GBGB: National Strategy Meet on Metro Project - 6
Duration: 01:00:31; Aspect Ratio: 1.333:1; Hue: 125.814; Saturation: 0.037; Lightness: 0.592; Volume: 0.243; Cuts per Minute: 3.387; Words per Minute: 144.870
A 2 day long National Strategy Meet on Metro Projects was held at Ajmera Hall, Mumbai. The meet was attended by representative activists, academicians, environmentalists, transport experts, architects etc from 7 cities including Chennai, Mumbai, Bangalore, Pune, Thane, Delhi, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad etc.
The Meet was held in the context of the announcement of Metro Projects to be introduced in 26 cities with proposed investment of 1 lakh crore rupees. The meet was inaugurated by lighting "mashal", flame of struggle, by veteran freedom fighter Shri Ajmera, Prof. Swapana Banerjee Guha, Kathiayani Chamraj (CIVIC-Bangalore), Smt Geeta (Metro Yard Hatao Abhiyan-Mumbai) amidst slogans.
Rajender Ravi brought to the notice of everyone that Delhi Metro Rail Corporation(DMRC) has been receiving number of relaxations and subsidies from the government but not passing it on to the users. Since its inception, thousands of people have been displaced with no rehabilitation being provided to them.
Leo Saldhana mentioned that the initial budget amount was 4000 crores in the year 2004 which without much work being done has crossed 9,000 crores. While the cost for BRTS is much below this but it is not being taken ahead because Sreedharan(DMRC) has been pushing the idea ahead that without Metro our cities will fail. In Bangalore, during the last 10 years the per capita available space has dropped to 2 sq.ft per person. With Metro this is to further drop as FAR for 150 sq,mts around Metro stations has been increased to 4, which means more construction activities. Surprisingly JBIC is funding to tune of 45% of the total cost and though it has strict environmental rules out in construction of Bangalore Metro the same are being blatantly violated. All the left green spaces-parks are being taken over by declaring Metro as an industrial activity. Cities have complex relationships, its not only; which technology you choose but also the impact of the technology on people who use it. The DPR of Bangalore Metro was submitted by Shreedhrana on 31st March 2004 and the very next day i.e 1st April 2004 it was approved by the then Chief Minister Shri Krishna. Bonded labour is being brought in large numbers from Jharkhand and child labour is being employed for work. Metro has asked the government of Karnataka to provide it with subsidised electricity at rate of Rs 2.20 /Kilowat when the government is purchasing it at the rate of Rs. 5/kilowatt from Chattisgarh.
C Ramchandriah: The danger of the 20's is that because it is not there in the AA notification, the Hyderabad Metro Rail authorities say we are not obliged to conduct any AA study. Because, there is no mandatory requirement for us to declare it. Then it is the use of a AA study? When there is no use of cases to go to MOUF then what is the use of conducting the AA study? So we told him, because of this your people are not giving us any information. Metro Rail being good or bad in Hyderabad that can be discussed separately. But with you ... and we have to brush up on that in the coming two days. And the government has come. A time of 6 years has been given my the Mehta's in the concessional agreement. From where they will get the 12,000 and invest in this-that is called financial closure. And with that Rs. 240/- crores- I have written that in the article- that has to be given as a security bank guarantee. And after that, the Satyam scandal that happened in December, Ramalinga Raju resigned in January. And one of the reasons of Satyam scandal is that Metro Rail happened. Because, they have a lot of real estate agenda around Hyderabad. The Mehta's have already taken 400 acres of land.
National Strategy Meet
C Ramchandriah: So, the Satyam company has kept Hyderabad Metro Rail in it's larger agenda...real estate agenda. And within 6 years, with the Mehta's we didn't have the power. On March 17 we did demonstrations. After March 17, on 19th we did demonstrations that this should be scrapped. It was not scrapped. Still they are thinking that if the Mehta's can do it then... but they won't be able to do it. Within one week that contract was cancelled. But in another form this Metro Rail project will come very much in the centerstage in Hyderabad in the coming days. Because in September, corporation elections will happen in the city of Hyderabad. So, presenting this Metro Rail in another form, the government wants to take advantage in elections. And we too will speak up against this. Our only ill-fate is that there is no political party in Hyderabad, which will fight against this. Whatever fights we have to do are being doing only by the support of social activists in Hyderabad. And we will fight. How much ever strength we have, we will fight against this in Hyderabad. With this assurance I will...
Simpreet: Thank you Mr. Ramchandriah Iyer. Probably he took a bit more of time but, whatever facts he has placed in front of us, it is definitely appalling that this whole thing under the name of transport... in a way this real estate agenda that is there, it has been increased in Hyderabad. And the way in which a well thought, well planned struggle under which...the public transport facilities that were there, the bus system that was there, slowly it has been stopped. And then it was said that because it does not work properly, it needs an alternative. And as an alternative, what was done by Satyam and what was not done is very well known to all of us. But under that pretext how they have planned to grab more and more land under the name of Metro, Ramchandriah Iyer has thrown light on that. So, before starting the next session, I will just say once again that the way in which it had all started... the way in which Smt. Swapna has given us the mould for understanding all this, I think that is very necessary. We should not forget that and we should pay attention to that. Because then we can understand that, whatever is understanding among us which powers are behind this and what is the reason for that... the changes that are happening today, why are those changes happening?
