Residents belonging to Maangalya Residences in Bengaluru’s Benson Town have lost sleep over fears that their homes will be razed. Spread over two acres, the 20-year-old residential complex located behind the Cantonment Railway station houses 59 upscale apartments. Maangalya Residences may now come in the path of Namma Metro’s Phase-II project.
Residents of the housing complex refuse to relocate saying it cannot simply be quantified in terms of financial compensation. Many elderly residents, they argue, are also incapable of moving.
Speaking to TNM, 76-year-old Usha Chawla, who has been living at Maangalya Residences for the last 16 years, said, “We don’t want to think about our homes being razed down. We won’t let that happen. I have a sick husband (84), I cannot afford to move at this age. We took long to settle here. We want to live peacefully till we are alive.”
Another senior citizen, 86-years-old BS Rao said, “They are many above 70-year-olds and some like me (above 80-year-olds) who reside in the apartment. For us, the very thought of moving away from this place after all these years is troubling us. Where will we go? This is not just one family where the members are over 70-year-olds. These human costs cannot be quantified in rupees. They should think of alternatives that do not involve human suffering of this scale.”
In an attempt to keep their homes intact, residents of the apartment have started an online petition seeking intervention from Chief Minister Siddaramaiah. In three days’ time, the petition has attracted more than 3300 signatures.
In their petition, the residents argue that not only will the proposed alignment leave them homeless but will also affect the whole area. They say traffic movement would be disrupted for a long time as the area is rocky and that the heavy construction equipment needed to build the underground tunnel will also clog the narrow roads of the locality.
The first alignment according to the Detailed Project Report in 2011 had said a station will be set up on a railway land near the existing Cantonment Railway Station. But the Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL) in July 2014 had started to survey a BBMP land in Bamboo Bazaar to set up the station there instead. BMRCL had claimed difficulty in acquiring Railway land for shifting the location of the station.
The metro officials said that building the station at Madina Masjid grounds in Bamboo Bazaar will save them Rs 1000 crore in construction costs and also cut the travel time of the whole phase by one and a half minutes.
However, locals at Bamboo Bazaar, urban mobility experts and citizen activists were up in arms against the decision as they argued that shifting the station anywhere far from the Cantonment Railway Station will defeat the purpose of creating an integrated transit hub. And as a result, the number of vehicles on the already clogged roads in the city won’t reduce. A Change.org petition demanding the same has got more than 42000 signatures in more than three months.
The sustained campaign by the activists forced the metro authorities to re-survey the area along the Benson Crossroad earlier in November.
Speaking to TNM, Sanjeev Dymanavar, an urban transport expert, said that if the BMRCL shifts the station location by a little margin, then the apartment complex need not be razed down at all.
“By a small adjustment in location of Cantonment Metro Station and the Pottery Town station the tunnel length can be reduced to less than 1.5 km which will eliminate the need for a mid-tunnel shaft,” he told TNM.
Sanjeev has also sent an email to BMRCL Director Pradeep Singh Kharola, other officials of the metro, and politicians lending support to the citizen’s protest.
He added, even if there is a need to build an air shaft, there is an empty defence land off Nandidurga Road that could be used for the same purpose.
“The 1000 crores figure is something new. When the union cabinet approved the plan 44 months ago, this Detailed Project Report was taken into consideration. The government should make the BMRCL accountable. Why is it delaying the project? It could have started working on the project as soon as it was approved,” he said.