Residents in and around the Secunderabad cantonment area in Hyderabad are distressed as they have one month left before the army authorities block off an important road that connects the area to the heart of the city.
The Gough Road is used by thousands of residents of Marredpally, Trimulgherry, Sainikpuri as a link to get to Hyderabad and this latest move by the army comes after a long battle between the people and the authorities.
"Word has been conveyed that AOC will close the Gough Road on December 1. Other roads will remain open as there are no alternate routes to them," a senior army official told The Hindu.
It started in February 2014, when the army put out a notice which claimed that the entire area would be blocked, and the general public was advised to use main roads to reach their destination.
This included medical emergencies, school students and RTC buses who would have to take an already packed main road to reach their destination.
"We have taken the decision to impose traffic restrictions mainly on three grounds -- security point of view and defence establishments are located amid civil areas and regulate traffic...It has become a tough job for our trainees to cross the roads as 50% of the training institutions are located on these roads," General Officer Commanding (GoC) of Andhra Sub Area, Major General C A Pithawala told theTimes of India.
This move saw an immediate outburst from resident welfare associations who took the army's decision to the High Court which in turn, granted the residents a stay order.
(A file photo of the protests)
However, the court declared that the army had the right to close the roads but ordered it to put the decision on hold until the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) chalked out and improved alternate roads around the AOC Centre.
But a detailed survey of the area revealed that the alternative roads were too narrow to take the traffic load and construction of new roads would take at least 18 months.
In December last year, a group of resident associations along with elected representatives met Union Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar to request him to stop the blockage of the road.
Parrikar heard the appeal and ordered a two-member panel from Delhi to probe into the incident. He also told the army authorities to transfer other unused land that can be used as an alternate route, to the GHMC.
(The delegation that met with the Union Defence Minister)
However, residents allege that the GHMC has been lethargic in its approach to sort out the issue, despite several warnings from the army, and the bureaucracy involved in transferring land between the two parties only slowed things down.
Another meeting with Parrikar followed, in August this year, by a delegation of BJP leader and Union minister of state for labour Bandaru Dattatreya, TRS floor leader in the Lok Sabha, A P Jithender Reddy, MLA from Secunderabad (Cantonment), G Sayanna and BJP MLC N Ramachandra Rao among others.
"We hope the meeting will help end the logjam over the road blockade. Parrikar is not only sympathetic to the civilians' woes, but he is determined to end the deadlock," Malla Reddy, the TDP MP from Malkajgiri had said.
However, things soon got worse after the defence authorities started constructing permanent gate posts at important locations in the area.
The citizens alleged that this move was aimed at clamping down on civilians from commuting through their roads.
This was followed by the latest release from the army which claims it will completely block one road from December 1.
"There are at least 50 to 80 thousand people who cross that road everyday. This will definitely create large scale unrest among the people," says general secretary of United Federation of Residents Welfare Associations B.T. Srinivasan, who was part of both the delegations that met the Union Defence Minister.
"Even our local MLA C Kanaka Reddy, who took us to Delhi, carried and submitted an alternative road plan prepared by GHMC to the Defence Minister and requested him to develop alternative roads in AOC. He also arranged a meet with Telangana chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao," he adds.
He also alleges that army orders dated 7th January 2015, asked local army authorities to reopen all roads but they still are closing the road without following the procedure defined in the Cantonment act.
"Our local army is not considering the order and claiming that roads in AOC are their internal roads and not public roads. The Cantonment act clearly states that this applies only to roads within unit lines but not the roads connecting the unit lines," he says.
Srinivasan also feels that, this would isolate a large area of the city and its connectivity to the other side of the city.
"The alternate road that people will currently have to take, is already too narrow and crowded and witnesses a traffic jam at least two or three times a day. Either the road has to be extended or the GHMC and the army must reach a solution," he adds.
Srinivasan blames the lack of action from the GHMC's side to draw up a proposal and get to work on the roads. He also feels that it will be too late, if the civic authorities start working after the main road gets blocked.
"The army people still have the court order which grants them permission, and they have given the GHMC more than one-and-a-half years. Now it will be the citizens who will suffer because of this," he says.
The association now plans to approach the Telangana chief minister and request him to hold talks with the authorities.