The main road that serves Basavanagudi in south Bengaluru, Gandhi Bazaar Main Road, stopped on Tuesday as hundreds of store owners and dealers brought down their shutters to protest redevelopment efforts.
The century-old Gandhi Bazaar road began renovations in September of last year by the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike and the Directorate of Urban Land Transport to turn the old shopping strip into a Church strip-style shopping destination.
The shopkeepers and locals have opposed the idea, citing several issues, despite the work being only 50% complete. According to Guruprasad, secretary of the Basavanagudi Residents’ Welfare Association, of the 120 homes on the road, 40 owners have left because of the chaos at Gandhi Bazaar.
He said, “Because of the chemicals and construction material they are using, tens of trees have died and others’ roots have weakened. We have complained to the BBMP Forest Cell about the violation of the Karnataka Preservation of Trees Act, but to no avail.”
Some 700 traders who own or rent shops for their businesses gathered at the BNS Party Hall to voice their opposition. According to Surendra Prakash, manager of Indian Bank’s Basavanagudi branch, they are considering leaving because they have lost Rs 100 crore in business over the last six months.
He says, “Many customers are senior citizens who cannot navigate these half-dug roads with open manholes and so on. They come to collect their pensions, withdraw or deposit cash but many have shifted their account from here now.”
The owners of grocery shops, restaurants, and clothing retailers asserted that since the work began, the business had plummeted by an astounding 80%. Many claimed that neither the planning process nor the changes themselves were discussed with them by the agencies.
S Natraj Sharma, the adviser to Basavangudi Traders’ and Residents’ Association, says, “We don’t know what they are doing and how. Last weekend, we went to the police station with a complaint and the BBMP engineer promised to bring the project plan to us in a day. It’s been more than two days and not a word from him yet.”
Residents are also dissatisfied with how their elected representatives have handled their problems. The locals claim that the complete pedestrianisation of the road, which the civic agencies want, will impact their mobility, access to other streets, and commercial operations.