Saturday, September 13, 2014

Gupta dynasty


Bidar sees a silent revolution

S Kushala & Rishikesh Bahadur Desai | Times of India 

Bidar: The Advanced Jet Trainer Hawks fly above with deafening speed. Bulldozers and earth-moving equipment roar to life and mow down buildings. Partially demolished structures, rubble, men clearing debris — it looks like a warravaged zone. 
    On the other side, vast stretches of ring road lined with trees and manicured median, run parallel to the Air Force station. Wide roads with a row of palms in the middle, roads meandering through two huge mountains into a valley, and colourful Surya Kirans doing sorties in the clear skies. 
    A silent revolution has been happening in the most backward district over the past two years, with the mantra being infrastructure development. Change came to Bidar with young IAS officer Harsh Gupta, deputy commissioner, who set the ball rolling. 
    Bidar town is now being branded at the national level as a model city. The secret: an effective administration and people’s participation, where citizens have voluntarily given up lands for ring roads and property owners have broken down their buildings for road widening. 
    A leaf taken out of here and there has made a lot of difference. The BBMP’s precast magic box technology 
has also been used — not as underpasses, but for storm water drains below the roads! Gupta, who had a stint at BBMP as incharge of storm water drains remodelling, conceptualised projects for Bidar based on Bangalore’s bad experience in haphazard growth. 
    Flush with funds from the Centre and state governments, Bidar project was cleared by the Union Planning Commission. The Rs 136-crore Bidar transformation project is the chief 

minister’s pet project, over his home turf Shimoga. 
    “The key is PPP. We were transparent and took people into confidence. After the initial resentment, people came around. We communicated every move to citizens, who finally saw development in their city. We knew the legal process of land acquisition would take time and asked people to demolish properties with violations. Farmers were convinced to give up lands for outer and inner ring roads,’’ explained Gupta. 

33 city roads widened from 22 ft to 100 ft; investment Rs 12 cr 
Streetlights installed, parks beautified, heritage structures restored
BIDAR GIVES B’LORE THE BLUES From Then To Now, The Old-World Town’s Quick March To A Model City 
Bidar: Located at the top corner of the state, Bidar is 700 km away from the state capital. With a population of about 3 lakh, this erstwhile seat of the Bahamani kingdom with a glorious past, suffered from a lack of basic civic infrastructure and unplanned growth. 
    Arterial roads were very narrow and the Old City — the walled city — had almost become unapproachable because of congested roads. There were roads on which encroachments had come up with or without the connivance of the local bodies. There were hardly any roads which had a uniform carriageway, pavements, drains and illumination. 

    It was in this background that the initiative to transform the city started taking shape. As some work was kick-started, the Karnataka government took up Bidar on priority and placed it before the Union Planning Commission for grants. 
HOW IT STARTED One heavy shower and bad flooding of a labour colony made authorities sit up. The root of the problem was traced — encroachments on the primary drain. Then began the clearance drive and an old existing nala was dug out. Encroachments were cleared, creating a buzz in the city as the next rain did not create any havoc. 
    The stage was set firmly for the administration to take up bigger things. The citizens were asked for suggestions and 
roads topped the list. 
    For instance, Mannalli Road and Chidri Road were narrow and had heavy traffic because many educational institutions are located here. Chidri Road was an important entry route to the city and led to the wholesale grain here. Around 350 illegal pakka structures were removed here in just 15 days. 
    Throughout the demolition exercise, communication channels with the public were kept open. The administration consciously discussed the issue with interested parties directly and emphasized the inevitability of action for the city’s development. 
VOLUNTARY DEMOLITION Once the structures were marked for par
tial/complete demolition for road widening, people started removing buildings on their own. Though some influential politicians protested as their properties were also marked, it did not make any dent. Roads were widened in Old City, where the traditional market was rejuvenated. The upgradation of Naya Kaman to Choubara and from Gavan Chowk to Ambedkar Circle breathed new life into these areas. 
    “There was some resentment initially, but when we dug out the land records, there were severe irregularities. The landlords realized they were on the wrong side of the law. We came to a consensus that no compensation would be given to them nor would they pay betterment fees,’’ DC Harsh Gupta explained. 

    JCBs AND 
Former BBMP commissioner S Subramanya’s brainchild magic box technology has been borrowed by Bidar to build storm water drains — the pre-cast segmental boxes are placed, and then roads laid. The Nirmiti Kendra is a yard where magic box segments of all sizes are manufactured. Bidar is also getting orders for these segments from other neighbouring cities. 
    Ask any child in Bidar what his/her favourite toy is, not the usual remotecontrolled cars, not even aircraft, considering that Bidar Air Force base houses Hawks. It’s bulldozers! Since the earthmoving equipment works overtime on every road razing down structures, the children are in awe of the equipment. Toy shops have a range of bulldozers. And the latest icon for children at fancy dress competitions is ‘DC uncle’, and ‘What I want to be in future’ essays generally have demolition man Harsh Gupta as the role model! Guess what was Gupta’s best birthday gift? A JCB-shaped cake by his staff! 

RING ROADS In a year, 14 km of ring road built at a cost of Rs 16 cr Farmers willingly surrendered 60 acres Landlords signed relinquishment deeds to transfer land No land acquisition hassles or court cases, so things moved fast 2 farmers with small land holdings rehabilitated Value of agricultural lands shot up after ring road was commissioned — from Rs 2 lakh/acre to Rs 50 lakh/ acre. Another 13 km of outer road connecting five major roads, Nanded and Latur traffic towards Hyderabad, under construction; cost Rs 14 cr 120 farmers contributed 90 acres of land for project

A ROAD IS BORN: This is the journey of a road that took its shape from an invisible opening in a huge mountain. The Bidar administration widened the road — rather carefully, not disturbing the mountain — and what you see now is a model worth a good look at

A lot of buildings are torn down (above) to pave the way for road widening, a project actively pursued by Bidar deputy commissioner Harsh Gupta (left)

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