Bengaluru's steel flyover plan still shrouded in secrecy

The BDA believes information needn't be in public domain.
Bengaluru's steel flyover plan still shrouded in secrecy
Bengaluru's steel flyover plan still shrouded in secrecy
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Imagine a large chunk of Bengaluru’s citizenry coming together to start a massive movement against a steel flyover? 

It is not new that the Bengaluru Development Authority (BDA) has botched up the issue by withholding information on the details of the project since the time the project was announced.

Trust BDA to muck things up again. 

Despite numerous attempts made by various activists to obtain the details of the project, its cost, the names of the contractors and sub-contractors and the persons or company providing steel for the flyover, either by directly contacting the BDA or by filing RTI applications, no authentic information has materialised.

“We went to the BDA, and many RTI activists also filed applications. They replied saying that the DPR has been sent to the cabinet for approval,” said Sunita Iyer of Namma Bengaluru Foundation.

The News Minute had also filed an RTI on October 25, to which a reply was only recently received with the same effect.

“Numerous applications have been filed for all these details but the BDA keeps giving everyone the same answer – the details cannot be furnished as a case is pending in the Karnataka High Court. This argument is baseless as a writ petition can never come in the way of RTI unless it is an official secret,” said Prakash Belawadi, a writer and activist, who has been part of the Steel Flyover Beda movement.

Soon after BDA had announced the project, a press release was giving negligible details and an engineer related to the project told the Times of India that the flyover was to be a metal structure. This press note is no longer available for public viewing.

In July 2016, because of pressure from the public, the project was put on hold and the government and called for public opinion. 

Don’t be shocked to hear this. The email id, which was provided for receiving suggestions had a typo in it and many emails bounced back.

“After this, another press note was released calling for public opinion on June 28. This time, BDA had given the public a 48-hour window to submit its responses. No one picked up the call on the number provided by BDA. Finally, it said that 299 replies were received and 219 wanted the government to go ahead with the flyover. These 219 people do not even come close to representing around 4 million people,” said Priya Chetty Rajagopal, an activist with Citizens for Bengaluru and also the executive director for leadership and board practice at RGF Executive Research.

Following this botch up, Namma Bengaluru Foundation (NBF), a non-government organisation in the city, filed an RTI application asking the feasibility report of the project, DPR, public opinion copies and many other details. After being denied of information by the BDA, now NBF filed a public interest litigation. 

Information on land acquisition, project diagrams, geotechnical investigation details, costs, structural diagrams and all other details were put on the public domain in September 2016. The tender was called for the project on September 28, 2015. It is searchable on the website but what appears is ‘under evaluation’.

With hushing up the project, the BDA has earned the mistrust of the people. The government had earlier said that heritage buildings will not be demolished, but 812 trees will be cut. 

Despite numerous attempts to contact the BDA authorities, they were not available for response.

Where did the botch up begin?

The proposed project was first mentioned in the 2014-15 state budget that was presented by the Chief Minister on February 14, 2014. The Detailed Project Report (DPR), according to media reports, was already ready in March 2014 but was not available on the public domain.

Also, the land that needed to be acquired from Palace Grounds for road widening was under dispute at the Supreme Court and this barrier was cleared for land acquisition only in November 2014.

A total of 3 acres 28 guntas of government land and 1 acre 0.74 gunta private land is to be acquired for the project. All these details, though available on the internet in the tender documents, were never put out in official press notes or briefings, so it never reached a larger audience, said Prakash Belawadi said.

“The BDA, by not providing details that need to be available on the public domain has given rise to suspicion in the minds of the people. They never wanted to tell the public any details. When the idea of the flyover was floated, they expected the public to accept it as a good move. They did not anticipate such opposition. It is about time they realise that the only way out is to put all the details out,” Priya Chetty Rajagopal added.

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