Ayan Acharya and Neha Jain
Not so long ago, the subways in the city had become vibrant public places providing a potpourri of entertainment – music concerts, dance performances, art installations and many such eye-grabbing events. This was the result of an initiative of Bangalore Rising, a citizen enterprise inspired by The Ugly Indian (TUI), which formally adopted six subways near KR Circle in 2014 as part of BBMP’s Namma Bengaluru Nanna Koduge scheme.
Fast forward to 2016, and the subways have gone back to being dingy, dark corridors of menace that citizens are afraid to tread on. The filth and stench seem to be the least of concerns for the pedestrians, who are occasionally greeted by locked subways during the rush hours. As an official of the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) put it, of course, on condition of anonymity: ‘We have to revive these subways, open the locks and make these places available for public use. Our maintenance of subways has not been good and we need to find out some mechanism (to fix) this issue.’
Corporate adoption of subways for maintenance is one option under consideration. ‘On Nrupatunga Road, we have three subways and talks are already underway with authorities at Reserve Bank of India, who are interested in maintaining all of them,’ the official added. Currently, St. Martha’s Hospital, situated in the heart of Nrupatunga Road, has agreed to undertake the maintenance of one of the three Nrupatunga Road subways.
Although the exact number of subways in the city is not known, the source was able to give a rough estimate of the money spent on each subway. ‘The construction of small subways, like the one near (KR circle) cost between Rs 50-60 lakh while the subway in City Market costs Rs 6 Cr and the one near Town Hall, was made for Rs 2.5 Cr’, the source informed.
However, Mr. Basavraj R. Kabade, Executive Engineer, BBMP, talks of a different approach altogether: “We are doing away with the subways. We are constructing skywalks with lifts and escalators and are nearly done with nine skywalks.”
If the BBMP has decided to invest in skywalks, what happens to the subways in the future? Although there is no precise estimate of the total length of subways in Bengaluru, they clearly occupy prime real estate. Instances of subways remaining shut raises question as to whether this real estate is of any value to citizens.
Is the tax-payer’s money going into yet another black hole?Any civic facility should be used by people. But are they really interested in using the subways? As the BBMP official puts it: “We have to create awareness among the citizens discipline the pedestrians, which is to be done by the police.”
So, has all the work done by Bangalore Rising and The Ugly Indian been undone? Unfortunately, The Ugly Indian’s ‘moo-bandh’ policy extends to media as well and queries about their stand on the current condition of subways was greeted with: ‘we do not respond to the media.’ The Facebook page of Bangalore Rising and The Ugly Indian chronicles the group’s novel efforts at several places in the city. But, the last update about the subways was almost a year ago. In a city where the voluminous traffic and chaotic streets drive people round the bend, clean, well-lit, wide subways might provide a safe solution.
Is anybody listening?