BBMP field engineers push TDR, even as top brass sings opposite tune

As 2010 draws to a close, BBMP continues to coerce residents to accept TDR for road-widening. An expose on how BBMP engineers actually operate.

"First they said that our apartment was illegal. When we showed our property documents, BBMP engineers said that it wouldn’t matter because we had to give up our land for road widening anyway," says a resident of Rashi Pride apartments on Nyanappanahalli main road, BTM 6th stage. This relatively quiet road located in BTM 6th stage has been in the news lately because the residents raised their voice against BBMP’s coercive tactics for land acquisition.

Apartment marked for road widening on Nyanappanahalli main road in BTM 6th stage. Pic: Sreenandan A V

The resident, who does not wish to be named, says that the BBMP officers had threatened to demolish the apartment if they did not accept TDR. "They said that if we accepted TDR, only 10 feet land into our compound would be gone, else they would raze down the apartment itself." Work has already started in the stretch, but residents have not given in yet. They plan to file an injunction suit against the widening.

But BBMP officials are not backing down. A field engineer with BBMP in south Bangalore, who spoke to Citizen Matters under condition that he not be named, says that residents will ultimately have to give away the land. "Our duty is to follow the RMP (Revised Master Plan). If not today, residents will have to give away land tomorrow; they should accept that," he says. Though he concedes that TDR is optional, "we try to convince residents to accept it." Under this field engineer’s jurisdiction alone, four other roads are being widened now – Arekere road, BGS School road, AECS layout road and Thayappa Garden road.

Left hand bulldozes, right hand reasons

Even as lower level engineers at BBMP appear to be gung-ho about using TDR for road-widening, higher level officials are singing a different tune. K T Nagaraj, Superintendent Engineer (Major Roads) says that all road-widening, except four, has been stopped for now. Nagaraj’s sits in the BBMP head quarters at N R Square. "Only Mysore road, Dickenson road, Hosur Luskar road (near Audugodi) and Kasturba road are being widened now. About other roads, no policy decision has been made about acquisition. The BBMP Standing Committee (Major Works) has to present their proposal for approval before the Council," he says.

Nagaraj however says he is not aware of the issue brewing up over Nyanappanahalli main road. "We proceed with acquisition only after giving formal notice about extent of widening and getting the residents’ consent," he says.

Earlier press reports say that Mayor S K Nataraj has also said that widening would not be done in residential areas for now.

Suresh Kumar, Minister for Law and Urban Development, confirms this. "Ninety one roads have been listed only by the BBMP, the Cabinet will have to approve it. Meetings will be held after the zilla panchayat elections to chalk out alternate solutions," he says. He says that many roads would not have to be widened if junctions are optimised; and even if widening has to be done, high compensation – as in the case of Metro acquisitions – should be given.

Jayanagar MLA Vijayakumar says that road widening is neither easy nor urgent. "With Metro coming, and around 50 flyovers and underpasses being planned, many roads will not even need to be widened. Chief Minister has instructed us to go ahead with widening only after further discussions," he says.

But none of these seem to be communicated to officials working on the ground. The BBMP field engineer says that there have been no specific instructions regarding road widening recently, and that they have only been continuing with the usual procedures. "In areas like Mahadevpura, TDR has been implemented very well. Widening has been going on in many areas. Roads affected by the midnight tender scam are also in the list of 91 roads, but we are going slow on them until the court judgment is out," he says.

"In case residents do not accept TDR, cash compensation maybe given," says the field engineer. Residents of Naynappanahalli road, fear that once the surrounding areas are widening, they may have no option but to surrender their land.

The ten feet marked for widening accommodates the transformers, sewage systems which cannot be moved. Pic: Sreenandan A V

They say that the 1.15 km-long 60-feet Nyanappanahalli main road does not require any widening, as the traffic is very low. Residents have also complained about the alignment of the road. As per the existing alignment, the additional 20 feet should be acquired from the other side of the road instead of 10 feet from both sides, they say. "The 10 feet in front of the apartment accommodates the transformers, sewage systems etc. There is no extra space; the entire plot is only 300X100 feet," say residents.

Resentment continues city-wide

Meanwhile, BBMP Standing Committee (Major Works) Chairman H Ravindra has been making statements about a TDR market being facilitated by BBMP. On the Magadi road and Hosahalli main road in Padarayanapura issue, Ravindra said that BBMP would buy the TDR and sell it to builders. "We will facilitate TDR transactions. This model would be replicated for the whole city," he says. The statements were followed by strong protests by residents here.

In Banaswadi, residents held a protest march after a meeting with BBMP officials to discuss widening. A resident here says, "There are many businesses along that road. How will BBMP compensate us if it does not have the money to pay off its own contractors? And if BBMP is selling TDRs to builders, it is allowing more illegal construction for the building mafia. Building an overbridge instead would reduce congestion."

However Maruti Sevanagar Corporator, R Rajendran, under whom Banaswadi falls, says that he is for road widening. "Seventy percent of the owners have agreed for road widening. The compensation details will be discussed in the next council meeting" he says. The protests are more vocal from the tenants, who own businesses on the marked stretch of road. Wherever, the residents have agreed, road-widening work has begun.

Vijay Kumar, member of Tannery Road Association, says that BBMP officials recently approached them to negotiate about compensation. "We do not support widening. But BBMP said they are ready to give cash compensation and we have agreed to meet with them in couple of weeks." Citizen Matters could not confirm from BBMP that they need indeed visited Tannery Road occupants. SE Nataraj denies BBMP has engaged residents there.

Metro work near Mantri Mall, Malleshwaram. Pic: Navya P K

In Malleswaram, residents are even more cautious. Last month they held a protest against the possible widening of 8th main road. Though the road has not been marked under RMP, residents believe that the proposed four-lane road connecting Mantri Metro station to Yeshwanthpur Metro station would pass through this road. Prof Srinivas Murthy, a resident and professor at MES College, says, "This is the only road here which connects Majestic to Yeshwanthpur. We also found Metro officials announcing this on TV once."

Ministers, MLAs undecided

Minister Suresh Kumar, whose own house in Ram Mohan Puram has been marked for widening, contests the idea of TDR itself. "A person should be able to get a house in a sizable plot in a good area with the compensation. Is it even possible to get such land in core areas now?" TDR will be attractive only if it is people-friendly and has a good market. "We will study the TDR recommendations submitted by the government-appointed committee headed by A Ravindra," he says.

MLA Vijayakumar says that TDR would not work in slums and thickly populated areas as the many land losers would not have adequate documents; also the proportions of the land would be too small to have a valuable TDR. "BBMP officials make hurried statements without considering socio-political impacts of their actions or getting the consent of public." Compensating land losers with alternative BDA land would be a good idea, he says. But Suresh Kumar says that this process would be difficult as BDA already has many applicants who are waiting for plots.

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