Mahakavi Kuvempu Road – then and now

Once the site of protests against the metro, MKK Road in North Bangalore is now witness to a change of face and attitude. This article includes a special audio feature.

The dusty haze of construction, ubiquitous green signs and makeshift shacks with ‘namma metro’, a clear view of a once tree-lined street, half demolished buildings, newly asphalted road – metro construction work is in full swing on Mahakavi Kuvempu Road (MKK Road) in north-west Bangalore.

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You’d barely recognise the road from what it was 18 months ago. But in 18 months, the cosmetic transformations aren’t the only changes along the road.

According to owners and tenants, property prices and rentals on commercial properties have shot up, beyond what can be attributed to the general trend across Bangalore.

“Earlier, prices used to be less. Now, rent, advance, everything has become three to five times more, because of the metro,” says Supriya, who runs an opticals store situated on MKK Road. She says she has to pay increased rent despite business being down by as much as 80 per cent.

Metro Construction at MMK rd

Construction work has taken up most of the space on MKK Road. Pic: Karunya Keshav.

Owners say that increased rentals prices reflect the development of the road as a commercial area. In addition, they expect that having the metro right at their doorstep will mean that this entire area will be prime real-estate in a couple of years.

“Properties that were Rs 1000 (rent per month before the metro construction) have become Rs 5000 (rent per month),” says Kantharaj N, a book store owner. However, with business having slowed down, many traders have chosen to vacate the premises and relocate, rather than pay these amounts. “About 200 or 300 shops are empty now,” Kantaraj adds.

V Anand is one of the tenants who chose to move his textiles business out of MKK Road. He says he was asked to pay over a lakh of rupees as rent, when he could get a showroom of the same area for just about Rs 20,000.

The Protests in 2008 – 09

Mahakavi Kuvempu Road is one of the lifelines of north Bangalore. It is an important bus route, for services plying in and out of Rajajinagar, Mahalakshmi Layout, and Malleshwaram.

MMK metro work-demolished house

Not all demolished structures have been rebuilt. Pic: Karunya Keshav.

In 2008, Citizen Matters had reported on a study by Dr Solomon Benjamin and R Bhuvaneswari which suggested that the economy of this stretch of road between Navarang, and a little before Malleshwaram Circle was developed, “by investing trade surpluses into real estate over periods of time.”

In 2006, the Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited obtained permission to acquire land for road widening and metro work. In response, the MKK Road Traders Association organised road blocks, and all shops remained shut in protest. A delegation also met the local politicians with their grievances, but to no avail.

Amidst protests, demolition work began in January 2009, and intensified in March 2009. Approximately 700 affected businesses were given monetary compensation.

But to hear the traders today, one would hardly believe that this was the stretch of the road that saw vociferous protests against the metro construction. In fact, the Traders Association that organised the agitations is now “a dummy.”

Change of attitude

Traders say they are resigned to the problems that the metro construction brings. They are looking forward to better commercial prospects that they expect the metro to bring.

“If the government decides to do something, then there is nothing we can do about it,” says Kantaraj . “The protests were of no use…We protested for our satisfaction,” he adds.

MMK road metro work

The metro construction work near Deviah Park has had most trees being cut along the stretch on the main road. Pic: Karunya Keshav.

Closed shutters and ‘to let’ signs along the road indicate that some traders have chosen to move their operations elsewhere. Anand, who also spearheaded much of the protests, rues the lost business. He says that the Rs 3 lakh he got for about 1500 sq ft lost was insufficient. However, among those that stayed, there is a marked change in attitude from 18 months ago.

There is cautious satisfaction among the property owners, who have been offered “quite good” cash compensation. “The owners were lucky. They got compensation between Rs 1850 and Rs 4500 per square foot, of lost land, which was more than the market value,” says Anand.

Property owners say BMRCL has made provisions for handing out compensation packages to tenants as well. This would not have been offered during road widening work undertaken by the BBMP or the Highway authorities, they say. Anand says smaller property tenants were compensated especially well. “Small shops of 50 sq ft got as much as Rs 65,000 as compensation,” he says.

The road widening protests that took place in MKK Road were played out at different areas across Bangalore, including the South Bangalore region around Lalbagh and R V Road. Phase II of the project has been announced and is in its planning stages. In a few years, will we see a similar rise and ebb of protests in these areas as well, as the Government gets its way and the Metro chugs along? ⊕

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