Simpreet: So, before starting the next session, I will request that it is a formality in one way, but because it has a deep relation with protesters, that is of lighting the torch. So for that I will request Smt. Kathiayani who has come from Bangalore to please come up on the stage. With that I will request the volunteer of the Metro Rail Hatao Abhiyan, Smt. Geetha that she too may please come up on the stage. Smt. Kathiayani, please. Mr. Ajmera too..
Simpreet: Now we will start with the next session. So whichever presentations are related to this city we will start with them first. First I will request Mr. Rajender Ravi who has come from Delhi, he may please come up on the stage. With that, Mr. Leo Saldhana who has come from Bangalore, who is a part of an organization named Environment support group, and he will be raising points related to the city of Bangalore...Mr. Leo Saldhana and Mr. Rajender Ravi. With that, Mr. R N Sharma from Tata Institute of Social Sciences will come as a moderator. Leo Saldhana... Lastly, as discussions have happened, then there are questions related to Metro Rail. So taking those ahead...the presentations that are there ahead... they are about each city and what all is going on there, and in what way Metro Rail was pushed ahead, and especially it is going on in Delhi for many years, so, what experiences have been there because of Metro Rail coming in. So, for discussing that I will invite Mr. Ravi that he may come and say what he has to say.
Rajender Ravi: Friends, the two speakers before us have placed a lot of facts before us. The reactions to development that are going on now, what is the perspective behind that? And what is the place of Metro in that? I will take ahead the same things. After the Metro came in Delhi and before the Metro came in Delhi, and what did the government do to make that whole project valid, and how did they do it, and who were the people who supported it, I will throw some light on this.
Rajender Ravi: First and foremost, this new kind of development that is there, in that, the pillars of democracy that are there, one of those pillars is of media. And the role of media in modern development.. in what way does it increase the same thing in sectors. And how does the government react to that? First of all the one who was elected for the Metro in Delhi, behind that, I assume that, there must be personal relations but I believe that there must have been an idea to develop a role model. And first of all the debate that starts in that is what is development? What are the parameters of development? What will be in you to develop and what won't be so that you will be called cosmopolitan? In that this debate is so powerful that those who do not participate in it, those who do not touch it, who do not use it, they support it on the largest scale. For example, if I say, in Delhi, when we used to talk in hutments about going against the Metro, that the Metro will affect us a lot. Then they said no, this is a measure of our city becoming developed. Because if Metro will be there we can proudly say that our city has a Metro.
Rajender Ravi: In the same way, the way Metro has different characteristics in different cities, like in Mumbai, which was a large group affected by the Metro, and in the end it strongly protested against it. But, before choosing the role model of Delhi, what the government did was, it selected such a corridor in which nowhere, no sector will be directly affected. Like from Shahdara the first corridor of 301 that is there, that has been made in governmental land. And there was no population there, so that no one will directly go against it. And when that corridor was made and inaugurated, that time, two days after the inauguration, when it opened for the common people, and the destruction that happened to it, in which the entire infrastructure of the Metro was destroyed, that time, the media people said, it was a big mistake to bring in Metro from there, because in that area all those kind of people stay who don't know how to use the models of modern development. Whereas, the population in West Delhi where it had been started from Shahdara is where the poor people stay. That's why Metro should have been started from the South.
Rajender Ravi: Then the Metro went ahead. It went ahead upto Dhaula. So wherever it didn't touch the population while going ahead. It made four elevated doors and went ahead. In this the different people who address the betterment of the poor and the betterment of the city, those who conceptualize it, what is their opinion about this, especially in Delhi? When we were working on the city's shelter, livelihood, mobility and we tried.. as Mr. Ramchandriah Iyer said, that we established contacts with people of parties, what did they say? First we thought that those who are the voice the working class, that is the Communist party and we should meet them. And we went and met Mr. A V Vartak. He said that, 'See, on one hand there are issues of jams on the road. And most of the working class uses such motor plans which are resulting in unsafe road travel. You should raise your voice in concern of those travelling by cycles, rickshaws and by foot.' Without listening to anything he said, 'Do you know there is no space for cars to move on the road!'. 'And you specially should talk about rickshaws, cyclists and pedestrians. It is a big issue.' I said, 'You have spent your whole life in talking amongst the poor. And how come you are saying this?'
Rajender Ravi: He said that, 'You don't understand that how much loans are there of cars and automobile industry in doing institutionalization.' We came out from there disappointed. In the morning too when I heard here, from my senior officer of HSS that we have come to understand the Metro and not to go against it. We are not saying that we are against it. But the way in which Metro is becoming a big part of the corporate sector. In that, common people, be it the workers of Metro or not, but the common citizens, specially the working class and what effect does it have on it and whatever addresses the issues of the working class that should be spoken about.
