The Tagore Circle Underpass – Another Bengalurean Tragedy

The citizens of Bengaluru have been blessed by the gods. They get to show the world how to survive and smile in spite of a flawed democracy that finds many ways to harass them. There is no innovation in the ways of harassment. It is just more of the same piled on and on. The Tagore Circle Underpass [TCU] is a wonderful example of how to harass citizens with impunity.

K.R Road was one of the nicest roads in Bengaluru. From city market to Jayanagar, it was a beautiful stretch with old tress providing shade in summer and fresh air year round. The bureaucrats of the city were terribly unhappy. How could such pleasant surroundings continue when they were pledged to harass all citizens round the year without fear or favour? It was simply unacceptable that people could enjoy a pleasant walk on KR Rod at any time of the year. It was unacceptable to these authorities that traffic flowed smoothly from north to south and vice versa. It was evidence if humongous failure on their part.

And so remedial action began. The first step was to ensure that all the beautiful trees were. Whether the volume of traffic justified it or not, the road was to be widened in the public interest. What had logic to do with this? It is a matter of pride to the City Corporation! Bangalore should not look like a pensioner’s paradise when it was growing as the back office of the world. Look at the stretch near the National High School. From a majestic highway it was reduced to poor quality road in a few years. Bengalurians, patient and calm, took it lying down. Some even sympathised with the authorities, saying they had a difficult job to do in managing a growing city; we should not make life difficult by raising objections over the cutting of a few trees in the Garden City. To the authorities this was public approbation of their single minded drive to convert Bengaluru into a modern and dusty city, on par with Bareilly and Badarpur. The authorities basked in their glory.

To help citizens, they too up a small project—widening the road between the Post Office and the Police Station. They cut several trees. The calm Bengalurian remained calm and composed. After a brief respite, they moved again. This time the target was the road opposite National College. Always go after reputed educational institutions! The flyover, on a West-East direction, would go right opposite National College. The College had to shift its gate.

It was unacceptable that there was no chaos when so many students went to and fro. It was unacceptable that the choultries on the stretch to Lal Bagh felt no pressure of traffic. And with great ingenuity they came up with a plan for a large flyover. They were the authorities, the ‘sarkara’, who did not need to consult anybody so long as procures with their own circles were followed. The fact that all the residents of the area protested was taken as an example of democracy—people had a right, almost a duty to object. Citizens who paid their taxes had a right to a flyover, whether it was needed or not. Modernisation demanded it. The authorities were above such mundane things as consultation. It was their duty to ignore such protest in their effort to make the city dirty and dusty, on par with the dustiest cities in the world.

And the flyover was built. It exceeded its cost estimates, and it took longer than planned. The authorities were delighted with their success. And Bengalurians remained calm and composed. They took to the dust with resignation and sought moksha elsewhere.

Encouraged by this success in this area, the authorities took the model to other parts, with outstanding success. The flyover on Old Airport Road took 7 years to be completed, thus ensuring misery for the local people for well above the planned period. It also exceeded cost, so the taxpayers were rewarded with an increase in rates.

The authorities had some failures too. They are human, and we must understand this. They experimented with ‘magic boxes’ in some areas. On the Sankey Road, they constructed magic boxes neat the Place Road junction, and near Cauvery Theatre. They constructed magic boxes on Hosur Road. They were all complete failures. They improved traffic flow. They were constructed in months, not years. Yes, they were not completed in days as mistakenly promised, but they did not take years. The authorities were in danger of losing credibility. Citizens were stunned that their misery did not prolong. If his went on, politicians would lose in the next election. And so magic boxes were consigned to the dust bin of history.

Learning from this failure, the authorities returned to KR Road, with a plan or a grade separator at Tagore Circle. Thus the TCU was born. Citizens, when they came to know of it, exercised their democratic right to protest. They claimed it was not needed. They said there was no traffic disruption. There was plenty of parking. The authorities knew better. They went ahead in the public interest.

And so we have a mess near SV Complex and Sovereign Apartments. Now, to ensure that misery is extended widely, they have dug up the road near the Basavangudi Club. The next step is to take land away from these privileged buildings. This is an opportunity to take away land and inconvenience a large number of taxpaying citizens.

And this success will be replicated elsewhere. Perhaps in other cities of Karnataka as well. Truly the TCU is a model to be emulated.

Author – Vinod Vyasulu, Centre for Budget & Policy Studies

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