N. G. MOHAN analyses 10 projects that never saw the light of day.
Mangaluru: Visionary leadership is a basic prerequisite for creating great communities. First we need a dream, then we need concrete plans to convert these dreams to reality and finally we need timely execution of these plans. Great cities and towns are built this way. The Mangalore that we live in was itself the product of such a process. Be it the able British Administrators like John Sturrock and H. A. Stuart or the post independence leaders like Ullal Srinivas Mallya, the city has benefited greatly from the actions of people who could think big and transform their thoughts in to actions.
Today living in the 21st century, the challenges we face are much bigger and more complex than what might have been during the days of these noble souls. So why is the city growing in a disparate manner? Why is it that every one of the so called mega projects that the consecutive city administrators have tom-tomed failed to take off? Is it just government lethargy or are we facing a crisis in leadership? These are the questions which every discerning citizen of this land has to ask himself. The time has come to raise a voice. This is the tale of the developmental woes of our city. Mangalore which ought to have treaded the path of development is limping for reasons too many. Here, in this article, are only a few instances where we can clearly see what is at fault.
1. Construction of Ranga Mandira
In 1984 the Government of Karnataka decided to construct Ranga Mandirs or open air theatres in all districts of the state to promote, art, theatre and cultural activities. An officer was sent to Mangalore from Bangalore the same year with the objective of implementing this project. The officer held discussions with many prominent cultural personalities in the presence of the Deputy Commissioner and made the right move. After completing his duty, the officer left for Bangalore and with this the Ranga Mandir issue took the backseat.
The Ranga Mandir project proposal surfaced again during the tenure of Bharatlal Meena as the Deputy Commissioner. With a strong determination to make the Ranga Mandir a reality he raised nearly Rs 65 lakhs from the public for the cause with the active support of J. R. Lobo who was then his Head Quarters Assistant. The Zilla Panchayat agreed to contribute Rs 15 lakhs for the cause. Thus the Ranga Mandir project kicked off with a total collection of Rs 80 lakhs. It was decided to locate the Mandir in one portion of the Radio Pavilion Park near Urva Store. A committee comprising writers, artistes and dramatists was formed to monitor the project implementation.
But soon there was opposition by a few locals for construction of Ranga Mandir in this area. Then began the search for a new site. By then, Meena was transferred and Anil Kumar was appointed as the new Deputy Commissioner in the year 1996. But the latter could not divert much attention to the Ranga Mandir issue as he had to oversee the arrangements for the 66th Kannada Sahitya Sammelan which was to be hosted in Mangalore in 1997.
The Sammelan was held with grandeur at Mangala Stadium in November 1997 under the stewardship of D. Veerendra Heggade. A book expo was also held in the adjacent Karavali Utsav grounds. Newspaper reports had then mentioned that Dr. Heggade had issued a press communiqué that the surplus funds of the Sammelan which amounted to Rs 20 lakh would be utilised for the construction of Ranga Mandir.
2. Construction of New Bus Terminus at Pumpwell
The old bus terminus in Mangalore was shifted decades ago for want of space. It was shifted to one portion of Nehru Maidan which was donated to the MCC by a donor for promoting the sport of hockey. The use of a land for a different purpose other than that for which it was donated, sparked opposition. Finally when the issue was about to be dragged to court, assurance was given that the new bus stand would be constructed within two years and that the hockey ground would be used for the purpose for which it was donated.
Now it is almost two decades and a new bus stand is still a mirage. For once, the impression is if Mangaloreans have forgotten the game of hockey. When Meena was the DC he had planned to have three bus terminuses in the South, East and North of the city instead of one large bus terminus. But with his transfer the project took a back seat.
Though there were several discussions on the project in the later years, five years ago, a land was identified near Pumpwell and the task of levelling the land commenced. When Mangaloreans were almost assured that the bus terminus project would be a reality, the project came to a halt with the same speed with which it was initiated.
3. Construction of Multi Level Parking and Commercial Complex
In the year 1997 the then Deputy Commissioner Anil Kumar had put forth a project proposal to build a multi-level vehicle parking and a commercial complex at the vacant land available at the old Muncipal bus stand at Hampankatta. Even a blue print of the same was ready. Decades ago a sage named Appanna used to squat on the platform of a banyan tree near the old bus stand and used to offer water to quench the thirst of the passersby and people waiting for the buses. The place gradually came to be known as “Hampana Katte.” Anil Kumar had agreed to a suggestion then to plant a sapling and raise a memorial in his memory in that place. But before this project could be implemented Anil Kumar was transferred and there has been not much of a progress in this regard except for some occasional statements of politicians.