Rajender Ravi: In Delhi, there weren't many big oppositions to it, before that what I said about the selection of the corridor, that was a big reason. Secondly, the technique that was in it, as Mr. Channaiya said, the techniques of Metro that are being used, they are mostly foreign. I feel that in this too there is a problem. How much ever tender the Metro gives, it gives it to the foreign companies. But after coming down to a lower level, whatever work is going on is in our country on a contracted basis where a contractor brings in 100 workers and he does not even get minimum employment. Exactly this procedure has been made applicable on all of Delhi's Metro Rail lines. The impact that is there of Metro- one is that labour happened during construction. The all encompassing impacts that are there, they were not adopted by parties, even the people of the society, and the people who were standing with the workers. Like, the impact that is there on the land. Whatever land in Delhi that has been taken by the Metro, it was not acquired directly. It has been acquired through the medium of MCD, PWD and other departments by the government. In Phase 2, the first piece of land that was acquired, that was by demolishing 5,000 slums.
Rajender Ravi: ...We were transferred. If you go to see, on the site of Metro, then there very few numbers about eviction and settlement...100 or 200 crores.. there are no other figures. And that land that is there, had not come directly under the impact of Metro Rail. It was shown that we will make the Metro yard here. The Metro yard was also made in little space as it has not been started now. And there, a builder named Parasnath was given the land and now, they are selling a 2 room flat in Rs. 2 crores/-. So how far is this right on a legal basis? When the government confers land on any sector, on a lease, it goes and transfers it to someone else on the lease. We feel that normally this is not legal.
Rajender Ravi: In the same way, wherever the Metro went under land, in those places, there has been such a big problem of water, that where initially water used to come at 30 or 35 ft, now at 200 ft itself water is not coming. And all of this has been used in such a manner, that first they put big motor pumps, and to bring them out they put long and big pipes. And they put all that water in the sewer. So the water level that is there, that got totally finished, in the same way, the number of plants that were cut down. And when they were asked about it through Right to Information, that how many plants did you cut? They said that we have cut down 10,000 plants and they have been replanted. They were asked that where have you replanted them? They said that it is not our responsibility to plant them. We have refunded the money of the cut trees to Delhi Forest Division and they know if they have planted or not planted them. So, the Delhi Metro is putting in as much of direct confrontation as it can to become a role model.
Rajender Ravi: Secondly, each type of subsidy, be it the question of land, be it the question of electricity, be it the question of customs- they took 100% subsidy in that including the MCG tax. It can be that it must have reached 70-75 crores. Last year it was 45 crores. They said we cannot give it because we too are a governmental department, today too it is a governmental department. So I can give it a tax. So now they have made a case in the court. On the other hand, the Metro Rail has to say that we are not building an infrastructure that will pay a subsidy. We are building an infrastructure that will earn profit. Wherever in the world the Metro has been made, or wherever it is the transport system, it runs on subsidy only. Because if in a welfare state, you do not give subsidy, then no transport system will run including Metro. There is no Metro in the world which does not give subsidy to the people. This is the first example which does not give subsidy. But it takes subsidy. It takes subsidy in everything as I said. In the same way per person, per passenger, in every 7 years the government itself gives Rs. 35,000/-. On one hand it takes subsidy but it does not give subsidy.
Rajender Ravi: So, the Metro's whole impact that is there on the people- as he said, that during globalization whatever infrastructure is being made, or whatever projects are happening, they cannot be inclusive. New face of the new century. Metro is not any better than that. As I can say, that they had advertisements in big newspapers that we won't have toilets on the Metro stations. Behind that their conclusion was that by making a toilet the Metro station will become dirty. Hence we won't make toilets. Hence in the first phase and the second phase they didn't make a toilet anywhere. Second thing they said was, that you can't carry luggage on it. Which meant that any common man, any poor man, be it huge bags or a basket, he cannot carry his implements of work on it. So on one hand they say that we will make transportation available to the people and on the other hand they make such rules-there is contradiction between the two.
Rajender Ravi: After that the Supreme Court passed an order that whatever public transport infrastructure that is being made you will have to make a toilet in it. Then they said that they don't have land. The court said that if you don't have land then where do your employees go? Then they said that they (toilets) have been made for them. Then they said that wherever there is no land and you have made them (toilets) for the staff, open them (to the public). Now they have opened them (toilets).
Rajender Ravi: Don't use liquids. If we are going anywhere, if we are coming somewhere, if we are hungry or thirsty, then what will we do? This means that if you are travelling for 2 hours, all the Metro Rails that are being made in Delhi, when they will ne finished, it will be a travel of more than a hour or 2 hours. Then you won't be able to drink water, nor will you be able to eat food. So, the Metro is such an infrastructure, which is against the poor and the society. I said poor, I will go ahead and say that it is against the society. Because each person using it is being imposed restrictions. After this I will say that what was the other reason behind not opposing it? Wherever the Metro has reached in Delhi, the infrastructure of the road that is there, it has not touched it anywhere. When it has not touched it, then all the car users that are there, all the pedestrians that are there, they don't have any conflict with them. Now when there is no conflict, then they feel that they are not asking for any portion of my portion. Hence the poor are not able to say that my land is not going directly. Second they are under the misconception that this is a model of development and if you want to stay in a good city then you should respect such things. You may or may not use it, it will be with you and you will be called rich.
