By S.G. Vombatkere
The peacefulness of the “human chain” demonstration belied the very strong message that it sent to the Government of Karnataka (GoK) that the Project is an utter waste of money, because the reason for accidents is not the curve in the road but the over-speeding of vehicles in that stretch of road. By enforcing the mandated speed limit (40-kmph according to the traffic road sign near Jaladarshini Gate) through effective Policing and also by construction of speed-breakers, accidents can and will be prevented. This was even stated by none other than Mysuru City Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP), in his letter dated 16.5.2015 to the Assistant Executive Engineer (AEE), National Highways, Mysuru Division, when sending statistics of fatal and non-fatal accidents on this stretch of road near Jaladarshini, as follows: “Ee rasteyalli vahanagalu vegavagi sancharisi rasthe apaghatagalu sambhavisuthhirutthade.”
Mysuru is special in many ways, and this may be seen in many fields. One such was on display on Sunday, 22nd October morning, when nearly 1,000 people from all walks of life and ages ranging from a 3-year-old girl to an 88-year-young man, gathered at Kalamandira to form a silent “human chain” along the road without obstructing traffic.
The reason for the demon-stration was to protect over 100 trees on Hunsur Road near Jaladarshini Guest House, from the ill-conceived project of straightening and widening 450-metres length of the road, suddenly announced on 11th October for immediate implementation.
This was a peaceful people’s demonstration to simultaneously protect Mysuru’s heritage and protest against the Rs.12-crore project supposedly intended to solve the problem of traffic accidents occurring because of the road curve near Jaladarshini.
This gathering was initiated and sponsored by many voluntary organisations like Mysore Grahakara Parishat (MGP), Kukkarahalli Kere Ulisi Samithi, CFTRI Association, Green Mysuru, Let’s Do It Mysuru, Swaccha Mysuru, Namma Mysuru, Wild Mysuru, Samarpana Foundation, Clean Mysuru Foundation, Mysuru Meme, People Tree, Breakthrough, Lucky School Group, etc., but many people also came when they read about the human chain from Star of Mysore.
The peacefulness of the “human chain” demonstration belied the very strong message that it sent to the Government of Karnataka (GoK) that the project is an utter waste of money, because the reason for accidents is not the curve in the road but the over-speeding of vehicles in that stretch of road. By enforcing the mandated speed limit (40-kmph according to the traffic road sign near Jaladarshini Gate) through effective Policing and also by construction of speed-breakers, accidents can and will be prevented. This was even stated by none other than Mysuru City Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP), in letter No.samvi/cc/69/2015 dated 16.5.2015 addressed to AEE National Highways Mysuru Division, Mysuru, when sending statistics of fatal and non-fatal accidents in this stretch of road near Jaladarshini, as follows: “Ee rasteyalli vahanagalu vegavagi sancharisi rasthe apaghatagalu sambhavisuthhirutthade.”
The human chain participants carried and displayed a variety of posters, but perhaps the most innovative posters were: “Cut speed, not trees” and “Save trees, not traffic violators.” The 3-year-old girl wore a poster which read: “Namma peeligegagi parisara ulisi,” and a senior journalist participating as a citizen humorously quipped that what needed straightening was not the road but the minds of the people who proposed the project.
MGP has written to the CM, PWD Minister (also Mysuru District In-Charge Minister), Member of Lok Sabha, MLA, Deputy Commissioner, Mysuru, AEE National Highways, and DCF Mysuru, requesting that the project work should not be started — especially trees not be harmed — and that the project engineering staff should be directed to very urgently call a meeting under the auspices of Mysuru DC, to discuss the project proposal with senior, experienced road engineers who have technically reviewed the Project.
The coming days will see how GoK responds to the people who have peacefully come on to the streets with no motive other than to save Mysuru’s heritage and save public money for more important works, instead of wasting it on a project which is based upon wrong technical advice. Public money would be far more effectively spent on regular road maintenance by filling of potholes and road cuts, for constructing effective drains on all roads to prevent rainwater flowing on the road surface and damaging it, and for construction of usable pedestrian footpaths so that people are safe when they walk and also free vehicle drivers from worry of knocking down a pedestrian. These works are absolutely essential according to best practices for urban roads. It is the duty of government engineers to provide such sound technical advice to the administrative authorities.
Similarly, ill-conceived projects in the past had to be cancelled after people peacefully gathered to object to them because of violating Mysuru’s environmental and built heritage, or actually inconveniencing people.
Two such projects of special note are, planning of the Outer Ring Road (ORR), which was to be constructed through the centre of Lingambudhi Kere and cause an environmental disaster (the ORR was re-aligned), and the project to provide a canopy and hand railings etc., for the heritage steps leading to Chamundeshwari temple on Chamundi Hill, which would have seriously inconvenienced pilgrims and daily devotees as well as exercise enthusiasts (the project was cancelled).
These examples are mentioned to demonstrate that the peaceful, non-political power of Mysuru’s people has been effective in the past, and also that GoK is reasonable and amenable to listen to, understand and respect the concerns and wishes of Mysuru’s primary stakeholders.
[Major General S.G. Vombatkere, VSM, retired as Additional DG Discipline & Vigilance in Army HQ AG’s Branch. With over 550 published papers in national and international journals and seminars, his area of interest is strategic and development-related issues. e-mail:[email protected]]