The year is 2020 and the Pumpwell flyover in Mangaluru is still not completed. It has been more than 11 years since the letter of approval was granted for the construction of a flyover in Pumpwell Circle but on January 1 2020, the flyover remained incomplete. And just like the last decade, it continued to be a source of conflict between the Congress and the BJP.
Service roads and two flyovers, including the infamous Pumpwell flyover, remained incomplete even though they were approved under Phase III of the National Highways Development Project (NHDP) in 2009 and construction began in 2010.
On Wednesday, BJP MLAs Vedavyas Kamath (Mangaluru South) and Bharath Shetty (Mangaluru North) forcibly shut down toll collection at the Talapady toll gate on the national highway connecting Mangaluru and Kasargod in Kerala. BJP workers arrived at the toll booth on Wednesday morning at 7:30 am and forcibly removed the barricades at the Talapady toll booth. They urged vehicles to ply without paying a toll fee at the booth.
The BJP leaders said that it was a symbolic protest to put pressure on the Navayuga Udupi Tollway Pvt. Ltd. (NUTPL), the concessionaire tasked with constructing the roads and flyovers, to complete the construction of the Pumpwell flyover, which lies at the intersection of National Highway (NH) 66 and NH 55.
Talapady toll booth on January 1
"We are holding a symbolic protest against Navayuga company to pressure them to correct the wrongs done to the public. We are disallowing the collection of toll at the Talapady toll gate. Our party workers are here to ensure this happens peacefully. If this does not quicken the process of construction, we will intensify the protests," MLA Vedavyas Kamath said speaking at the Talapady toll booth.
The MLA suggested that toll collection at the booth will be stopped for one month to pressurise the company into completing the construction of the service roads and flyovers. He pointed out that a loan of Rs 56 crore was arranged through Axis Bank to complete the prominent Pumpwell flyover in the city but despite that, the construction works remained incomplete.
Officials in-charge of toll collection at the booth estimate that Rs 7 lakh is collected as toll fee everyday in the Talapady toll both.
The flyover is part of a 90 km highway widening project between Talapady and Kundapura, a stretch of 112 km, running between Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts. The concessionaire was supposed to hand the property back to the government in 2035 after completing the construction works and 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 firm’s work on the flyover has not yet been completed.
Construction works at Pumpwell flyover
Last month, BJP State President and Dakshina Kannada MP Nalin Kumar Kateel said that the pending works on the flyover will be completed by December 31, 2019. 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 more than six years on, it is yet to be inaugurated.
Congress leaders in Mangaluru led by Ivan D'Souza and Ramanath Rai are set to hold a mock inauguration of the flyover on Wednesday evening. In December 2018, activists of 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.
In November 2019, a kite-flying event planned to highlight the incomplete flyover works was denied permission by the Mangaluru police. The event organisers had dubbed the event as ‘Nalin Galipata Campaign’ and planned to fly kites at the site of the flyover on November 24. However, police denied permission for the event citing the Ayodhya verdict delivered by the Supreme Court on November 9 as the reason for its decision.