Rajender Ravi: Secondly, the oppressed section that is there, it does not harm the interests of that. Exactly the opposite of this, the BRT corridors that are being made, in this firstly the car users took it. Because the roads that the BRT will pass through, on those roads, the space that was made for cars, the same space has been made for the buses. And a separate place has been made for the cars. So which infrastructure will make separate facilities for the poor and that way who will oppose it, you can see it from the plans of the Metro.
Rajender Ravi: Apart from this, all the Metro corridors that are being made... now on each Metro station a mall is being made. The mall has been given to all the builders that you make this station and in return for that we will give you the permission to make a mall. And in this time, there are some selective builders whose property is very huge. In that, Parasnath is one big builder whose property is very big. Why is it big? That is left to see. I feel that our friends who are related to the Railway union, they must be remembering that when Mamta Banerjee was elected as the Railway Minister, that time Metro was a debate for the Delhi Government that on which gauge will Metro be used. Our Rail industry is the biggest industry in the world and it runs on broad gauge. Center Cabinet approved thrice that whichever Metro is being made here will be made on broad gauge. And Shridharan kept on saying this again and again that we want to make this a world class infrastructure and so the infrastructure that has been used in the world we should make the gauge in this as per that. But the Central Cabinet declined that and they had to make the first and the second phase both on the center gauge.
Rajender Ravi: The logic behind that was that in the future all the boogies that are there, those can be manufactured in our rail coach factories. Now, almost 8 months back, as an internal balance, the Metro Rail changed that decision and the other phases that will be made now- from Central Secretariat to Gurgaon, from Central Secretariat to Faridabad- in those standard gauges are being used. What difference will that make? The Metro Rail that used to go from Jahangirpuri to Faridabad, the Metro rail that used to go from Jahangirpuri to Dhaula, now that will have to be terminated. Now a big terminal is being made near Central Secretariat where, how many ever passengers will come, leaving them one will have to go to another track. So, the Metro Rail is not only helping corporates, but how many ever industries are there- and of them the biggest is the Rail industry- it will stabilize that. And further, under the name of world class infrastructure, they will say that because we are using standard gauges in Metro, hence the Rail too has to use those gauges. Because the logic is from both the sides.
Rajender Ravi: Their main logic is, that if we have to compete on a global basis then whatever is the standard in the world, we will have to adopt that. Hence, specially the working class friends of ours who are there, they will have to think that- there is one straight logical way of opposing and the other hidden motive that is there of the modern age- where what is shown is different and what is done is different. For this I will give just one example, that when I and Smt. Medha Patkar had gone in a meeting of World Bank and a very old Samajwadi friend of ours - Jagmohan Prasad Singh- he was the Cabinet Minister of Urban Development- he spoke in Hindi in front of the director of World bank- he said exactly the thing in our lives-that the land reforms that we will do, we will see the betterment of the poor and we will do them as per our local requirements. And in English he said all those things which the World Bank wanted. The landlords got up and said that whatever you have said in Hindi, please translate it into English. He said that we have two teeth- one is to eat and other is to show. He got down from the dias and said, that sister c'mon let's go to eat. We will have a talk for a while. So this is the (?). Meaning, that a Cabinet Minister had seated an ordinary branch manager on the dais and he is saying all those things that he is not supposed to say.
Rajender Ravi: So this... in the process of development in what way infrastructure is being developed in such a way that your constitutional rights are not there. You have the Right to Live, Right to Mobility is also there, Right to Shelter is also there. But there will be such a circle in which you cannot use them. You will have to become marginalized or you will have to go somewhere else out of helplessness. Hence this model that is there of making the city, it is completely against the poor, against the city. Hence the Metro should be opposed as much as possible. And the other transport systems that are there, they should be made into alternatives which can make an inclusive society. Thank You.
Simpreet: Thank you Mr. Ravi. What the Metro did in Delhi? What promises had it made? And what has come out of it? And what was it's reality? After coming to know about this, I will request Mr. Leo Saldhana who has come from Bangalore, to tell us about what is going on in Bangalore, what are the suggestions and thoughts of the organizations and the residents there.
Leo Saldhana: Thank you. Please excuse me as my Hindi is not so good. Hence, I want to talk in English.
