On Monday morning, instead of picking up his laptop and heading for the office, software engineer Prannoy took a placard as he headed out the door. He wore black track pants and a black t-shirt instead of neatly ironed shirt and trousers. So did his neighbours in Bengaluru’s Whitefield area. At 9:30 am, they left their cars behind and marched on the streets.
Whitefield Rising, a citizens’ welfare group held a protest in their locality against the the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike’s apathy to infrastructure problems in their area.
Prannoy commutes a 10-km distance to his office five days a week. “I don't feel the pain in the mornings because I reach work relatively sooner. But in the evenings, when I look forward to spending a little time with family, I only reach when it is almost time to go to bed. Well, that's all one can do considering the tiredness caused by the travel,” he told The News Minute.
He said that the planning of the area is flawed. “Even now, every corner, you would see an apartment complex mushrooming. But the roads are of the same size. Construction companies are only bothered about selling apartments. Why would they care about whether the roads can take so many vehicles or not?” he asked.
He says trucks and heavy vehicles cause traffic jams. "They should be punished. The authorities must stop letting these vehicles on the road during peak hours. They should be given a time slot," he added.
Haphazard urban growth
“We have everything except for roads,” says 35-year-old Manjunath, an auto driver.
Manjunath has been in Whitefield for over 20 years and he has seen the smooth tree-lined roads give way to a rash of apartment complexes, malls and IT parks.
He told The News Minute that the allure of glossy advertisements of builders prompted people to move to Whitefield, but once they began to live in the area, they realised how badly planned the area is.
“The size of the road remains unchanged. It is common sense that while taking a decision to accommodate more people the authorities should have also put in some thought on whether the roads can accommodate so many vehicles,” he said.
Thirty-three-year-old Yagna Shan, who runs Little Elly pre-school coordinated with schools to participate in the protest.
"As a person who runs a school and as mother who sends her six-year-old daughter to a school which is about 3 km from home, I know what students endure every day. Schools constantly complain that students reach late every day. It takes two and half hours to cover a 2 km stretch. That is cruel on the children's health," said Yagna.
Yagna says she was told by many school officials that around 30 percent of students arrive late on a daily basis. Those who come on time have to start very early.
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Health and pollution
"School authorities told me that some children have developed asthma because of continuous exposure to pollution," Yagna said. She claimed that some schools had declared a holiday so that students could participate in the protest.
Amaira, who studies in Deens Academy, said that the route to her school is literally a “bumpy stretch”, not a road, filled with potholes.
“I don't know whether my children are going to be safe by the time they get back home. The stories I hear every day are either they getting hurt in the bus or of another kid. These are not things children should be talking about,” said Priya whose daughter is in 8th standard and son is in 5th standard.
Whitefield Rising member Zibi Jamaal said that the preparations for the protests started about fifteen days ago. "This is the last straw. What more can we do? We have risen in protest in smaller groups almost every month. And no official has bothered to act," she said.
“We didn't bother calling any BBMP official or government official. It has been two hours since we started protesting, and both local and national television channels have aired the protest, but we still haven't been visited by a single official. If this doesn't prick their conscience nothing else would,” she said.