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Tender UNSURE: The Buck stops nowhere

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JAYASIMHA

BENGALURU: Roads play a vital role in each and every aspects of our city lives, especially in a metropolitan city like Bengaluru, where roads are the most effective means of transportation. It acts as nexus that link the entire city. But roads in Bengaluru are not up to the mark, and are the main reason behind accidents, traffic jams, drainage problem and flooding. Under these circumstances, TenderSURE project was announced which gave a ray, of hope for change in the city. But, has the project kept it’s promises?

TenderSURE (Specifications for Urban Roads Execution), is a publication containing guidelines and specifications for urban roads in India. TenderSURE road standards mandate the integration of water, sewage, power, gas, and storm water drains under the road. The design of TenderSURE roads prioritises the comfort and safety of pedestrians, cyclists and street vendors. An NGO, Jana Urban Space Foundation (janaUSP) has designed the functioning for TenderSure roads. They recommended the plan and got it approved from the state government. They are also involved in implementation of the project. On their recommendation in 2012, the budget allocation by Government of Karnataka to implement Tender SURE for 20 pilot roads was pushed through.

The GoK sanctioned seven roads in phase one under TenderSure project: Vittal Mallya Road, St Mark’s Road, Residency Road, Richmond Road, Cunningham Road, Commissariat Road, and Museum Road. An estimate of Rs 115 crore was allocated for upgradation of these seven roads. All these roads fall under Central Business District (CBD). Being the central part of Bengaluru, the roads connect to all parts of city and have intensely dense traffic.

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On going construction at Richmond Road                                        JAYASIMHA

Work of phase one started in the mid of 2014. On June 20, 2015, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah inaugurated St Mark’s Road and Vittal Mallya Road which were upgraded as per TenderSure standards. St Mark’s Road which is just 0.9 km long was developed at a cost of Rs 10.98 crores and Vittal Mallya Road which is 0.6 km was developed for Rs 6.70 crores. After inauguration, CM Siddaramaiah had assured that works in remaining five roads under phase one would be completed by January 2016. Now, it is January 2017 and the work of rest of the five roads is still incomplete causing inconvenience to lakhs of commuters.

When TenderSURE project was initially announced, it was a welcome project for Bengaluru. Now that the project is delayed and incomplete there are variety of opinions for and against the project. The main allegation is that janaUSP are creating their own rule book. There are also questions being raised on the expertise and competence of the planners. Many inconveniences and irregularities are coming into light now.

Many government agencies including Bhruhat Bengaluru Mahabharata Palike(BBMP), Bangalore Development Authority (BDA), Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) are responsible for construction and maintenance of the city roads. From the Right to Information (RTI) documents available to Communique’ filled by various RTI activists, it is very evident that none of these concerned government agencies were consulted. The   project was pushed through the state government on to BBMP and other urban government agencies of Bengaluru. A few people went directly to the CM to get the project approved and succeeded to do so. BBMP took up TenderSURE project under strict dikaths of the state government. The interference of the state government is itself objectionable.

In a reply to Right to Information (RTI) filled by Reshma, an activist who has been following TenderSURE project , the BBMP has stated: “The Additional Chief Secretary of UDD (Urban Development Department) said that there shall not be any changes made once the drawing and specification are issued by janaUSP. In case changes are already made, let the concerned officials rectify such changes immediately. Further, it was stressed that there shall be no powers to the Chief Engineer to make any changes in the drawings and specifications that are going to be issues by janaUSP for TenderSure implementation unless agreed by janaUSP. It was also instructed to the officials that the working, drawings and specifications issued by janaUSP has to be strictly adhered by BBMP.

The TenderSURE roads shall be executed by the agency in co-ordination with janaUSP and as per the drawings issued by janaUSP. BBMP Engineers should not involve in these roads and visit these roads except for checking the final measurements submitted by the executing agency, which shall be certified by janaUSP and approved by Project Management Consultant. The BBMP Engineers shall only assist in inter departmental coordination for shifting of utilities etc, along with janaUSP. The janaUSP shall visit the sites and give necessary directions to the agency to implement the work as per the drawings issued by them.” (This meeting took place on 15.07.2014 under the chairpersonship of the then chief secretary, Government of Karnataka).

This circular by the Additional Chief Secretary of Urban Development Department clearly favours the NGO by reducing concerned government agencies to just nominal executors of the project. When The Communique wrote to janaUSP seeking some clarifications and informations about the project, they directed the writer to get in touch with BBMP officials. When contacted the BBMP officials, they said that they know nothing about the project and are mere executors of the project under the guidelines of janaUSP. The project was recommended, initiated, planned, and is being executed by janaUSP. But, they do not answer any of the queries.

Prof. Dr Kshitij Urs, Director of NGO Action Aid, pointed out multi-layers of irregularities of the project from planning to implementation and said, “Tender SURE is an example of elite capture of democracy in Bengaluru. It’s not about one project, its a vicious circle of people who are everywhere.

You find the same people in JNNURM, in Smart City projects, and in TenderSURE project under the name of Janagraha, elsewhere in other names. It is a handful of elite people deciding what the remaining 10 million people want. This group directly got the permission from the then chief minister over breakfast without even consulting any of the local bodies. They use their connections and power to get these kinds of projects done to full fill their own (vested) interests.”

Prajwal.S.Gowda, Prajwal.S.Gowda, who failed to get information on the project through RTI and other means questions the expertise and competence of the planners. He says that widening the footpaths will create traffic bottlenecks. He said “TenderSURE is a trouble for motorists for sure, atleast till now”.

News 9 channel conducted a reality check and confirmed the fact that ratio between footpaths and roads is unscientific. Footpaths on St.Marks Road, Vittal Malya Road and Museum Road are as wide as the roads itself. In contradiction to this, pavements on Richmond and Residency roads are only of around 5 feet width. This shows that there is no practical uniformplan and procedure for the project. One has to appreciate that pedestrians are recognised as the user of the road like never before but it should not be done at the cost of creating traffic.

On the other hand, bus bays on Richmond and Residency roads seem extremely dangerous, especially the one in front of Sacred Hearts Boys school. The bus stops are too small and cannot accommodate more than 10-12 people at a time. None of the bus stands have the name of the bus stops or any other necessary information useful for commuters. Students of Sacred Hears Boys School protested against this unscientific execution of the project.

Reshma, an activist from Forum for Urban Governance and Commons, says that TenderSURE is not just about guidelines for Urban road development, it is also about privatization of urban roads using public money. “If a handful of elite people can arm twist the government then what are the local bodies and local representatives for,” she questions. Where as, Anjali Jamadagni, an engineer working at ‘Elucian’ near Richmond Circle is haBut TenderSURE project has taken into consideration the problems of pedestrians. Roads in and around Richmond are now user friendly. There were inconveniences faced during the construction, but now it’s proving it’s worth. There are around 15 schools and colleges in and around this area, it is also a commercial location. This project will benefit them a lot. There are still a couple of issues to be fixed, I hope they attend the problems soon.”

Delay of one of the costliest road projects has raised eyebrows of the general public. In spite of more than Rs 115 crores spent, the project is still incomplete.

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