Leo Saldhana: More than describing what the Bangalore Metro is, and what the experience with the Metro is, I would like to raise a few issues. The first major issue that I'd wish to raise is whether we can allow a Railway Engineer to reshape our cities. And by this I mean, Padma Shri. Shri. Shridharan who has allocated to himself the power of not just reshaping the cities but reshaping millions of lives. Over the last 4 or 5 years I have closely studied the way in which he has made some statements. One of the statements is .. almost all of them are based on this understanding of what cities are. In that he has said that if we do not plan public transport systems and that too Railways as public transport systems, our cities are doomed. So once the call came to set up a Delhi Metro System, and that was fully rushed through, and we've just heard heard the explanations from Ravi. It became a fetish to go on to implement the Metro system across the country.
Leo Saldhana: So one of the major problems with the way Mr. Shridharan has imagined the Metro is that he has not realized that cities have complex relationships. It is not elevated Metro systems or underground systems. It's not merely a choice of technology. But what is the impact of that technology on millions of lives. I have not heard of a single interview that Shridharan has given or a single interview in which these questions have been raised to Mr. Shridharan by any mediaperson. And he is a man who is not even been coming to eclectic conferences or articulate dispositions beyond maybe write in briefs, circulars and taking positions which are largely confined to government departments.
Leo Saldhana: So once he has sold the idea within the government, the government has accepted the idea. It becomes imperative to tell you, 'Go ahead it behind your project'. It almost becomes as Shridharan's told is the Bible growth around the cities. To give you an illustration, there was this keep here that the Karnataka government once Delhi came up with the Metro. Since Karnataka also had a Congress government at the time led by S M Krishanan, currently the external affairs minister. He asked Mr. Shridharan to produce a detailed project report for Bangalore. And this was produced in 2003 and given to...this is a huge module... given to the Chief Minister on 31st March 2004. He approved on 1st April 2004. In other words, unless Mr. Krishna read the report overnight, it is probably the fastest clearance that anybody to the project has issued to any Metro project has received anytime. In less than one day the Delhi Metro project was approved with Bangalore.
Leo Saldhana: And it turned out that about day before Wednesday, that he doesn't know what it consists. Now the problem with the Metro system is that you cannot necessarily say that you know the whole thing. Like in all cities, Bangalore has a huge public transport problem. But sometimes I feel that the public transport problem has been deliberately overstated. Bangalore has 70% of the vehicles, main two wheelers and the rest being cars, buses and trucks. But the bigger problem is Bangalore has 38 lakh vehicles. And the city has about 17,000 intersections-traffic intersections. Since none of these traffic intersections are synchronized, or has there ever been application to synchronize them, it was very easy to cause chaos. We have looked at some of the possibilities of synchronization. There are plenty of possibilities. It doesn't take more than 2 or 300 crores to synchronize traffic lights and ensure that there's a smooth flow of traffic.
Leo Saldhana: Whether to go in a bus or a motorcycle or from cycle or from a car. But the next technological problem is, it seems we have so many cars which have come up, so many different types of cars, and that some of the biggest progress in the country today are the car models. A good example of that is... Mr Ramchandriah came up with the...gave analysis of how environment take back suspend notification was modified to the North of the Metro from the steady pace of clearances. Now we went behind, because we also got a book on that. What shocked us was, for you and me, the commenting period is 60 days according to the law. So the draft here notification was put out. All of us were given 60 days across the country-whether you are in a remote or whether you are in a Metropolitan area. You were given 60 days to comment on a document which was largely made in English. I think there was only one other translation and that was in Hindi.
Leo Saldhana: Now the draft notification was a terrible one. All of us opposed it. Now the point is after the commenting period closed, the Prime Minister's office was involved. And I believe that based on the Prime Minister's instructions to ensure that certain lobbies were given a special clearing. One major lobby was led by Reliance. It is the construction real estate fellows across the country. It's a very powerful lobby. And then came up with the presentation that if you were to put construction and real estate under the scanner of the Ministry of Environment and Forest given that there is a great need for housing and infrastructure. It will then tremendously slow down housing and infrastructure development and therefore growth itself. So can you continue to put the construction projects from the list of schedule, projects that need environmental and social and practical analysis. And this was accommodated.
Leo Saldhana: The second major lobby was the automobile sector. It is the same letter. Be it Mahindra writing it or Tata writing it or anyone else going to plan to issue one. They all got to this at long term in Delhi. They all agreed to the type of points that the Metro project would give them. Except the letterhead everything else remains there, everything else is the same. In fact there's been my strong suspicion that the Tata's led this litigation because they wanted the Nano project to be not of EIA notification. Otherwise they will have to submit themselves according to them the implication of being heard by the public... of being twist by the public. Because the Tatas are beyond the public. They are above all. Now Tatas led that probably because they wanted to rush the Nano project through. But then Toyota also wanted it. Ford also wanted it. Nobody of them wanted to consider the impact of the automobile sector. Both in terms of its physical impact as well as the Nano project. Not just at the emission time when we all used it but the life cycle process. And we all know that 30% of the contribution of carbon in climate change towards the atmosphere has been from the automobile sector.
