It is a celebration more than ten years in the making. A parade of cultural troupes, with some people playing the chende (a drum used in Yakshagana), some others dressed as giant puppets and one person even dressed as Mr. Bean, turned the Pumpwell flyover in Mangaluru into a carnival.
The flyover was inaugurated amid fanfare, more than 11 years since the letter of approval was granted for its construction in 2009. Over the last decade, it was a source of conflict between the Congress and the BJP in the coastal city.
Ironically, the flyover, which has been built to ease the traffic logjam at the intersection of NH66 and NH55 was inaugurated at 9.37 am, which is about the same time the area faces heavy traffic due to people heading towards city to reach offices and educational institutions. According to a traffic policemen, the inauguration was delayed from the scheduled start at 9 am. âWe were told to cordon the area until VIPâs leave and allow regular commuters after the inauguration was done,â a traffic policeman said.
The inauguration however lasted for about an hour, after which and the regular vehicular movement was allowed around 10.30 am.
Speaking at the inauguration, Dakshina Kannada MP and BJP Karnataka President Nalin Kumar Kateel argued that it did not take over a decade but merely three years for the completion of Pumpwell flyover. âUntil 2016, only the support elevated area on which the flyover stands were acquired for the project. We could not complete the entry and exit-ramps as the local residents had obtained stay order. The Congress party that had elected representatives both in the state assembly as well as Mangaluru City Corporation (MCC), did not make any effort, to negotiate or bring consensus among the litigants, even as ordinary people continued to suffer from traffic congestion,â he said.
Responding to the criticism and trolling over repeated changes of the deadline for the flyoverâs completion, Nalin alleged that it was the opposition led âdramaâ to show BJP leaders in poor light. âIt has only made me more popular. But let them first answer that despite knowing Navayuga Udupi Tollway Pvt. Ltd (NUTPL)'s poor financial health, why did the Congress at the Centre in 2009 decide to handover the project to NUTPL. It was us (BJP) who convinced the Central government to award advance of Rs. 59 Crore for the Pumpwell project after NUTPL had failed to convince private bankers to extend loan for the project,â he said.
The inaugural event was largely dominated by the BJPâs local legislators, along with its local corporators and party workers. The event did not see any presence of Congress representatives or leaders.
Nalin, a three-time MP from Dakshina Kannada, was first elected from the constituency in 2009. He subsequently won from the constituency in the 2014 and 2019 parliamentary elections. In the run-up to both elections, the Pumpwell flyover was an election issue raised by his opponents. At one point, the flyover was officially slated to be inaugurated on March 31, 2013 but it has now been inaugurated more than six years after the initial target.
The flyover is a part of the 90 km highway widening project from Talapady to Kundapura, a distance of 112 km between Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts. NUPTL was tasked with completing the construction and was supposed to hand the property back to the government in 2035 after managing the property for over 20 years. However, due to slow progress in land acquisition by the government, court litigations and local political pressure, the firmâs work on the flyover was only completed earlier this month.
In the last two years, the Congress and the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) had celebrated a mock inauguration of the incomplete flyover wearing masks of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari and Nalin Kumar Kateel.
With inputs from Story Infinity (Subs and Scribes Media Ventures LLP.)