanes. I thought long term strategy was for things that take time to implement or are expensive. Like the Metro. And shouldn’t cycle lanes be the shortest term strategy? All you have to do is put a movable barrier with gaps to accommodate building gates, and you’re done. If you believe they will work at all, they will work now.

There has been much indignation over Arvind Kejriwal’s decision to limit cars plying on the road to those with odd or even numbered license plates based on the day of the month. And yet, as a short term measure – which is what it is, it should work!

A colleague once told me that his mantra as a software developer was “code for the short term, design for the mid-term, and architect for the long term”. Substitute hot fix for code, and you have mine. What Kejriwal has done is exactly that! Delhi is now officially acknowledged to be a gas chamber. With violations/poor policing, everything, he will still be able to reduce traffic on the road by 15-20% at least. In one fell stroke. The numbers could be higher. I can’t think of another way he could achieve this so quickly. Plus, it buys him time for his mid term measures – like augmenting the bus fleet, increasing metro timings, synchronizing traffic signals, bus and cycle lanes and onto longer term like increasing metro routes, making public transport safer and who knows what else.

Why aren’t we thinking like this? Years of road widening have clearly got us nowhere.

I think the answer has to do with this –

ORR companies contributed about Rs 100 Cr property tax last year to the state govt. But there has been spends worth only Rs 5 Cr in the last few years. As one of the highest tax payer constituency in Bangalore, we are furious with this poor report card.

So the people of Sarjapur Road ORR pay a lot of money and rightfully feel they are entitled to benefits in line with that spend. Because I was not very clear, I googled up “Why do we pay property tax” and got this:

The taxes pay for city services to make your entire community a livable place. Things like street lights, police, fire department, schools, parks and other little things that you probably take for granted cost money.

If you don’t want to pay property taxes, you could actually built yourself a house in the middle of a desert and never pay a penny.

The idea of property taxes, when managed properly, is to pool the money for projects that are too big for an individual homeowner but are needed for everybody.

So while that 100 cr can and should be spent in making the road smoother or pothole free, planting trees, can it really be used to forcibly acquire land from other people to build a road? Umm don’t they pay taxes too? Their taxes might not buy them much but maybe a gate to keep the ORR cars OFF those village shortcuts in the first place?

We are still only recovering from the devastating Chennai floods. Most experts agree that it was a man-made disaster. Rampant construction, covering over of lake beds, converting rain water channels to covered roads, and plastic waste clogging the drains all played a role in stopping the rainwater from seeping underground or flowing out to sea. We are walking that same road. I wish we could see a bit further ahead and just STOP!

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