4. Hampankatta Fly-over
It was in 1992 that a leader from this district famed as a land of intelligent and enterprising people became the Chief Minister of the state for the first time. Veerappa Moily earned this credit when he became the Chief Minister, and there were high expectations. There came some good news that as Chief Minister from the district, his contribution would be a flyover from Hampankatta Syndicate Bank Building to the old clock tower near Town Hall. But Moily lost the CM post whin one and a half years and the project too bit the dust.
5. Reconstruction of Central Market
When J. R. Lobo was the Commissioner he had a proposal to reconstruct the Central Market into a spacious market building. The proposal was to have a multi-storied market complex including fish market with parking for 1000 vehicles. Another proposal was to have a wholesale marketing outlet at Alape near Padil. About 15 years ago for want of space the fish market was shifted to the present place at Nehru Maidan on a temporary basis. Though it was supposed to be a temporary measure, like the bus stand it too has almost become permanent despite all its irregularities. One can see women sell fish amid the slush here. The place lacks proper drinking water and clean toilets. The plight of the fisher women is undescribable. The customers are forced to walk past this slush to purchase fish. With many people refraining from visiting this unhealthy fish market a lot of business is lost. The result: fish outlets are springing up in various places of the city. As these outlets are owned by non-fishermen community it has affected the livelihood of fisherwomen. It is indeed ironic that the fishermen leaders have maintained a silence instead of fighting for good marketing facilities for fishermen community. Will our officials, district ministers and leaders make concerted efforts towards construction of a systematic market yard in Mangalore city and all taluk headquarters. (Though new market complex constructions in Jeppu and Bejai had commenced they are still incomplete even after several years.) However in Udupi district, the task of constructing a full fledged air conditioned fish market complex is in the finishing stages.
When Ponnuraj was the Deputy Commissioner he had exhibited a model of the proposed multi-storied market complex and had secured the approval of the same at the meeting. However, there has been not much of a progress even in this regard.
6. Construction of Mangala Corniche Road (Ring Road)
We have been often hearing about the ambitious Ring Road Project of the erstwhile popular MLA Yogish Bhat, since the past 15 years. With a grand title like ‘Mangala Corniche Road’, it is supposed to solve all our traffic problems. Even our officials and leaders speak about this often. We also read in newspapers about plans to summon experts from Gujarat to prepare a blue print. However there is no positive stand from anyone regarding this project. A few months ago we also heard about a proposal for a bridge construction at an estimated cost of Rs 40 crores across river Netravathi from Adyar to Konaje via Pavoor Harekala. This may be a part of the Ring Road Project.
7. Integrated Sports Complex
The Karnataka Cricket Association had in the year 1999 come forward to construct an international stadium in Mangalore. The KCA said it would take up the responsibility of constructing the stadium provided about 15 acres was at its disposal.
In 2002 during the annual meet of the Pilikula Nisarga Dhama it was decided to shift the Golf Course at Pilikula to Tannirbavi and use the 72 acre land for an international cricket stadium as well as an Integrated Sports Complex. Fifteen years down the line our district is still deprived of a cricket stadium and sports complex thanks to the failure of the authorities to take a firm decision. In the meantime, we are also hearing about the construction of an international level swimming pool at Emmekere in Mangaluru since the past six to seven years.
It is regrettable that the authorities concerned have not yet evinced interest in constructing an integrated spoors complex in the district which has contributed several national and internationally famed cricket, football, Kabaddi and athletics talent.
8. Construction of Tannirbhavi Suspension Bridge
During his tenure as MLA, Yogish Bhat has proposed an ambitious suspension bridge construction from Sultan Bathery to Tannirbavi with the objective of promoting tourism. If a decade ago, this project was to cost a few lakhs, the present estimated cost for the same is Rs 11 crore. Three years ago, the foundation was laid for his project. Probably the fate of this suspension bridge itself is hanging in balance.
9. Bengre Bridge
A must need project today is the construction of a bridge from Bunder area to Bengre. Luckily, our coastal district has remained a secure area until now. In case of a natural calamity like storm, tsunami or a cyclone, the thousands of families in Bengre will be left with no escape route. Bengre area is located between Gurupur river and the sea and as it is in an area which is above the sea level, the people here will be in trouble in case of a natural calamity. Therefore, a bridge is essential linking Bengre to Mangalore. If considered from another angle, daily over 500 vehicles head towards Bengre from Mangalore and the distance is about 20 km. In case a bridge is constructed it would save both fuel and time.