Leo Saldhana: So certain big emitter today does not want environmental assistance. So no one knows what kind of project is coming up. You can expand that way. And you can build a new car plan because everybody new is in power. All that is required is industrial traders and then you can do it. The third major technological choice was the Metro system. And again this was done in a very co-ordinated way. By the already the Bangalore Metro had been approved. Delhi Metro was being constructed. And very formally inaugurated. And so when it came to the position of the Delhi Metro corporation, almost everybody like you know... rallied together to Mr. Shridharan. And the Metro was in many states- Hyderabad, Bangalore, Kolkatta, Mumbai. Be it private sector or public sector, it didn't matter. And the one demand was, do not put us under the scanner of the environmental practices notification.
Leo Saldhana: And I'll read to you a letter written by Mr. Shridharan to the Ministry of Environment and Forests. It says, 'I have gone through the above draft of the EIA notification. And found that Mass Rapid Transit System projects have been included under category A. Category A would be high impact projects which has to go through full environmental insight. Which requires environmental clearance from the Central Government before it can be taken up for implementation. So far, like Railway projects MRTS projects were exempt from prior environmental clearance. MRTS projects are environment friendly and reduce air and noise pollution, bring down the number of accidents and therefore overall preservation and enhancement of the environment. Requirement of obtaining environmental clearance for MRTS projects will be a retrograde step and would only cause delay in the implementation. ...thereby prolonging the misery of intra city commuters for whom the MRTS projects are to be a source of big relief. In view of the above I request the MOUF to consider exclusive demarcated projects from requirement of prior environmental clearance before their implementation.'
Leo Saldhana: Only true for this letter. I think all of us know the real cause. None of us know what is it that approved it. And then we relax beneath the... stuff who put it here... the Maker's project in Hyderabad or the Bangalore Metro project and so on. Now if we fail to address this kind of lobbying, when they do it. We've come, sitting up and trying to develop strategies that's one of my biggest concerns today. Industries about 4 or 5 years ahead of us, in ensuring that there are laws and reforms that then they are manipulated in their favour. There are only a few of us across the country who are trying to step up and step in into these lobbies and trying to stop these lobbies from securing advantages.
Leo Saldhana: So one of the first most important strategies that I want to propose is we have to mould that clay on our part. We need to be out there. We need to be organized. And we need to lobby much before the lobbies can reach. And if those lobbies are more sure, our efforts... and I think we really need to make an issue at that level at that point itself. And I feel if we would have made it an issue then, the Nano would have gone through environmental clearance. Or Metros would have gone through environmental clearance. It cannot be the job of just a few researchers and few environmental movements across the country. Because the implications are far more than just environment.
Leo Saldhana: But what we need to recognize here is that amongst all the laws and policies, both Central and State, and local, there is not a single law except the EIA notification; that the public interference is required on such massive projects. And that also has been done through a mere notification. Now you are aware that the notification does not have to go through the Parliament. It is what I would call bureaucratic registration. It can be pushed and manipulated at will by the bureaucracy. And that is the problem with the EIA notification. If we had got a proper statutory EIA law, then every member should have gone before the parliament. But everyone would have potentially known about it's implications, behaviours and then they can take a decision. But since it is a notification, at the end of manipulation, bureaucracies are susceptible. Especially, from lobbies. Mostly passed through without us knowing about it. And when it is finally published..
Leo Saldhana: Who is now writing on climate change document and deliberating the climate change in the document gradually. And if you read the climate change document it is the study of technology, the frenzy of technology. There is no understanding of the setback on people, forests, rivers and so on. So that is one of the first major challenges that we have. Be it the Metro or be it the other constructional projects that are coming up. The second major difficulty that we have in front of us is- is why is it so difficult to resist such mega, urban transport projects? I think that one of the major reason, there is a book written about it, is that a technology that the Metro comes in has a part of the political legacy. And its very difficult to dismiss that within the politics of our decision making. It is to look out of any window and to see down people moving in our radius. It seems therefore that there is chaos. There needs to be order. Traffic is everywhere and condition is almost a rule. So it becomes very easy to set the Metro project. So anything more intelligent than the Metro, becomes to difficult to set in our political circle.
Leo Saldhana: Now, in every one of the cities that we talk of a Bus Rapid Transit System is extremely feasible. Now, Bangalore Metro according to their numbers is about 6 thousand 900 crores presently. But some other sources tell us that they are already across 900 crores. So I would safely assume that what was reached by 4,000 crores in 2004 is now already 9000 crores without even the Metro working in Bangalore. It's that only a few segments have been built and the impact of those segments have been quite devastating on certain neighbourhoods. Now if you have that kind of investment made on a project which necessarily does not serve a Mass Rapid Transit release. And then you have other projects like the Bus Rapid Transit System which a fraction of it's cost can do that and more. Why are we not choosing buses?
Leo Saldhana: Now, we have heard that many departments in Bangalore had a personal information that the key bureaucrat was intelligent and concerned with the kind of interests that the Metro will not serve it's stated purpose. But when it gets together at the Cabinet level, that project is lost. Because it is essentially presumed, because of Mr. Shridharan's belief, that there is Metro and nothing else that will save our cities. So I would suggest about the biggest, first strategies that we need to take up is to unmask Mr. Shridharan and his bogus understanding of cities. Unless we do that our cities are definitely going to be going. Any Metro system is not constructing in five years, minimum 50 years, sometimes 100 years.
