Roadwidening. Who thought that such a term would come into being and cause such a brouhaha here in Bengaluru. Anyways – the protests, the government and BBMP going back and forth on suspending roadwidening, TDR (Transfer of Development Rights) notices being slapped, red marks on the wall – all this has been talked about over and over.
Now here’s something new to swallow.
Sources in the BBMP recently told Citizen Matters about 23 roads that are being widened. This is not part of the list of roads that are stuck in a High Court case. These are roads of newly-added areas and are being funded by the state government.
When I initially received the list from the BBMP source, it was sans the current and proposed road width. This is how the list looked when I first got hold of it. It had the name of the road, length of the road and the cost. There was no mention of the widths.
So I asked the source for the widths of each of the 23 roads. The source gave a 10,000 feet above the ground reply, saying, "It’s anywhere between 18 and 24 metres for each of them". I insisted on getting the exact measurements for each of them and the source asked me to contact a particular person in the office for the information.
The next day I went over to the office to meet this particular official who I was asked to contact for the ‘width’ information. After 30 minutes of checking their computer files, the office was unable to find the information I asked for.
For a project termed ‘roadwidening’, information on the width itself was missing. And this is just for a mere 23-roads list. There are more than 100 roads that the BBMP wants to widen.
The official asked me to contact the office the next day, saying the information will be kept ready. I left the office, optimistically, thinking, ‘Of course they’ll have the information with them. It’s road’widening’ for heaven’s sake, they can’t not have the widths.’ Well, I thought too soon.
"We aren’t widening any of these roads"
The next day I decided to contact the official via telephone before heading over to the office. Luckily the information was ready and the official was willing to read it out over the phone. However, he read out only the current width and not the proposed width. When I asked what the proposed width for each of the 23 roads are, he said, "They are not doing widening for any of these roads."
It was a googly out of nowhere! Here I have a document that states that each of these roads are going to be strengthened, asphalted and ‘widened’ and this official throws a sixer at me saying they are not going to be widened. When I asked why, the official simply stated that only strengthening and asphalting will be done.
Now, this was serious. For a project that is called ‘roadwidening’, first the corporation doesn’t seem to find information on how much ‘widening’ will be done. Then they insist that ‘widening’ is not going to be done at all!
I decided to call my original source and inform him about the happenings. This original source was peeved at what the official told me and apologised for the mistake. "That person doesn’t know anything. I’ll give it to you. You come to my office", the source said.
So I sprinted away to this source’s office and waited patiently with bated breath, knowing that I was finally going to lay hands on this ‘complete’ roadwidening list.
Alas, I wasn’t aware of what was to happen next.
This BBMP source directed one of the office staff to give me the information, and left for a meeting. He also reprimanded the other official who had told me that the roads were not going to be widened, before he left.
I sat in this other official’s office now, who had been directed to give me the information.
As I sat there, expecting to get a clean print-out, with rows and columns of the data I had asked for, I slowly realised that my insistence to get these widths had opened a can of worms.
BBMP engineers themselves don’t know road widths
The BBMP did not have the data ready on-hand. The official got the Revised Master Plan (RMP) map – this is a gigantic book, ten to fifteen times the size of a regular notebook. The RMP has maps of each area in the city, indicating the proposed width of the roads in the map. He had decided to locate each of the 23 roads in the map (not an easy task at all) and note down their proposed widths. He started off with the first road – Hosur Road to Begur Road, via AECS layout. After a few minutes, he realised it wasn’t as simple as picking up a map and locating these roads. One had to be closely familiar with each of these roads, since they are all newly-added areas that formed Greater Bangalore.
He then decided to call the engineers from each zone in the city, asking them for the widths of roads being widened in their respective zones. Some of them asked him to call back after a few minutes, while they collect the data. Few others came over to this official’s room itself.
So finally this was the scene. Four or five engineers were pouring over the RMP map, trying to locate the roads under their zones. Some were apparently not in the RMP itself. One engineer said he didn’t know the current widths of the roads under his jurisdiction.
After over an hour of discussion and debate, while I sat as a mute spectator, witnessing the drama unfold, they managed to get all the information. I walked out, quite scandalised (a little amused as well, I must admit).
For a simple list of 23 roads being widened (work has already begun, mind you), the corporation did (does) not have collated information on the work. They were forced to go back to the RMP to note down the widths for a project they call ‘widening’.
And all this came onto the surface because one happened to ask them for a comprehensive list.
When I was leaving, one of the officials asked the ‘width’ information to immediately be typed onto a computer and stored.
It is a wonder how the city is even being run. ⊕