Commercial Street on a Saturday afternoon with faded paver stones
Commercial Street on a Saturday afternoon with faded paver stones

How things went all wrong in Rs 5.5 cr makeover of Bengaluru’s Commercial Street

Inaugurated in July 2021 by then CM Yediyurappa, Bengaluru’s Commercial Street makeover has turned out to be a series of blunders for the ruling BJP.

It was supposed to transform Bengaluru’s popular shopping destination from dull and dingy into a colourful, cobbled street. In reality, however, the multi-crore makeover of Commercial Street has turned out to be a series of blunders for the BJP dispensation in the state.

The approximately 500 meter stretch in Shivajinagar area houses businesses dealing in apparel and accessories of all shapes and sizes. Coming under the Smart City project, Commercial Street’s makeover was conceptualised in January 2019 before BS Yediyurappa took oath as the Chief Minister later that year. Work, however, only began in May 2020 after the Rs 5.5 crore project was awarded to Yoga and Co, a civil contractor following a tendering process. The street along with other surrounding roads in the Shivajinagar area were to undergo a Church Street-like remodelling. Besides cosmetic changes, all utility lines—drainage, sewage, power, telecom lines were to be shifted underground—to make it user friendly. There were also proposals to make the street pedestrian only.

Watch how the makeover looked on the first few days

But the project - while good on paper- has since its reopening suffered flooding, with its shoddy workmanship coming under scrutiny.  

What went wrong

The work on ground had begun only in May 2020 due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent nationwide lockdown. After a year, when work was near completion in July 2021, a red carpet was rolled out and the road was inaugurated by then Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa amidst much fanfare. Much to the embarrassment of the authorities, the next day’s rain saw the newly-laid Commercial Street flooded, with water overflowing from utility ducts. 

Speaking with TNM, then Chief Engineer of Smart City claimed that the work on the stretch was not officially complete despite the inauguration. 

Makeover loses colour within a month

But water gushing down the newly-laid streets after the official inauguration was not the only problem. The multi-coloured cobblestones had faded to all grey within two weeks of the official inauguration. The shoddy workmanship also showed in how the stones were laid - with wide gaps surfacing and the road getting dusty within days of the reopening.

With the Karnataka government facing flak for the makeover, Minister R Ashoka ordered the contractor to redo the entire work at their own expense. Smart City Managing Director, IAS officer Rajender Cholan also said they will impose a penalty of 10% of the project cost to the contractor. 

Following the rework order, the contractor Yoga and Co has started relaying fresh pavers on the street, extending the inconvenience caused to ailing businesses and shoppers. The re-work which began on Monday, September 13, is scheduled to go on for the next two weeks.

What businesses have to say

Zaid, who has been working in a small standalone apparel shop for 10 years in Commercial Street, said business was finally recovering but the shoddy work of the contractor has meant extended pain for them. “Already businesses have suffered much due to the lockdown and the road work for over a year. But now the work that was done was shoddy. We saw gaps appearing between the tiles within days, the road is also dusty.”

He, however, added the remodelling work despite being longer than expected has helped the issue of water logging which was witnessed earlier. “The good thing is that now the water logging issue has been solved, now the water drains away in a matter of minutes even if it rains hard unlike earlier,” he said.

Sanjay Motwani, President of Bengaluru Commercial Association (the local traders body),  wants to look on the bright side of things. He said, “While it’s true that businesses were affected for a long period, it is good that the authorities have taken note of the situation and have reined in the contractor to redo the work. Otherwise this is one of the best streets of Bengaluru. Further, since most of  the work happened during the COVID-induced slowdown, the impact of the work-related disruptions were relatively lesser.”

Zero quality checks, no accountability by Smart City

But Smart City Pvt Limited, a company jointly owned by the state government and BBMP, is taking no accountability as an implementation agency. Nor does it have any plans to compensate the businesses there which have already survived two lockdowns and extended periods of the road work which made it inhospitable for pedestrians and motorists alike. 

Smart City MD Rajender Cholan said, “Inadvertently the contractor had done the colouring on site without giving adequate drying (curing) time, that is why the paint ran off. We have taken this one month’s time and formed one committee to look at this. We are ensuring that the colouring will happen in the factory and complete a curing (drying) time of 28 days.”

He added, “We are trying to create the least inconvenience to the businesses. We are first doing the pavements, then we will do the road block by block without stopping vehicle movement. “

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