Leo Saldhana: I have looked at Metro systems across the world from Japan to America, both underground elevated and so on and find that Metro systems are slowly added. They are not part of the grand vision. But what is worst that's happening about Metro systems in India, is that almost all of them are going elevated. Now there is a city called Boston in North East US. In the post war period there are also more than big projects. The same type of political legacy overtook that decision making. And by the early 70's they built what was called the South East Corridor. It was essentially a huge expressway. Big cars, if you record, America and Australia has very, very big cars, gas guzzlers. And so they took the South West corridor right through the city of Boston. And is was elevated.
Leo Saldhana: Over a period of time, the impacts which they did not understand, those were not against the environment impacts investment-the process did not exist. The impacts were so serious that the economies in the city collapsed. Crime rates shot up. Real estate values fell. And by the early 70's it was clear that the South West corridor was a disaster. It has divided Boston, made it racially divided. And in fact there were riots as well that came on as a result of the South West corridor. The South West corridor, like we see in Mumbai was taken through Hispanic and Black neighbourhoods. Not through the White and rich neighbourhoods. So the type of pattern that we see in India today are patterns that are made on United States only.
Leo Saldhana: As part of the political legacy that governor.. he was a Republican at that time, I forget his name. He took a very brave decision. He pulled down the other elevated structure and put it underground. So if you went to Boston today you would find this South West corridor which is actually apart. It's 55 acres but it's a long mark of about 8 or 9 miles. It has become a public commerce of Boston. What in Bangalore we are doing? We are doing exactly the opposite. Our Metro line is going to eat into the open spaces that Bangalore has. The per capita open space of Bangalore despite hype has reduced drastically in the past 10 years. Where it should be according to World Health Organization Standards about 12 sq.mts per person. It has come down to less than 2 sq.mts per person in Bangalore in just 10 years. It was 5 sq.mts about 20 years ago.
Leo Saldhana: Now the implications of this to the poor are extremely serious. When they talk of open spaces they talk of them not merely in terms of parts. But also in terms of types of street sides basis that are available for street vendors. Now projects like the Metro tend to eat into it primarily. We have Metro systems, we don't want to have a technology like that looking dirty. It has to look a bit lenient. It has to look international standard. And therefore to have
basic street vendors is not part of vision of Shridharan. So if you look at any Metro, majorly, it is so does as if it is unquietly covered. And that all the buildings are neatly kept. People are walking in shoeshine boots. Cars are all neatly kept, there are no rickshaws, no cycles. Now that's the kind of imagery which is sold at the political level. That's the kind of slide presentations that are made for S M Krishna who decides to hear the Metro project in less than one decade.
Leo Saldhana: So when you sell it like that, you necessarily tend to keep it like that. So a lot of rules were changed. City laws were changed. One major city law that has changed in Bangalore is the floor area issue.
Leo Saldhana: So one of the major impacts at that level is because the floor area issue has been increased from 1 or 1.5 to 4. Although it was passed in the Government of Karnataka very recently. Whereby increasing into 4 they said anywhere within Metro station between 150 meters of the Metro station. The existing FAR automatically becomes 4. And the law requires that this goes through a public commenting process which is a very big and huge process for all-almost 6-8 months of debate and consultation in the mandate and town and depending acts. But they side stepped in. But I guess all Metros in any cities in India have side stepped without the country backing them. Now one of the biggest advantages for the Right to Housing, Right to Public Spaces and so on is actually the normal country planning act.
Leo Saldhana: And Karnataka (?) was written in 1961. Though the city had a population of maybe 10 or 3 lakhs then. The vision of those people was tremendous who drafted the town planning act. They accommodated new process- concepts like public letter did not exist. But they used terms like public consultation. They provided 60 days commenting period. They said plans must be publicly displayed and permanently. The shocking feature is not once has any mega project actually come up with a town and country planning act since 1961. So, last year we went to court on what is termed as one of the biggest mega projects in Bangalore-it's that of road widening. And road widening in Bangalore is almost of all roads. About 500 kms length, 91-100 kms right now but potentially about 200 kms. Every road has to be about minimum of 24 metres which means thousands and thousands will have to be demolished. Thousands of businesses will have to move. Hundreds of street vendors will have to be relocated. So it's a big drastic transformation.
Leo Saldhana: And, via our computation we understand that atleast 40,000 streets will be made. So the project which they say costs 4,000 crores can atleast be 10,000 crores or more. We've got all that they say. We ask them under RTI that what is the net cost per kilometer of road widening? They say, 'We assume it to be 10 crores per kilometer.' So this whole...
