The Chatroom: It's time to rid ourselves of the monster, says Vijay Menon

The idea of TOD is to give maximum access to public transport.

The IT boom sent land prices in commercial areas through the roof, creating a great opportunity for people who owned property in residential areas. This was tantamount to unleashing a monster nobody can tame, says Vijayan Menon, Member of the Citizens Action Forum and the first petitioner against commercial activity in residential areas, who joined Aknisree Karthik for this week’s Chatroom

Weekend plans in Bengaluru invariably involve heading out to Indiranagar, Koramangala or the CBD. Food, music and watering-holes are the pride of Bengaluru, but residents are forced to spend their weekends in the raucous, booze-soaked melee to which these neighbourhoods have been reduced.

Bengaluru needs political will if it hopes to crack the menace of illegal commercial units operating out of residential areas,” said Vijayan Menon, a member of the Citizens Action Forum, who began his battle against the menace nearly a decade ago, when he filed the first PIL against commercial activity in residential areas. “This is the right time for the government to curb illegal commercial units in these neighbourhoods.”

The onslaught began during the boom around 15 years ago. Land prices shot up in commercial areas, making it too expensive for many businesses to operate out of the heart of the town. People who owned property in residential areas saw an opportunity that seemed too good to pass up. They began letting their spaces out for commercial purposes, which meant higher rents.

What it has done is unleash a monster that is now too big and too wild to tame, feels Menon. “Officials didn’t bother too much either and were happy to turn a blind eye as long as they were offered generous bribes. This led to rampat commercial activity in residential neighbourhoods.”

The plan worked well at first, but residents themselves, who are partly to blame, were the first to feel the impact. “There are traffic issues, parking problems, noise and air pollution,” Menon remarked.

“It has affected the quality of life, impacting the residents’ peace of mind,” he said, adding, “Transit Oriented Development, or TOD, has more or less been rendered impossible. The idea of TOD is to give maximum access to public transport, but commercial activities and residential areas rolled into one, it’s very difficult to keep track of how many vehicles take a particular route on a daily basis.”

A law which ensures that the two don’t mix will go a long way toward helping the government plan the road network too. “They will have clarity,” said Menon, “On high density and low density areas and figure out the axis for development.”
Menon, who was the first petitioner against commercial activity in residential areas, has been fighting this battle since 2007, nearly a decade.

“It’s good that the government has woken up atleast now by issuing a public notice to commercial units operating illegally in residential areas,” he said. Do we have clarity on how many these are? A few thousand, Menon reckons.

Dedication is the need of the hour. “Citizens should also understand that this is in their best interests and try to support the government in implementing the law,” he said. “And citizens like us will always keep a vigil!”

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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