The meeting of city MPs and MLAs called by Bengaluru Development Minister, K.J George on Tuesday to discuss the proposed steel flyover between Chalukya Circle and Tuesday made no departure from the status quo despite thousands of Bengalureans forming a human chain recently to protest against it. Rajya Sabha member, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, who was at the meeting, spoke to Shwetha Satyanarayan about what transpired. Excerpts:
Q: Can you briefly tell us what happened at the meeting called to discuss the flyover by the minister in Vidhana Soudha?
A: Bengaluru Development Minister K.J George had extended an invitation to all the MLAs and MPs to attend the meeting. After a brief presentation, the Congress and BJP MPs made suggestions, which showed that no one supported the project. When it was my turn to speak and I suggested we needed a planned approach, Mr George shouted at me, saying, “When your foundation (Namma Bengaluru Foundation) has moved the High Court, why are you speaking here?” I then asked why I was invited if I wasn’t supposed to speak. When other elected representatives too were treated in a similar manner, MLA Suresh Kumar walked out, followed by others.
Q: Why do you think you were targeted?
A: They said I was against the project because my firm did not get the contract. During the 2G scam, I was told I protested because I didn’t bag the telecom licence. Such allegations don’t bother me.
Q: Is the NBF’s protest against the steel flyover itself or the haste with which the state government wants to execute it?
A: Not just the NBF, but the entire city wants the state government to consult the people before a major infrastructure project is implemented. One minister and his friends cannot decide the future of the city’s development. The government needs to find place for the citizens’ voice. It should involve them, follow the norms and widely discuss the alternative options before spending Rs 1,800 crore on a flyover. One steel flyover should not be the focus of a state government.
Q: But a public consultation was supposed to have been held.
A: The government’s claim of a public consultation is totally dishonest. When the detailed project report (DPR) is available to the public only now, how can the government have received an honest feedback from it? The important question is, how will the state government fund other civic projects, if it spends so much on one flyover? Other road projects, lake revival, drains, potholes and garbage need money. A public consultation should be held to discuss and address these concerns. Since the government does not have answers to any of these questions, it decided to dodge the public consultation.
Q: Do you think the flyover is inevitable despite public protests?
A: There is more awareness among the people and they realize that the longer they are silent, the more they are exploited. The dying Bellandur Lake, the garbage fiasco, and the encroachment drive have given them an idea of how they have been cheated. This protest is against the government’s apathy to public opinion. The citizens will not be silent any more and if the government goes ahead with the project, it will have to go over the people.