Leo Saldhana: And then one of the concepts that they introduced was the transfer of development act straight from the World Bank. And the transfer of development act essentially says that if you use 10 sq.ft of land for any project, you can build 15 sq.ft in the remaining area assuming that you have remaining area. But if you don't have that remaining area and if you want to sell it, you can actually sell it as a development right to any builder. So essentially it means that you can sell it to a huge builder who can come up with massive construction by buying up development rights from thousands of people and he can put up a 25 storey building because it has already been completed whether the local land laws allows that or not you can have a 250 floors building as well. In fact there is a 250 floor building being proposed in Bangalore.
Leo Saldhana: Now what is happening here is, it's a response to chaos which is also chaotic. In fact it is largely hidden by opportunism which I think most of us would recognize as being anti for ... it is also anti-middle class. And the cost of all this infrastructure and the kind of development that we see today will make our city so unlivable, that in the next 20-25 years, when the type of predictions which have already played out directly on climate change turn much worse, and people start migrating from rural to urban areas, in much larger numbers than we see today, they will have no place to live. The entire inner city is being so regulated and densified as being only affordable to upper middle classes not even middle classes and the super rich. So this is the whole on technology plan. I don't think that we are looking at it in that sense but if you look at the way in which the impacts are played probably, because any businessman who wants to put his money and who will put it in terms of 50 years times can other times. He won't want to put it into 30 year times. He wants to be there forever. It's part of the nature of business to be there forever.
Leo Saldhana: So it's within that interest that I would like to conclude by looking at the role of Japan Bank. 45% of the money for Bangalore Metro comes from Japan Bank. In the past two years when we have been campaigning there have been many, many resistances- from neighbourhoods including litigations and very, very brave of course. Some people..one I can remember is Imtiaz who despite all his neighbourhood giving up still fights the PIL on his own. Without money largely. And from a car which he has, he has now come down to motorbike and is probably going to a bicycle. It is not a bad idea. But it just shows the economic deterioration that he has suffered.
Leo Saldhana: Now point is that Japan Bank has a lot of standards- social environmental standards. All of them have been flouted. In fact all of them have never been met in the case of Metro. Recently when we were campaigning on one particular stretch of Bangalore which is probably the cleanest boulevard any city in India has and because of the Metro they quite destroyed it. And destroy it for what? Because they want to turn the park space without telling anyone into a shopping complex. When the FAR changed to 4, then any construction activity of any sort- recreational, hotel, business and so on- is allowed 150 meters from the station. What happens to development rights? In the DPR government lands have been shown to be government lands. So a part is claimed to be government lands. They don't need to buy it. One department passes on to another. So we have now gone to court again and we have a look at Lalbaug. I don't know if you have all visited Lalbaug. You must have surely heard of it.
Leo Saldhana: How can Lalbaug be sold? In fact there was an order which was passed to acquire Lalbaug under industrial area notification. Now they have passed an acquired under industrial area notification. That is the beginning of the end of all parks. Never before in Karnataka has a park been acquired for industrial activity. So the Metro is now perceived to be an industrial activity. Then, not only will parks go but the type of rights that people have to house in businesses and so on are immediately suffocated. Because the industrial areas notification act is much more proponent than the land activation act. So these are some very serious implications in the Metro. Another serious implication is that the governor; in fact Kathiayani is here.. when we did not get the stay against the encroachment of Lalbaug, by the Metro, we went to Kaul and the board did not give us a stay. So we again thought, we should go and meet the governor.
Leo Saldhana: So the governer of course is not there but the person who did it really understands its complications. And he happily signed documents. Or perhaps he did. But he an assistant this woman, and she put up the file in our presentation and she found that even before the governor had passed an ordinance to allow Metro to get into Lalbaug, 2 or 3 days prior to that industrial area activation notification has been issued for Lalbaug and Cubbon Park by the government. And, the governor did not know. Now if this is the way Shridharan works and I am saying Shridharan because he is the chief consultant of the project. Anything that is being done by his subordinates I think he has to take responsibility for that. If, even the governer can be bluffed through, in this manner, I don't think there is a hope for our cities unless we stand up against all this bluff.
Leo Saldhana: And, on that note I feel that the other bluff we need to talk about is.. one is Japan Bank loan. 45% of the loan amount in Karnataka for Bangalore Metro project is from Japan Bank. Everyone campaigning is on child labour. Children are being imported. Modern children are being imported from Jharkhand, Chattisgarh and this child was from Bengal. And obviously (?). But we got over to the Child labour committee and of the three children one we managed to get into our custody and other two were quickly taken away by the contractors. And we had to establish that he was a child and he was a minor. And his parents were called and taken back. Now these were only three children we had found. There have already been 5 lakhs in the Bangalore Metro Project. Terrible ones actually.
Leo Saldhana: Now if we can think of the long term consequences of the lack of supervision, the lack of public insight, the lack of public investigation into such a scale of mega projects, that are being initiated just now, that I say, are built, they have completely transformed the nature of our cities. And that is the biggest problem with our life. Because the simplified complex relationships..I don't think Shridharan should be allowed to head. Thank You. Just want to say that the EIA notification has published a book. I request organizations to collect free copies of this.