10. National Highway Projects Progressing at Snail’s Pace
The Talapady-Kundapur National Highway four-lane project which ought to have been completed in the year 2013 is not yet complete and there are no signs of completion of this project even in the coming three years. It took almost eight years for the completion of Suratkal-BC Road Port Connectivity Road which ought to have been completed in three years. The Panemangalore and Uppinangady bridge construction took more than five years and same was the case with Brahmarakootlu over bridge. All this reveals the importance attached to our district by officials as well as politicians.
The Under Ground Drainage Project, Water Supply Project, road development projects taken up under the Rs 300 crore ADB loan are still in a state of incompleteness.
A few roads of Mangalore were concretised using the Special Grants of the Government. However footpath construction is still pending at several places. Is it proper to provide good road for the rich having vehicles and no footpaths for the poor pedestrians? A decade ago when the JD(S) BJP government was in the state, there was a decision taken to construct a mini Vidhana Saudha and the works commenced in the place where the taluk office existed in the past. It is over five years since the works have been initiated but the construction is still progressing at a snail’s pace.
Mini Vidhana Saudha
Even the construction of new block of Lady Goschen Hospital with a Rs 22 crore grant from MRPL is still limping.
An international level golf course and huge aqua park proposed at Tannirbavi to promote international tourism too are in the back burner.
The port city of Mangalore is considered the ‘Gateway to Karnataka’. Most of the cargo is handled by Mangalore Port. This being the case there is need for good road connectivity form the state capital to Mangaluru. Presently the Shiradi Ghat stretch of road, the vital link between Mangalore and Bangalore is closed for traffic for six months since January for concretisation and repair.
According to information available at present the 26 km long road would be repaired in two stages. The first phase works comprising 13 km stretch will be completed in six months while tender process is underway for the remaining 13 km stretch of road, as per the statement of PWD minister. Thus it is as clear as the writing on the wall that the project will not be complete in six months. But the statements made by officials and leaders before the commencement of work has no mention of the two stage works. Is it that they lacked information or did they hush up information from the public? Neither our government officials nor elected representatives are aware of the financial losses suffered by several small as well as big traders right from Nelyady to Sakleshpur. These shopkeepers will suffer huge losses until the road is opened. The Charmadi Ghats road is often in trouble owing to land slide during monsoons. Presently with Shiradi ghat closed, much of the traffic moves on Charmadi Ghat and the situation is certain to be precarious during monsoons with heavy traffic pounding on the roads.
Our silence is questionable...
These are only a few instances. There are many more such forgotten projects. It is a sad truth that right from Bharatlal Meena to the previous DC every officer has been transferred well before they completed three years of tenure, which in turn has affected the Ranga Mandir and many other projects (Most DCs have been transferred within one and a half year). That the DCs are transferred in quick succession owing to political pressure is an open secret. Whatever be the political pressure, it is to be understood that change of guard in a short span of time hampers developmental projects and in turn the progress of the district.
Taking a look at the above aspects, will not there be a feeling that we are faltering somewhere? Is this signifying the inaction of all the authorities concerned or are the ruling party leaders as well as officials helpless? There is a need for introspection. We have often come across newspaper reports about press communiqués issued by several leaders and officials about the Ranga Mandir. In 1995 a Ranga Mandir construction was estimated to cost Rs 1 crore and the same has now escalated to Rs 18 crores. How can this huge amount be arranged? When can the works be initiated? Will the Ranga Mandir project be a reality after all? Why was the 5 acre land allotted at Bondel reduced to 3 acres? Will the blue print initially prepared by Rajesh Mahan or that prepared by KN Alva be used or will there be a third architect? If these professionals were paid using the public donations for the Ranga Mandir will it not be tantamount to misuse of public funds without any planning? When funds have been raised from public for a particular cause and if the project is not a reality, will it not be tantamount to cheating the public? Will not the district administration have the moral responsibility of returning the public donations in such a case or finally is it that Mangaloreans do not need a Ranga Mandir? We need to find answers to these questions.
After all, this entire Ranga Mandir project is not the only example for administrative and political apathy. If we enlist the projects which were proposed in Mangalore, the headquarters of a district boasting to be highly progressive, and the number of projects which have been relegated to background, one can very well imagine the path of progress which we are treading. The public is aware of this but has never bothered about it as people regard it as though it has got nothing to do with them. Our silence is questionable. The main reason for this is the absence of an able leader for our district, mainly our city. The rampant corruption, the selfishness of getting one’s work done at any cost ahead of others, narrow mindedness, the lack of a large heart to appreciate any good work and the like have hampered progress. There is a need to shun all this and take our city on the path of development, and peace. Isn’t it high time that we all rise to the occasion?
N. G. MOHAN is a businessman and a well known social worker who has been actively involved with many service projects of the District Administration, NGOs and voluntary organisations.