Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Ltd in October last year prepared a draft comprehensive mobility plan for the city, arguing that one body needed to be responsible for mobility to better plan and coordinate operations between different agencies. The draft was open for suggestions from the public until January 20, 2020.
Over 120 citizens have signed a petition on Change.org arguing that the metro rail corporation cannot, under law, draft such a plan. The mobility plan is a subset of the city development plan, and cannot be undertaken as an independent exercise, the petition argues. Besides, BMRCL is mandated only to provide metro services; it is not the authority under law to undertake mobility planning.
The metropolitan planning committee is the body that, under the Nagarpalika Act, 1990, has the authority to create a city mobility plan. The National Urban Transport Policy, 2014, defines a transport authority under the elected city administration to take up this task.
For the metro rail corporation to draft a mobility plan, the signatories to the Change.org petition state, “is contempt of the Constitution, contempt of citizens, and violation of all laws! What’s more, we are fairly convinced that this move by the government is to support the vested ‘broker-consultant-contractor’ nexus, to bring back unpopular and destructive projects like the Elevated Corridors, which have been rejected by citizens, time and time again!”
The petition calls for the chief minister to be removed from the metropolitan planning committee (MPC) so that the civic body is free to report to the elected body of the city, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagar Palike council.
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The petitioners state that the data presented in the draft plan is outdated and the whole exercise was undertaken only to fulfill the requirements for getting funding from the Centre for the city metro project. They say the metro authorities approached Infrastructure Development Corporation Karnataka (iDeCK) to get a draft ready; then, when that draft, which was fairly sound, was submitted, the metro authorities approached the Directorate of Urban Land Transport which roped in “vested interests”. “The Mafia behind the Elevated Corridors project is unrelenting and active! The conspiracy behind this needs to be unravelled: Advisors to the Govt are essentially brokers for contractors,” the petitioners add.
The Elevated Corridor project was a plan to create seamless flow of traffic through a corridor constructed above ground level and connecting the suburbs to the heart of the city and to each other. It was meant to have four to six-lane traffic, and its total length would be about 100 km. The pillars for this corridor would occupy the median of the surface road, and citizens objected saying the construction would make the city a nightmare for pedestrians, besides encouraging private transport. The High Court put the project on hold in 2019, but it features again in this CMP.
Citizens protest that the city needs to encourage walking and cycling, and this is not taken into consideration in this draft. Ajay Seth, MD of BMRCL was unreachable over the phone.
Sandeep Anirudhan, founder of Citizens Agenda for Bengaluru, a group that describes itself as a “think tank” for the management of the city, said, “That financial institutions refused funding for Metro projects without an UMTA and Comprehensive Mobility Plan was welcome. What shocked us was that BMRCL was fudging a plan to obtain funding. Shows how unprofessional our bureaucracy is. Corruption by the contractor-adviser nexus is holding our city hostage to vested interests. It threatens to make our city unliveable. This was an opportunity to implement provisions of the 74th amendment and empower the MPC. We could have had a truly workable mobility plan in place.”
Bangalore, which was renamed Bengaluru in 2014, has a population of 84.3 lakhs according to Census 2011, the third most populated city in India after Mumbai and Delhi. It is spread over 700 sq km. Construction of a metro project for the city started in 2007. In November 2019, Metro Rail News reported that an official of the chief Minister’s Office had said that the state government had decided to extend the metro network in the city to 300 km by 2025. Currently, the total length of the metro network is about 120 km.
The Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation, a subsidiary of the Karnataka Road Transport Corporation that operates the bus fleet for the city, has about 6,500 buses. In May last year, The Hindu reported that this is a small part of the total of 80 lakh vehicles on city roads. In 21 years, despite the addition of more area to the city limits and increase in population, the bus fleet had grown by less than 4,500 buses.
The mobility plan for the city notes that Bangalore accounts for 36% of the state’s GDP. Besides being an information technology hub, it hosts institutions offering professional education and centres of world renown for scientific and technical research. Increased road congestion and long commute times are noted by almost all visitors to the city. The mobility plan notes that there are stretches in the core areas of the city where average traffic speed is about 11 km per hour.
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