Translating the online activism of the past few weeks into on-ground action, a few thousand Bengalureans assembled on Sunday morning to build a human chain along the route of the proposed steel flyover.
Organised by Citizens Against Steel Flyover, a citizenâ€™s movement mobilizing support against the steel flyover proposed between Basaveshwara Circle and Hebbal at a cost of Rs 1,350 crores, the human chain saw around 3,000 Bengaluru residents participating, according to volunteers.
From 8am to 11am, Bengalureans voiced their displeasure with home-made placards with slogans like, â€śUgly Steel is the problem, not the solutionâ€ť, â€śGive us the train insteadâ€ť, â€śWe want trees, not steelâ€ť and so on.
â€śWe received around 1,000 responses on Facebook, but nearly 3,000 people turned up on the ground. We are definitely happy with the turnout,â€ť said Subbaiah, a volunteer coordinating the section of protest at the Mekhri Circle flyover.
â€śAs you can see, it is the common man who has turned up. All those who claim that this protest is a move by vested political interests can see that people of all ages and from across the city -Whitefield, Banaswadi, Jayanagar- have turned up to protest against the flyover,â€ť he added.
Tarun Bhalla, employed with Nexus Consulting, who had joined the protest at Chalukya Circle, said that he had come out because cutting down 800 trees and spending so many crores of rupees on a single flyover was patently unnecessary: â€śAnd there is no guarantee that this one flyover will reduce traffic congestion.â€ť
Sreekanth, a Marketing Manager for Aditya Birla protesting near Chalukya Circle, said that the decision to build the flyover reflected politiciansâ€™ aversion towards public transport. â€śBecause they have the Vidhana Soudha here, and their residences nearby, they are trying to have a free run to the airport,â€ť he alleged.
Many of the protesters felt that going by the track record of the government on infrastructure project, by the time the flyover gets built, congestion levels would have risen way beyond the capacity of the flyover.
â€śLook at the track record of the government. The metro will probably get completed by the time my grand-kids are ready to use it. Their magic box flyovers are the most un-magical things on the road today. This flyover will just make an even bigger mess than there already is,â€ť felt Mirls, a student.
A number of prominent Bengalureans also joined the protests, retired judge Justice Santosh Hegde, theatre person Arundhati Nag, and Kannada film-maker Pawan Kumar among them.
Pawan said that the reason he had joined the protests because cutting down over 800 trees was not justice: â€śThe government comes up with these plans because trees are the easiest target. If we donâ€™t think of them as easily choppable, if we think of them as immovable property like the buildings behind us, then the government will come up with other options.â€ť
Recalling that he had previously been part of a similar protest to save trees from being cut down on Jayanagarâ€™s South End Road for the North-South line of the Namma Metro, he said, â€śBecause we made enough noise, they found a way to save many trees from being cut there.â€ť
On the governmentâ€™s claim that they will plant saplings to compensate for the trees cut along the route of the steel flyover, Pawan said, â€śSaplings cannot compensate for trees that have been growing for four or five decades.â€ť
As to the way forward, Subbaiah said that now that the detailed project report of the flyover has been made available, the demand was for intensive public consultations on all options.
â€śThe government has failed to consult the people on the project and is rushing into it, before exhausting all options. We demand that the government listen to the people first,â€ť said one protester.