By Dr. K. Javeed Nayeem, MD
Yes, that is going to be the new name of the now ‘not-so-good-old’ Mysore-Bangalore road that we have all been driving on all these years. The debate on whether we should or should not widen the existing road between Mysuru and Bengaluru seems to have started, at least on the pages of Star of Mysore. And, the tempo of this debate is certainly going to pick up as Mysuru has many citizens who rightly feel that they should also have a say in this matter. Whether the authorities who are going to give us or deny us this dream highway are going to listen to us or not is a different matter as they will undoubtedly have dreams and priorities completely different from ours!
While there are people who call themselves ‘deeply concerned environmentalists’ on one side, there are common people like you and I on the other side who do have a concern for the environment but who are put to great hardship bordering on what can be called torture, whenever they have to travel between Mysuru and Bengaluru. They are the ones who think that we all deserve a more dignified and more comfortable way of travelling between our two cities. This torture is what deters most of us from travelling on this road thus giving a go by to many weddings, family functions and other events which we would have otherwise loved to attend.
Gone are the days when a weekend’s relaxation meant a one night and two day trip to Bengaluru for those in Mysuru and a similar trip to Mysuru for those in Bengaluru. These very rejuvenating trips were something that we all used to look forward to with great joy. That was until just a few years ago when the days of what our elders call ‘easy money’ and what we who earn it call ‘hard earned money’ came along, bringing with them credit cards, easy bank loans and a wide choice of swanky vehicles to suit every budget !
The result of all this rapid change is that instead of decreasing the travel time between our two cities as naturally expected by us, it has increased it from about two hours to anywhere between four and six hours depending plainly on our luck.
There was a time in the early sixties when my father used to drive us from Mysuru to Bengaluru in just an hour-and-a-half in our then newly-acquired Dodge Coronet car with an automatic transmission and a ‘Magic Carpet’ suspension! The average time never used to exceed an hour-and-forty-five minutes, irrespective of traffic or weather conditions.
Exactly a decade later when I started driving, I used to do this very same drive in about two hours very comfortably, fully heeding my father’s advice to drive slowly and carefully! There were only two road humps on this road then. One was in front of our garage, and the other was at the gateway to the Anand Bhavan Hotel on Grant Road in Bengaluru where we always used to stay. And, mind you, both these humps were meant only to keep the rainwater out!
Today this very same journey has become a nightmare which I prefer to avoid by undertaking it either very early in the morning or very late at night. While I greatly respect the great concern many people have for our trees and our environment I feel that there is also a great need for increasing the traffic carrying capacity of this highway in question to mitigate the suffering of all those who use it. People who still resist this proposal are the ones who have not experienced or endured the hardship that comes with it. If they travel with infirm and elderly family members or with very young children who become inconsolable in traffic jams they will understand what I am saying. If someone falls sick during a journey and needs some emergency medical care quickly there is no way he or she can get it.
While talking of easing traffic jams let us all accept the fact that most of these happen at points where this highway traverses the half a dozen towns that lie on it. The only way to prevent them here is either by creating bypass roads or sufficiently long elevated overpasses. The bane of all bypass roads is that they will eventually get lined by eateries, fruit and flower vendors and puncture repair shops, defeating the very purpose for which they are created. This makes elevated overpasses a much better option.
The exercise of widening the road inside some of these towns that is being done right now is going to be a futile and pointless waste of money and should therefore not be considered as one of the solutions. If we still find die-hard environmentalists opposing the upgrading of this highway to a wider expressway now, let me ask them why they did not vehemently oppose the loss of thousands of trees fifteen years ago during the first widening process which could have been greatly avoided by better planning.
More than seventy-five percent of those huge, century old trees would still have been standing if only the many proposals to retain them in a median had been respected. Where was the need to widen the road then on both sides for its entire length? Could it not have been done only on one side saving at least half the trees? And, if the sides had been changed every ten kilometres it would certainly have been fair to the land-losers.
The merciless tree felling done during this widening operation is believed to be one of the greatest benefits to all those who enriched themselves through it. But it is a world of vested interests that we live in. People who think that we don’t need a better road between Mysuru and Bengaluru are downright stupid. Yes, there is no other word to describe their attitude and they should stop deluding themselves and others too with their blinkered vision. And, if at some time they find themselves caught in traffic on a full bladder they will become immediate converts, notwithstanding their concern either for the environment or for their own self-respect and dignity!
Let us hope that they see our point of view and we get to see some light at the end of the tunnel that we are now trapped in!