Rainwater falls from road above; ‘we clear the trash ourselves’
Shopkeepers and business owners near the Bengaluru-Mysuru expressway are incurring losses because of a stinking problem. Few customers visit the shops, they say, because the drainage system demolished ahead of its construction has not been rebuilt.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the expressway on March 12, 2023, in Mandya amid much fanfare.
Muniraj, who runs a scrap shop in Kumbalgodu, informed The Observer: “Mori ka bhi problem hai (there is also a problem of drainage).” Two years ago, when the highway was constructed, the authorities broke the drainage and till date they have not reconstructed it.
The Observer noticed that lack of drainage has led to the accumulation of garbage and dirty water in front of almost every shop.
The waste from an eatery flows towards Muniraj’s shop. “Many times we clean the waste ourselves,” he said.
Many shopkeepers have placed makeshift plastic and wooden bridges for customers to walk in. When it rains, water falls down from the expressway, causing chaos.
The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), responsible for the construction of the expressway, awarded the contract to Dilip Buildcon.
The Observer contacted an official from the NHAI’s project implementation unit at Ramanagara. He said he could share any information with the media and suggested The Observer visit the Ramanagara office of NHAI.
The Observer tried to contact Dilip Buildcon, but they did not answer the calls.
The Observer noticed a dilapidated building named ‘Keelka Hardware’. Chandru, an autorickshaw driver, said the building was half-demolished by the road authorities and the shop owner had to move to a place where he is not earning much.
Many shopkeepers have complained about this to the Kumbalgodu panchayat, but the panchayat said it’s not their job to construct a drainage.
Dinesh Seervi, who sells electrical items, said no customers visit his shop now. Only those with whom he has good contacts buy products in bulk from him. During the construction of the expressway, his shop was cut into half. The compensation was given to the shop owner, not to Dinesh, who pays a monthly rent of Rs 15,000.
“I once spent Rs 25,000 from my pocket to fix a pipe and to eliminate dirt, but that did not work,” he said. “Now everybody travels on the highway, so they don’t see my shop and buy anything. Panchayat people say road authorities will fix the drainage, road authorities say it’s the panchayat’s job; but nobody helps. Because of this drainage problem, people think twice about coming to my shop. The owner of the shop also does not listen,” Seervi added.
Heeralal Prajapati, who runs a 20-year-old hardware shop, said the shop’s height has increased. It gets very problematic to carry stuff. The problem is, because of the highway, the road which was single has turned into two. People from the other side of the road ignore his shop. “Earlier my business was far better than what it is now.”
His shop was 25 feet by 20 feet but has been reduced to 12 feet by 20 feet. “The government gave me compensation, but it was not enough. I would have got more than Rs 20 lakh if they had measured it in meters. But they measured the land in sqft.”
Lokesh Venkatesh, a small chicken shop owner for the past 15 years, said: “Earlier, there used to be a lot of traffic and people used to buy from my shop.” He also referred to the fight that the expressway construction has led to between the land owners. “Compensation was paid by the government, but now there is a fight between shop owners who are brothers. The fight is about who will get more money.”
Srinivas, who runs a mobile equipment shop since 1997, said: “Business has decreased by 30 per cent. Earlier, car drivers would stop and buy aux cables and car chargers. Now big vehicles have moved to the highway. The shop owner got compensation. What have we got?”
Sunil Mehta, a gold shop owner whose shop’s height increased from 2 feet to 7 feet, asked: “How will we get customers if they cannot see the shop?”
Mehta also pointed to the increased number of accidents, narrating how a schoolbus collided with a truck a few days ago.
G.B. Basavaraju, panchayat development officer, Kumbalgodu, said the panchayat cannot work on its own; it needs the state government’s permission and guidelines.
“The higher authorities are yet to decide. They are working to build the Metro line which will go till Bidadi. They will work to repair the drainage system only after the Metro line gets complete. However, we make sure to clean the drain every Saturday under our Swacch Shanivar Andolan,” the officer said.
Shopkeepers in Kanmanike and Bidadi have also incurred losses. The reason is not lack of drainage but reduced traffic.
Murli, whose restaurant had just two customers when The Observer visited it, said: “There’s no business at all. I am working with 80 per cent loss. Earlier, I used to earn at least Rs 25,000 per day, but now it’s hardly Rs 5,000. I wish the new expressway would get closed.”
Imran Khan, a mobile equipment shop owner, shared: “It’s been three months since the Mysuru-Bengaluru highway was inaugurated. I am incurring huge losses because all the traffic has moved to the other road. No vehicle stops and (nobody) buys products from my shop. I know it will be like this for the coming year as well.”
The Observer noticed a fence divides the expressway and the old Mysuru Road. Mahesh, who has a small eatery in Kanmanike, said his customers feel uncomfortable while crossing the fence to come to his eatery.
A Times of India report said: “The project has been developed at a total cost of around Rs 8,480 crore and involves 6-laning of the Bengaluru-Nidaghatta-Mysuru section of NH-275. It will reduce the travel time between Bengaluru and Mysuru from around 3 hours to about 75 minutes.”